Customer Community Tasks [3/4] – Could stagnating growth mean the end of John’s penguin community?

May 16, 2014

This article is about the customer community penguin manager John who is leading his customer penguin community through the four steps of the community lifecycle*. Within the article the reader will learn what customer community tasks a community manager has to do in the third step of the community lifecycle: the maturity phase (learn more about our customer community approach here).

After accompanying John and his customer community of penguins through the inception and establishment phases, we will now take a look at how he is faring in the third, and next to last, community phase: the maturity phase.

John, our Penguin Community Manager, is once again facing new challenges. By constantly monitoring the progress of the customer community using KPI metrics, he discovered that the number of new members was no longer growing but had started to stagnate. He’s worried that his customer community in trouble and may not exist much longer.

Penguins are still joining the customer community but not at the same rate as during the Inception and Establishment  phases. Has John done something wrong? Yet if he closely inspects the number of active penguins and the level of activity in his customer community, he will see that there’s no cause for alarm. The penguins are busy connecting and talking with each other and are overall very active. So why is it that fewer and fewer new penguins are joining his customer community?

To find the answer to this question, let’s take a look at the typical development of a customer community. Every community needs to pursue a specific strategy, which entails setting goals and identifying target groups. One should also determine the total number of potential users. All the penguins on the sheet of ice will not have heard about the penguin customer community, and even if every single one did, there is no guarantee that they would actually jump into the water. Of course, that also means that the number of new members will stagnate at some point on its own. The potential for new users will then be exhausted. Here and there a new penguin will join the customer community, but John cannot expect significant user growth in this phase.

So John doesn’t need to be too concerned about the state of his customer community. But he still needs to exercise caution during this stage to prevent the community from shrinking. He needs to make sure that the number of members remains steady and to keep a close eye on the level of activity. He can regard inactive users as non-members.

Once John is certain that his customer community is healthy, he should focus almost exclusively on macro-level activities. This mainly includes:

  • Motivating existing multipliers and recruiting new ones
  • Spreading the word about the community beyond its normal reach
  • Planning larger events
  • Optimizing the platform technically, which means identifying new use cases and implementing these
  • Fine-tuning the community strategy by incorporating new insights and adapting it to the current phase

John shouldn’t spend his time directly recruiting users; instead, he should concentrate on motivating his multipliers. Should he and the multipliers not be able to complete all the work that needs to be done, it is important that he hires new community moderators. These new colleagues would then carry out his micro-level csutomer community tasks.

When John’s customer community experiences dramatic growth, characterized by a large increase in the number of sub-groups and new discussions, then it will have entered the mitosis phase – which will also be the subject of the next blog article.

About the author:

Sandra Brückner, who studied business informatics at the Technical University of Dresden, has worked as social business consultant since 2012. She recently joined the Berlin-based social business consultancy and technology provider Pokeshot///SMZ, where she leverages her extensive intranet and community expertise to consult organizations on how to optimize their change management and community management processes.

*The community lifecycle model presented in this article is based on the works of Iriberri, A. & Leroy, G. (2009): A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success and Millington, R. (2013): The Online Community Lifecycle.