How to successfully move your online community to a new platform
You’ve spent time nurturing your community; you’ve built it up to hundreds, maybe even thousands of members, you’ve crafted the perfect content strategy, and your members seem to be enjoying it - but something still isn’t right.
As your community grows and evolves, its priorities change, and the platform you initially used to build your online community may no longer cater to its needs. So, what do you do when it's time to move your online community to a new home?
Here are some tips and tricks for migrating your online community to a new platform.
Why move your online community at all?
Facebook is one of the most successful social media platforms in the world, and it’s no surprise that so many established networks still use it to host their communities.
However, the emerging world of modern online communities often demands more specialized features than Facebook, or any other social media tool can currently provide.
What are the drawbacks of using a platform like Facebook?
As well as a lack of customization features and monetization options, hosting your community on traditional social media platforms gives you limited control over your community’s future.
While a platform like Facebook is unlikely to disappear completely, key features are changed regularly, and there is no guarantee of what you will find on the platform from one day to the next.
Unlike community-building platforms that offer white-label solutions, you will never truly own your community or your community data when it's hosted on a platform like Facebook. This makes accessing and exporting your member data almost impossible.
To maintain full control over how your community interacts and to retain ownership over all of the content your community produces, you need to own the key parts of your community in a way that allows you to access your members, content, and data.
Considering Facebook’s debatable data security practices, and it's not hard to understand the advantages of moving your online community to a new platform.
What are the advantages of modern community-building platforms?
Modern community-building platforms offer a variety of ways in which community members can interact in a customized environment.
For example, members can build rich profiles to get to know others better, and Community Managers can utilize event management features to organize in-person and online meetings.
In addition, many modern community-building platforms allow you to own your member data, set your own guidelines and safety precautions.
With so much choice, it can be challenging to narrow down the best platform for your community.
If you’re struggling to understand the differences, be sure to check out this post on how to find the best community platform for your business.
Deciding to move your online community to a new platform is solely the first step. Second, you’ll need to find a way to encourage your members to migrate with you.
However, with careful consideration, thorough preparation, and clear communication, migrating your members shouldn’t be too difficult.
Here are seven crucial tips to effectively migrate your community to a new platform.
How to move your online community to a new platform
1. Do your research
Before you settle on a platform, it’s critical to decide which features your community needs to thrive, set a realistic monthly budget, and determine which community-building platforms align with your top priorities.
We’d always recommend trying out platforms that offer free trials before you commit to a paid plan.
To help you to find the best platform for your needs, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Which features will help you to build the community that you want?
- How will this platform improve both the Community Managers’ and members’ experience?
- Does this platform have the features your members need?
- Does this platform allow you to easily export your data in a way that will facilitate the migration? If so, how much will this cost?
Once you have established the benefits of a community platform, it’s important to share these thoughts with your members.
The better your members understand why you want to move your online community, the more likely they are to support you through the process.
2. Be transparent with your members and listen to their concerns
While you might be tempted to search for a platform that makes your job as a community manager easier, it’s important to also include the interests of your community members.
If they fail to see the benefits of the new platform, it'll be very hard to convince them to move.
It’s important to notify your members of your decision in advance, so you can address any concerns and feedback before the migration.
Giving members the opportunity to be involved in the decision will make them feel valued and more likely to move without friction.
One thing you can do to facilitate communication is to assign a point of contact that members can approach with comments and concerns.
If they feel that communication channels are always open, they will feel less stressed about the moving process itself.
Being upfront and open with your members about why you’ve decided to move the community is extremely important.
Whether it’s because of privacy concerns, costs, or a lack of control on your current platform, clearly explaining why you’re moving allows for an opportunity to gain additional feedback from your members about how their experience could be improved.
Once you’ve gathered insight from an open conversation, it can be easier to evaluate the best community-building platform for your community.
3. Define what a successful migration means to you
One of the only ways to know whether you have successfully migrated your community is by defining what that success could look like ahead of time by setting specific goals and using data to track them.
Part of this process is thoroughly researching which metrics you will need to determine your success and the tools you will need to track them.
For some community managers, this may be as simple as monitoring how many existing members have moved to the new community platform. For others, it might be using analytical tools, questionnaires, and polls to track how, when and why members have migrated.
4. Plan ahead and anticipate the potential challenges
Migrating your community to another platform isn’t a simple process, and there are a number of problems you might encounter along the way.
For example, technical issues can arise, some members may oppose the move altogether, or your new platform might not be as compatible with your community as you had thought.
Before you commit to the move, it is useful to make a list of all the potential problems that could arise during the migration process, along with a plan of action to mitigate these issues.
How can you make sure these problems don’t happen? If they do, how can you minimize the adverse effects they might have?
Taking a few hours to consider this before you migrate your community can assure that the process goes a lot smoother for both you and your community members.
5. Set your community up for success
Before you begin the migration process, you’ll need to make sure that everything is set up correctly on the new platform.
Start setting up your community’s new foundation, ensuring it’s correctly branded, comparable to a structure that your members are familiar with, and easy to navigate.
Then, you can begin to migrate your existing content to the new community-building platform. This can be anything from member-generated content to pre-established subgroups.
You want to make sure your members have the information they need to adjust to the new platform. They most likely want to pick up where they left off in the old community.
Make sure you’ve mapped out a transition plan for them, perhaps even recording a video from the Community Managers walking them through the new platform and assuring them that there are benefits to come.
Members need to consistently see that the new platform is a noticeable improvement and a worthwhile investment.
Some of the best online community platforms offer a wide range of tools and features that help with community management, promote member engagement, and even help make the migration process feel more seamless for your members.
6. Keep monitoring your old community platform
As part of your marketing strategy, you may have reached out to other industry-relevant websites or written guest posts to promote your community.
While these are great marketing tools, they will quickly become redundant if they link to your old community.
It is important to update these links over time to ensure every potential member is being directed to the right community.
Contacting referrers and websites will take a significant amount of time, so consider integrating a redirect link into your old community to guide new members to the new platform.
It’s important not to completely close your old community until you’re confident that you won’t lose any members by doing so.
One of the disadvantages of moving to a new platform is that some of your original members won’t want to migrate.
Some members will need reassurance about why and how you’re making the move. If you have the capacity, try and take time to reach out to members individually, to answer any questions and concerns that they may have, and explain why the move will benefit the community.
As we mentioned above, transparency is key, and giving your members a date, by which you will close the old community, and reminding them of this date, may encourage them to migrate to the new platform sooner.
7. Use the move as a marketing opportunity
Migrating to a new platform is also an excellent way to market your community to potential new members. It shows that, as a Community Manager, you're constantly making improvements based on your community’s needs and member feedback.
While you may lose a few members that don’t want to migrate to the new platform, you’re also likely to gain new ones. Before the migration occurs, share the move on your social channels and in your newsletter (if you have one).
Explain your reasons for moving to a new online community platform and how it will benefit the community as a whole. Then take the opportunity to invite new members to join in on the exciting new journey.
How does Panion handle migration?
Every platform is different, but some of the best community-building platforms include features that help make your move to a new platform as easy as possible.
Platforms like Panion will guide you through the process with a dedicated account manager, ensuring a smooth setup that helps you avoid any potential road bumps you might encounter in any migration process.
When you migrate your community to Panion, you can either send your members an invitation link or import their email addresses by uploading a CSV file.
This will ensure that all community members get invited to join your new online community platform.
On Panion, you will always retain full ownership of your data and can always export that data if you eventually decide to migrate again.
There is a lot of value in investing in the right space for your community’s growth. As a Community Manager, you’ll have more flexibility and freedom to tailor the platform to your community’s priorities, more control over your data, and the ability to monetize your communities in ways that you see fit.
Making the move can seem daunting, especially as you’ll need to convince hundreds or even thousands of other members, to make the move.
However, the pros can often outweigh the cons as having the right tool can help your community thrive in new ways. With these tips and tricks, we hope to ease your migration challenges so you feel excited by the prospect of what your community can become.
Ready to get started? Migrate your community to Panion today.