The community you are managing is doing great. It’s been incredible to see that the community is helping your company accomplish a number of major goals that help with support, customer success, sales, product innovation, and even retention.
While the community is doing well, you realize the only way it can achieve more breakthroughs is to identify a new community platform that can support the vision.
Is it easy? Should you simply jump into searching for a new platform? But maybe pausing to reflect on your needs is key right now. Definitely! There are a few important considerations to take into account when migrating your community from an existing platform to a new one.
Reasons For Migrating
First, have you made a list of why you want to change community platforms? While you may have a list in your head, it’s not only important that you write everything down, there are a few other considerations.
Are you jumping into the solution before ensuring you know what your community actually wants? When it’s doing well, and most members enjoy being part of the community, what’s in it for them to change platforms?
Sometimes it may be as simple as asking them what they need, via a survey. But here are a few things that you should know before looking for a new community platform:
What do your community members like most about the existing community platform?
What do they wish was different?
Are there any features missing in your platform that members wish they had?
What features do you wish would enhance and further support your community?
Once you have all this information, you can begin to look at alternative community platforms as you now have insights into what will make them work better for both you and your members.
Preparing For The Move
The next step will be to prepare your technology, data, and security for the transition. This may sound easy, but your community platform is probably stacked with other technologies. Be sure to communicate with other stakeholders so everyone is fully aware and advised of the changes. For example, involve marketing, think email, social media, and your blog teams.
In IT, take into account logins, data, and reporting. In sales, incorporate CRM, customer success, events, etc. You get the idea. Make sure all aspects are considered. Not just that a potential platform will work, but will it work in a way that doesn’t leave you wishing for a new community platform right after you get done migrating this one?
Another important aspect is making sure the new community platform looks familiar to your members. You don’t want them to have to relearn everything. Make it comfortable for them to migrate over to the new platform. Be sure that all existing content, posts, member profiles, etc. are transferred over so members will be able to find them. The structure of your community should be easy to navigate, which means community members feel at home with it.
Did we say COMMUNICATE often enough? If not, we’ll say it again, COMMUNICATE. Why? because community members already feel like they are part of your mission. You want to have a seamless migration to the new community platform. Members value feeling like they are part of the process.
Remember when you were surveying and talking with some of your key community members about what they liked most and what some of their pain points were? (If not, re-read Reasons For Migrating) This is part of communicating. Their opinions are not just being heard, they are being listened to. The new community platform integrates their needs and is meant to serve them.
Ongoing communication flow is foundational. Members not only need to feel like they are part of the process but also informed at every step. This includes pre-implementation, during the migration, and afterward.
Make sure they know WHEN this is happening, and most importantly, WHY this is happening. Communicate early and often. Don’t just get feedback from them once, continue to listen and provide information, as needed.
We were making a major change to our native commenting platform when I was Director of Community at HuffPost. Our product manager agreed to get a couple of our community members to give us feedback on the almost-finished changes. After the first two feature reviews with community members, it was clear that we had a disconnect. The community members were going to use the features very differently than we intended.
As a result, we changed our product update and kept them informed and everyone was happy. Not everyone. But those community members we interviewed helped convey the reason we made the changes. They all shared how it would be better for the community, and let everyone know their voices were heard. This is why it’s so important to make your community members feel like part of this process. The way to do that is to openly COMMUNICATE.
Make The Move
You have done everything you can up to this point to make it a smooth migration from your old community platform to the new one. Before you unleash the new community, first you will probably want to have a soft launch. Think of some of those community members who were most helpful during the interviews and surveys. Invite them. This also makes them feel like they are part of the process.
But it’s also important to invite some community members who maybe aren’t as friendly. They will give you honest feedback. You can then make any tweaks, or changes, you need to before you launch your new community platform. There are other internal stakeholders, vendors, and loyal community members you want to make sure are involved in the launch. See our post on launching a community for even more on this.
There are a number of additional factors to consider when migrating from one community platform to another.
Timing - How long will you allow your old community platform to function and/or exist? Be sure to communicate this clearly and often. Not just in the old community, but via email and social media. Once that date is here, sunset the old community.
Monitoring - Respond and redirect people to the new community if they remain active in the old community. Let them know why you moved and when they will no longer be able to access the old community.
Links - You probably have links to your old community platform listed in more places than you realize. Be sure to make sure these are all updated to your community and not to the old one.
While there are no guarantees that everything will work out perfectly, the above steps will make your community migration as seamless as it can be. While not everyone may be enthusiastic about changes, overall, your community members, internal stakeholders, and you will most likely be much happier with the results.