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5 Things to Do When Changing Community Platforms

With so many new community platforms and tools out there, picking one that’s best for your community is hard. Moving your community from one platform to another can be even harder.

I've participated in some form of migration or another at each of my community roles — from Facebook Groups to Slack, Facebook Groups to Khoros (Lithium), and in-house chat to Mighty Networks — so I wanted to share some advice for folks thinking about changing community platforms.

Read Erica's "How to migrate communities to different platforms" to learn from her experience migrating the Trello community.

Be Strategic and Do Your Homework

Before you start 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. Make sure you have a strategic purpose and goal for this change, so 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. 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:

  • Where does your community spend most of their time? Do you need a stellar mobile experience?
  • What community programs are you prioritizing? Do you need a dedicated events hub, an excellent knowledge base, customizable moderator roles, or space for user groups?
  • How large or “well-behaved” is your community? Do you need extensive moderation tools?
  • Is your community international? Do you need built-in translations or localized community hubs?
  • How important is branding to your company? Do you need a fully customizable platform?

Involve Your Community

Changing platforms should not be a surprise for your community. This isn’t a project you want to work on in secret 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 1. Share why you’re looking into changing platforms and get their opinions by conducting a survey and find out what features, tools, and content they’re loving 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’re using the existing platform and what their pain points are.

If you have an existing 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 mocks with them, get them into the beta, 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 for the new platform.

Keep It Familiar and Fresh

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 they were in the old space. You can do this by migrating some of the 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 obvious 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. If there were specific features or discussions that members used a lot on the old platform, point those out and let them know how to access a similar tool on the new platform.

Say Goodbye

Plan to close your old community space 2-3 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 all had there. 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.

Set Realistic Expectations

Switching community platforms is a big 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 boss 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 awhile 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. Even if they love the new features, people will still find small things to nitpick and complain about. It’s okay! Most people will get used to the new platform.

There's a lot more that goes into changing community platforms, but I hope this helps steer you in the right direction. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help.

Discussion (7)

rosemaryoneill profile image
Rosemary ONeill

I love this! Another tip I'd add is to think about tying the migration to something else exciting that's happening, whether it's a book launch, an event, a celebration of something, so that the entire focus isn't on "who moved my cheese?" It gives members something to talk about ON the new platform rather than mostly ABOUT the new platform. (Not that you want to hide those discussions, which are important, just that it widens the conversation.)

jocelynhsu profile image
Jocelyn Author

Great tip Rosemary!

iamcesarromero profile image

Hey Jocelyn, these are great tips. One of the mistakes we made at Mindvalley when transitioning from FB groups to platform is that we didn't involve the community as much as we should have. It definitely wasn't a surprise, but we should have surveyed them to find out what they'd like to keep and what they'd like to change. For example, one of the things they missed is going live within the FB group which is a feature that didn't translate into the new platform. We tried to recreate the FB group environment as much as possible, but we still have some improvements to make. If we had to do it again, I'd do beta tests with our ambassadors first to get feedback and their buy-in.

jocelynhsu profile image
Jocelyn Author

Thanks for sharing your experience Cesar! It's not too late to get your ambassadors involved. You can reach out and ask them to chime in on some of the improvements you're hoping to make. They may be able to help you prioritize which to roll out first or tweak features to make them most useful for your community.

erica profile image
Erica Moss

These are super great tips, Jocelyn! Especially the part about highlighting feature parody between the old and new spaces. 🙌🏼

jocelynhsu profile image
Jocelyn Author

Thanks Erica!

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