As a Community Manager, you may be tasked with building a community from the ground up. But what happens when you're challenged with moving an established community to a new platform?
This scenario presents its own unique challenges, requiring a CM to remain in lockstep with both internal teams and the members they're supporting.
With so many new community platforms and tools out there, picking one that's best for your community can be complicated — and moving your community from one platform to another can be even more challenging.
I (Jocelyn) have participated in some form of migration at each of my community roles — from Facebook Groups to Slack, to Khoros (Lithium), and in-house chat to Mighty Networks — so here's some advice for folks thinking about changing community platforms.
Before looking at different community platforms, sit down and really understand why you're changing platforms and what you're trying to solve.
Don't switch platforms simply because another one looks cooler or because you don't know how else to increase engagement. Instead, make sure you have a strategic purpose and goal for this change so that it can ground and inform your decisions.
Consider how you use your current platform on a daily basis and create a list of things you use frequently and a list of problems you face. For example, think about what processes are super manual or have been hacked together. I'd also recommend reaching out to your Legal, Trust & Safety, and Product teams to get their input.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Changing platforms should not be a surprise for your community. This isn't a secret project you want to work on and spring on your members when everything is ready. Remember, community is about the people. It won't matter how awesome your new platform looks or how intuitive it is to navigate if your community members won't use it.
Involve them in the process from Day One. Share why you're looking into changing platforms and get their opinions by conducting a survey and finding out what features, tools, and content they love about your current platform and what they'd like to see change.
You can also talk to members one-on-one and dive deeper into how they use the existing platform and their pain points.
If you have a group of superusers you can tap into; I highly recommend leaning on them for more consistent feedback and getting their buy-in early on. Share mock-ups with them, get them into the beta, and involve them in the entire process. These are the folks who will help you convince other community members that the move is a great idea and that everyone should be excited about the new platform.
When moving to a new platform, try to keep some things familiar, so your community members know that this is still their home. You want them to feel just as comfortable in the new space as in the old one.
You can do this by migrating some popular content, continuing community norms, and keeping the same branding.
But you also want the new platform to feel, well, new. There should be a visible and noticeable improvement over the old space. Look at the feedback you received from your community and see how you can incorporate some of it from the get-go.
Include a guide to help community members find what they're looking for. For example, if members used specific features or discussions a lot on the old platform, point those out and let them know how to access a similar tool on the new platform.
It's hard to say goodbye; you need to give the transition some time. Plan to close your old community space two to three weeks after your new one has launched. Let your community know that it'll be closing and that they should save or migrate anything they want to keep. You can even host a virtual goodbye party and reflect on all the wonderful times you've had there. But, then, it's time to close up shop and move on.
Be sure to include links to your new space so that anyone who stumbles upon the closed one will know where to go instead.
Switching community platforms is a significant change, so expect grumbling and nay-sayers. No matter how hard you try to involve your community, there will be people who hate the new platform and won't want to migrate. Be aware of this and set realistic expectations with your team and key stakeholders.
Let them know that you expect to see a dip in registered members. By switching platforms, you're automatically weeding out people who had signed up a while back but never checked back in. Pay more attention to who's actively engaging and in what ways.
You should also prepare your team for some backlash. People will still find small things to nitpick and complain about even if they love the new features. It's okay! Most people will get used to the new platform.
I (Erica) found myself in this exact position during my time at Atlassian. We hypothesized that the Slack community where most of our Trello users congregated wasn't the ideal solution for the community at large (primarily because of limited searching capabilities and best practices existing behind a wall).
The logical place to migrate them to was an existing space in the Atlassian Community, a spot where people were already asking questions, but we had not intentionally fostered community. Here, they would find Q&A, discussions, and long-form articles, but to get there, we needed to do our homework first.
Here are a few takeaways from our process that ensured everyone was on the same page and invested in the move.
As I said before, our community instincts told us that we were losing a lot of value by having a bunch of knowledge-sharing that wasn't visible to Google or those who were simply browsing the Atlassian Community. But if our research proved that this was the ideal tool for our users, it wouldn't make sense to move them somewhere else.
So we scheduled calls with our top contributors in Slack to hear directly from them about their habits, anything they felt was lacking in their experience, and what they might dream up in an ideal community environment.
What we heard was that members care about three things: product announcements, access to the Trello team, and getting quality answers to their Trello questions was paramount.
Direct messaging (a key differentiator between Slack and the existing space in the Atlassian Community) wasn't a requisite part of that experience. It gave us confidence that moving them to a new platform wouldn't be highly disruptive.
Giving folks plenty of runway to both process our move from Slack and capture any data they wanted to take with them was an important part of this process, as was giving them time to get set up and familiar with the Atlassian Community.
We decided a month and a half was a sufficient heads up, and, therefore, all of our messaging was structured around that timeline. We used the #announcements channel to deliver the information and invited any concerned parties to reach out to me directly. We also leveraged the Trello blog to unveil "Trello Community 2.0" and bring everyone along for the ride.
It was also necessary to inform our internal teams that this channel was going away, as many had gotten used to popping into Slack to distribute surveys, recruit users for focus groups, etc. A company-wide presentation during our Town Hall was the best way to deliver information about this change to the masses.
We focused on the logic behind our decision, the value add for members, and how team members could best utilize the new space to achieve their goals.
After one month and then one week before we planned to shutter Slack, periodic reminders ensured that no member was caught off-guard or left behind.
Even with a great deal of established trust in our community, as a CM, it's essential to answer the critical member question: "What's in it for me?"
To encourage folks to join us in the new space, we scheduled an "Ask Me Anything" session with the co-founder of Trello in the weeks following the move and introduced an exclusive badge, the "Friend of Taco," which was earned after engaging in certain activities in the Atlassian Community. We also offered free Trello Gold and Taco plushies to sweeten the deal because swag is always a strong motivator.
We kept a close eye on sentiment and activity in the new Trello space. While it was difficult to track who transitioned from active Slack users to participants in the online community, we were delighted to see a 28% increase in unique visitors to the Trello collection year over year.
The "Ask Me Anything" garnered 27,125 views, 88 comments, and 21 likes, and almost 100 people have earned the Friend of Taco badge. "Cute badge! And encouraged me to check out the Trello community. Did not realize there was so much helpful content here!" said one member.
The work doesn't end once you've successfully moved a group of humans from one spot to another. It's a continuous effort to educate your internal teams about how best to engage with your biggest cheerleaders in the new space and to give those members who so graciously followed your lead new reasons to keep coming back.