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Cover image for #ClubChat: How do you balance community happiness with necessary changes in your community?
Alex Angel for The Community Club

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#ClubChat: How do you balance community happiness with necessary changes in your community?

It's question time

This week's question:

There will likely come a time in your community's journey that requires change to benefit the long-term health of the community. How do you balance community happiness while also making these necessary changes that could be challenging for community members to accept/adapt to in the short term?

Discussion (11)

evanhamilton profile image
Evan Hamilton

Redditors love change so I don't have to worry about that.


Redditors hate change and my life is constant complaints about changes. Here's a few things I do:

  1. Make sure you're not breaking what currently works, obviously.
  2. Think about ways to mitigate impact to existing/power users (opt outs, less aggressive advertising to them, etc).
  3. As Mac said, be as transparent as you possibly can. Reasoning, data, tradeoffs, rollout plan, etc.
  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You're going to need to state what you're doing and why multiple times to hammer it in.
  5. Let people try it and acclimate, but request that complaints be constructive - "THIS SUCKS" does not help anyone.
  6. Make sure you're deeply understanding complaints. Is it just change aversion? An edge case? Something else?
  7. Be willing to iterate. You might not have it right. Even small adjustments can show people you're listening.
  8. Be clear if a feature isn't for the people complaining. Often folks can't conceptualize there might be an audience that isn't them.
  9. Find and amplify advocates of the change.
  10. Know that sometimes, people just can't accept change. Don't beat yourself up. It's a job, and people can be irrational.

Best of luck!

erica profile image
Erica Moss

First and foremost, thank you for the David Rose gif. Secondly, the name of the change management game for the Atlassian Community is focus groups. We may have an inkling about an update or pivot we want to make (which is often prompted by our ambassadors, whom we call Leaders), but we always want to "co-create" with them and our general members because without their buy-in, they'll feel less invested and will be less likely to come along for the ride.

When we moved to bring our events Leaders and online Leaders under one umbrella, we set up a series of focus groups to help us reimagine what the different parts of the program would look like (onboarding, perks and rewards, event resources, etc.) They were eager to offer their insights, and we would report back on what we could execute on out of the gate, what belonged in a v2 version, and what things didn't make sense to integrate.

This is also where a Community Advisory Board is incredibly useful as well — choose reps from different facets of your community (online, events, partners) that represent the interests of the members at large.

mac profile image

It's all about communication and transparency. Make the changes with the members, make them aware through the whole process about why this change has to happen.

Don't just drop the change on them the day it happens and expect them to accept it at face value.

alex profile image
Alex Angel Author

Totally agree, and I think that communication has to happen well in advance to be at all worthwhile. It's one thing to be transparent but tell folks at the very last minute, and another to tell the community ahead of time and make sure you're listening to their input and concerns and helping address what you can before making that change.

spencer_vail profile image
Spencer Vail

Depending on the community it might be a good idea to include them in the decision-making process and give the community the option to air their grievances before the change is happening.

This gives an opportunity to address concerns and make provide an explanation where there might be a gap in understanding or the like.

mmohammed profile image

This was something I ended up learning about on day one as an Assistant Community Manager. What I've understood to this point has been that the best course is to be clear about how necessary any change is to the longterm health of the community. I've found that, particularly with forum users, the longevity of the community matters more than anything.

Actually...your question has given me an idea for a quick post, Alex!

r_silvano profile image

I'm on board with what others have suggested, especially transparency. People don't like feeling like they are the last ones to know or that it's too late to have a say.

I found two other interesting adaptations that have happened in our product Community. One is that members will come to us and say "hey we think this change should happen", which really is the dream to be able to say "you're so right!" (when applicable) and be responsive to the positive change suggested.

The second is taking time to really explore together what the future could look like. One change we've taken on (a bit of an aside) is that our Community members email? So a change in our journey was to embrace that more, lean into "hey we'll email you more!" and everyone is the better for it. So sometimes the discomfort comes in us shedding some of our notions of what best practices may be and listening to what our members are needing from us.

alex profile image
Alex Angel Author

Love these examples of working with the community to make changes. If you're able to speak to it at all, how did you end up figuring out that your members wanted more emails? What was that process like internally once that idea was on the table (did you have to work with other teams to make it a reality, was there any convincing that needed to be done, etc)?

r_silvano profile image

Happy to share! To answers backwards for the internal process- we're lucky that our team can be pretty agile within the Community, our platform allows us to change up how many emails we send, and we can make that decision as a Community team more or less (which is rad).

We also have a group of SuperUser/Beta members who we call Founders. At times they can either really step up for engaging or slink away. So usually once a quarter we'll say "soooooo we haven't heard from you in a while..." and then give three or four prompts of what we could try to do to help. What came from that is people saying "we think the Community is super valuable, but we don't often make the plunge of logging in and checking out everything new. When we're pinged through email it brings it top of mind and we love that!".

I also think we live in a great space in our Community, where our members trust us enough to be honest and transparent. So generally when we ask, we ask with the intent to listen and our members share with the intent of being heard!

...this makes me think of a course talking about the process of Prototyping and feedback. A big part of it was to work with your prototype without inserting too much emotional stake in it. While email clutter drives me bananas, it's just how a lot of our members get their work done. I like the idea of thinking about Community as a series of Prototypes. Maybe they respond to AMAs in an unexpectedly big turnout, or maybe your Show & Tells are ghost towns and need to be retired because your members just don't find them valuable.

Apologies for the tangent, but super fun to think about :)

Thread Thread
alex profile image
Alex Angel Author

No apology necessary, this was great. The framing of community as a series of prototypes is interesting and a neat way to think about it--I personally think of engagement initiatives like those as experiments, with a hypothesis/desired outcome, results, and a decision (among other things).

tolstoshev profile image
Nicholas Tolstoshev

Involve them in the process. And not just once you've decided everything. They are co-owners of your community so you need them in the room where it happens, to quote Hamilton.

For example, we were considering a forum platform change at Webroot. I let the power users know we were considering this. When I got trials of the platforms we were considering, I got all of the power users on there to kick the tires and give their feedback. I took their questions back to the sales engineers for answers. And if they collectively hated the platform, I listened and struck it from the list.

I was open with them on the pros and cons of changing, and other factors like price. They're smart enough to understand the trade-offs and why you might need a cheaper platform to meet your budget even if that means losing some things.

If you're not deciding things together with your community, you don't have a community, you have a dictatorship.