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      Communities

      Understanding 5 Community Lifecycle Stages to Build Successful Communities

      Aug 22, 2022

      5 minute read

      Creating an online community and achieving organizational objectives through it is not plain sailing. It involves a lot of nuances that can put forward unforeseeable risks and issues while developing a community. Thus, it becomes essential to figure out where you stand in your community building process and what your next steps should be.

      This makes learning about the online community lifecycle stages an absolute must. It enables community managers to navigate through twists and turns of the community development and expansion process. Using life cycle stages, community managers can assess where their community stands. Moreover, a strategic approach will help you achieve desired results effortlessly.

      Even though every community is unique with its own set of norms and goals, they all pass through similar stages.

      Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of a community life cycle and learn how these stages will enable you to develop a community successfully.

      The Stages of a Community Life Cycle

      An online community life cycle can help you develop a community based on your business objectives and ROI needs. Plan the activities as your community grows through various life cycle stages. Identifying the current stage of your community will help you integrate the right activities and keep your community active and relevant to the members.

      A Community Life Cycle Typically Contains 5 Stages:

      Community_Life_Cycle_Stages

      1. The Ideation Stage: Development

      Since it all starts with an idea, the first stage or foundation of any online community is the development stage. This is where the end goal of a community is identified in order to finalize a blueprint that aligns with that goal.

      Purpose

      This phase focuses on determining the goals, feasibility, and expectations of the community. Ideally, this phase is for testing the waters to validate the concept before moving forward.

      Role of the Community Manager

      As a community manager, you would –

      • Draft a blueprint of your expectations from your community.
      • Align your online community objectives with your business requirements.
      • Create a plan of action for member acquisition, onboarding, and engagement strategies.
      • Define your community, its goals, and write guidelines for moderating member activity.

      2. The Initiation Stage: Inception

      The next stage of the community life cycle is actually the starting phase of a community. At this stage, organizations start interacting with their community members.

      Purpose

      The main purpose of this stage is to acquire a small set of highly-engaged members who are equally committed to your vision of the community. Since the activity is low, the community manager needs to look for innovative ways to drive engagement.

      Role of the Community Manager

      The community manager would –

      • Utilize SEO practices, referral programs, sponsored partnerships with influencers, generic social media promotions, etc. for member acquisition.
      • Deliver relevant and engaging content that resonates with the needs of the users, consistently.
      • Conduct activities like contests, polls, giveaways, etc., to establish relationships with members and encourage them to participate.

      Remember, this is the most crucial stage for the success of your online community. It might feel like you’re doing everything on your own for the first few months. Since you are just starting out, you will have to bring new members, curate content, host activities/events, nudge members to participate, and more. However, if you are still stuck at the same spot for more than 3 months[i], it is time for you to re-evaluate your plan. Either your goal doesn’t resonate with your targeted audience or you are targeting the wrong audience.

      3. The Formation Stage: Establishment

      When you start to witness growth in the total number of members in your community, it means your community is in the establishment phase. During this phase, members feel excited to be a part of the culture established by the community.

      Purpose

      The primary objective of this stage is to gain visibility and enable members to start forging stronger bonds and valuable connections.

      Role of the Community Manager

      At this stage, a community manager would –

      • Start paying more attention to conflict resolution and implement guidelines transparently to foster quality engagement.
      • Hire junior community managers or volunteers to get help with engagement activities.

      At this stage, members’ participation and contribution would significantly rise. It will be the start of your community being driven by the members themselves.

      4. The Growth Stage: Maturity

      At this stage, your community is self-sustaining. Member acquisition becomes organic and the majority of activities are conducted by members themselves. Content managers can switch to more group-based activities like knowledge-sharing, ideating new products, testing newly launched products/services, etc., instead of handling one-on-one interactions.

      Purpose

      The main priority at this stage would be to turn the community into an integral part of the company. Almost all of the traffic is organic and your members are contributing to content generation and are genuinely curious about your upcoming products and services. This is how a community starts helping in improving conversions and adding value to the business, putting ROI to the table.

      Role of the Community Manager

      This is where community managers start benefiting. Most of the content or activities are induced by members which represents their strong sense of belongingness. At this stage, a community manager should focus on the bigger picture such as –

      • Promoting the community externally or planning activities to bring more members into the community.
      • Acquire and manage a volunteer team.
      • Refocus on overall goals to realign them with the community’s vision.

      Additional teammates or volunteers can handle micro-level tasks like welcoming new members.

      5. The Division Stage: Mitosis

      This is the stage when your community is functioning on a wider scale with a larger audience base. It doesn’t feel like a single group anymore and can easily be dispersed into two or more groups, hence the name ‘Mitosis’. Community managers have to be more attentive as it can have two outcomes – this could lead to the creation of child groups (sub-threads) or members’ sense of belongingness gets diluted.

      Purpose

      The main focus at this stage is to offer growth opportunities beyond its original mission so that members feel valued.

      Role of the Community Manager

      When you have a large audience base; expectations and conflicts-of-interest rise. Therefore, the need to create smaller groups rises in order to engage group members with the same expectations and interests. As a community manager, you would –

      • Have to recognize and create relevant sub-threads or groups.
      • Make members feel valued by offering benefits (like networking, open discussions, customer support, etc.,) they expect from your community and their respective sub-groups.
      • Train and manage sub-group leaders and moderators.
      • Establish new strategies to promote sub-groups.

      Keep in mind, the sub-groups inside your community grow solely based on word-of-mouth. Newcomers feel more comfortable in smaller sub-groups of like-minded people. It leads to organic member acquisition and enables you to create more robust engagement plans.

      Conclusion

      Not having a clear community development and expansion plan can hinder its success. So, start identifying where your online community stands in the community lifecycle to explore the right approach to grow your community. As you keep progressing from stage to stage, your role as a community manager also changes. This blog post is an attempt to introduce you to the community lifecycle stages and enable you to get more clarity on planning community strategies.

      Wish to Take Your Business Presence Up a Notch Through an Exceptional Online Community Management Strategy? Talk to Us!

      Team Grazitti is adept at building vibrant and engaging online communities. To know more about our CMaaS expertise, drop us a line at info@grazitti.com and we’ll take it from there.

      Statistics References
      [i] https://i2.wp.com/www.feverbee.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/The-FeverBee-Community-Lifecycle-1.png

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