Community transitions

Embarrassing fact: I have been trying to write this post since August, and it’s become pretty clear to me that I’m using it as a bit of an excuse to put off all the other posts I’ve been meaning to write, so here goes.

The past few months have been busy. Even when things haven’t been busy, they’ve felt busy, because that’s what starting a new job feels like. This summer I accepted a new position with an organization called GHDonline. GHDonline is focused on improving health care delivery through global collaboration and they have a large community of health care implementers from around the world who come to the site to exchange knowledge, information and resources to help patients and improve care. It seemed like the natural next step after nearly four years of building online communities over at WEGO Health, and while the transition hasn’t been easy, it’s been interesting, challenging, and actually pretty fun.

I won’t pretend to have it all figured out, and I’m sure each transition from one community to another has its own unique quirks and challenges, but I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned so far:

It’s not all about you

The nicer version of saying this is: when you’re making this transition, so is everyone else around you. Your old coworkers, your new coworkers, you old community members, your new community members…you get the idea. Everyone’s going to have an adjustment period, and I think trying to keep that top of mind as you leave a community, and get started somewhere else, can be pretty important. Be nice, be patient, be yourself.

You’re going to make mistakes

Somehow, these mistakes will seemed more frustrating when during the transition period from one community to the next. I should know better, I thought. Maybe so, but how you handle the mistake is usually the most important part, so take a deep breath, get some good advice, and then figure out what to do about it. It’s easy to feel like the stakes are high in early interactions with new community members, new moderators and new team members, but that doesn’t mean those first emails and conversations will define your relationships completely.

You know more than you think you do

Sure, every online community is different. We’re all unique and beautiful snowflakes. But most online communities face the same kinds of challenges—if they didn’t, how could we have such a great community of community managers? Some of these common bonds are pretty obvious, What kind of content and conversations are most interesting for members? How can we create richer engagement? How do we keep members coming back? Other connections are harder to anticipate, but you’ll be surprised what jumps out at you, and what you didn’t realize you already knew.

I think what I’ve learned so far is most applicable for those who, like me, are going through this process for the first time, so I’d love to hear what other advice you would give to community managers getting ready to start up somewhere new?