This article comes from Jeni Asaba’s talk, ‘You built a community. Now what?’, at our April 2023 Customer Marketing Summit; check out her full presentation here.
After over a decade of building vibrant communities that connect engaged members, I often get asked: “What’s the secret?”
My response rarely satisfies those expecting some magical ingredient or marketing tactic. The truth is that communities thrive through consistent, thoughtful caretaking every step of the way.
Launching a space based on customer insights marks only the beginning of the journey—then the real work starts.
Managing successful member ecosystems over the long haul means staying attuned to needs, spotlighting value, addressing challenges, and respecting natural engagement cycles.
I’ve helped shepherd many communities from fledgling to flourishing states and sadly witnessed others fade out when leaders lost touch, so now I’m on a mission to make sure your community thrives!
In this article, I’ll outline tactical ways to sustain community relevance, excitement, and health based on key priorities I guide my team by every day.
I urge community builders everywhere to embrace these principles to create thriving, resilient member spaces that stand the test of time.
Now let’s dive in and secure your long-term community success!
1. Listen deeply to guide your strategy
Creating an engaged user community doesn’t end once you’ve built the foundations. The real work begins post-launch when you transition to nurturing the seeds you’ve planted amongst your loyal members.
This ongoing cultivation requires that you tune in even more attentively to your audience so you can shape initiatives that resonate.
As a Senior Community Engagement and Advocacy Manager who’s built many programs from the ground up, I make listening intently priority #1 post-launch.
Keep your ears open
Remember those initial conversations with potential members that guided your first community-building steps? As important as that insight was, don’t stop eliciting feedback now.
In my experience, the most successful managers stay connected day in and day out, so I constantly urge my team: “Listen to what's going on and your members will help you create your roadmap over time.”
Pay attention to what they say in community conversations, how they behave and participate (or perhaps disengage), and what types of content or activities tend to draw them in (or alternatively, turn them off).
Let your community guide your ongoing efforts through this organic, ever-evolving feedback loop.
Trust your vision while adapting tactics
You strategically built this community using customer insights gathered early on, so as the space matures, continuing to listen shows respect while avoiding unnecessary pivots.
I remind my colleagues to remember that “if you've built something awesome using member perspectives, trust that vision can sustain community relevance over the long haul.”
So incorporate feedback into improving programming or creating new initiatives, but don’t throw out your guiding principles altogether.
External opinions shouldn’t distract from your identified North Star unless a major shift has occurred, have confidence in the strategy that resonated so strongly out of the gate!
2. Spotlight value, customization, and surprise
Communities thrive when members feel seen, understood, and excited to participate. As a manager, I intentionally spotlight member’s talents and interests so everyone connects more deeply.
I also customize engagement channels to accommodate different preferences while interspersing unexpected moments of surprise and fun.