Congrats! Cue the confetti because you’ve just finished your first implementation!

All these months of brainstorming meetings with your team have finally come to fruition. Now, it’s time to open the community to your members. You can just kick your feet up and watch the magic happen, right? Not quite.

You are still an active player in your Community and we want you to know what you can expect for the first 90 days after you launch.

You Can Expect to Start Small

Your boss has set high expectations and you want to meet them. Good motivations can set community managers on a course to focus too much on high acquisition rates and elaborate strategies than on a core group of members.

As psychologist Dr. David McMillan says in his article on the Sense of Community, “Faith comes from within the member. Acting on such faith represents a risk and requires courage since humiliation can result if the faith is not validated…In effect, when we believe that we will be welcome, that we fit or belong in a community, we have a stronger attraction to that community.”

We don’t need to mass import 50,000 users into a community and see what happens. We want to find the people who will be the most engaged in your community and focus on making their experience as a new user. How do you do that well in the beginning?

You Can Expect to Facilitate Discussions

In the early days, you will be the one to seed the majority of the content and that is normal. Imagine you are introducing three of your friends to each other for the first time. You are the one who is going to ask questions to help them connect with strangers. We want to utilize these same principles in community by facilitating productive discussions on a daily basis.

You will need to have a content calendar to build out what topics you want to present to your first community members. Make it relevant to what you think they want to talk about in the first few months. Here’s the beauty of community: you don’t have to guess. You can ask your members what they want to discuss. Be open to the possibility that your original path may not be the one you stay on for a year. How do you change course when you just began your journey?

You Can Expect to Adjust Strategies

The first few months are a critical period of observation of your members. What actions are they taking? What patterns are forming? You need to focus on your small-but-mighty group of participants and use them as the foundation. This data may show you need to change the direction of your content or implement a new approach.

For example, a study done by California State University, found that most members who join a support community are not looking for emotional support like one might assume. They are actually most interested in informational support to facilitate patient empowerment. Many online health communities form because they think their members want a dedicated space to talk in forums. They may need to change their approach to build out more robust resource libraries to provide the latest information. Observing your member’s action, listening to their feedback and being flexible with your approach will keep your members coming back to the community.

If you can set your expectations correctly, your community will see growth within those first 90 days and you, as a community manager, will gain insight into your core audience. Now, what do you do after those first 90 days are over?  If you are coming to PersoniFest, we are hosting a session, Looking Back: Lessons from the First Year of Community.

We’ll be interviewing Cynthia Nazario, who has just completed her first year of community management. We’ll talk about the pitfalls that befall some community managers and practical applications you should implement to make your community successful in year one. We hope to see you there!