As community professionals, we talk a lot about community retention. In fact, in a never-recapped past episode of #CMGRHangout Jonathan Brewer, Dom Garrett and I hosted Bessie King, Abhishek Rai and Aaron Silvers on this very topic. That being said, I want to play Devil’s Advocate.
What if it’s okay for community members to move on?
Stay with me here. What if the community members who originally aided you to Point A have changed interests and are no longer along for the ride to Point B?
Before you think I’m totally crazy, a year ago I read a fantastic interview by Carrie Jones with Rob Hayes of First Round and, while the article was centered around what Rob looks for in community-driven companies, he covers this very topic.
Rob states that, “as the community gets bigger and you make changes, you have to be okay with the fact that things will never be the same,” and comments that “the companies that handle this the best are the ones that make it for the long haul.” But what really got me was this statement:
As you begin to achieve more, you will probably lose the people that got you there in the first place. It can be difficult, but it’s a natural thing.
Now let me make it clear that I hate this. I’m an ENFP, and I know some people find Myers-Briggs ridiculous and akin to horoscopes, but part of my personality type means hanging onto bad relationships long after they become detrimental. So, you can imagine how easy it is for me to let go of good relationships that are just no longer centric for either party involved. It’s basically impossible. That being said, I have been known to try to make a logical assessment of these situations by stepping back for awhile to see who reaches out without me making the first attempt at contact, but, now that you know my secret test, I digress.
(If you’re like me, find some good books to help yourself learn to be okay with not needing to be friends with everyone. I’d recommend starting with The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napoletano. The concepts in Erika’s book are so crucial to both community building and life. In fact, it’s one of 10 actual physical books I’ve kept through all my moves, the rest are digital.)
Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is hard.
Why do people leave a community?
From my experience, there are multiple reasons someone will, temporarily or permanently, leave a community including:
- Life changes. They got married, had kids, or something else changed to where participating in a community is simply no longer a priority. It may have been filling a void that is now otherwise occupied.
- Job changes. If you’re working with a B2B community, remember that people change jobs. If they’re no longer working with your platform or product, they’re likely going to find a new space to contribute.
- Role changes. This is a bit related to job changes, and I realize all could fall under life changes, but if someone goes from a hands on role to a leadership role, their level of involvement in a community could drastically change. Just as your company and community changes through various growth stages, so does theirs.
- Health changes. I’ve seen multiple instances of community members falling into some tricky health situations whether it be themselves or someone close to them. When you’re fighting for your life, or your happiness, you’ll likely adjust your focus.
While I’m sure I’ve missed many others, my point is this: don’t take it personal when someone leaves your community. Make sure they’re okay to the best of your ability, offer to help if it makes sense, and let them know the door is always open for their return. Most importantly, remember that it’s not about you.
so what are you telling me to do?
As a huge proponent for actionable content, I feel obligated to leave you with some. My advice to you? Yes, do retention. Retention is important for growth and it’s part of our role as community professionals.
But, if people who were once your pioneers and your pillars are leaving, reach out to them. Find out how you can help, as that should always be our biggest goal in community building and relationships, but then be ready to let them go. It’s okay.
If you’d like to dig more into how to retain members check out our discussion in the #CMGRHangout episode below.