Building Support From Community Members When Migrating Off of Facebook
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
How to address the most common member questions, build support, and migrate successfully
If you’ve been following along on this blog, you know already that earlier this year, I moved a community of almost 40k members off of Facebook and onto a private community platform called Circle. I run the brand community for members of Teachable, the online course creation SaaS company I work for. After three years of managing this community, which predated me by an additional three years, I spent almost six months re-evaluating the community strategy I inherited. (You can learn more about creating a pared-down community strategy here).
I’ve learned a lot throughout the process of moving my community off of Facebook, and often hear community managers sharing perceptions, fears, and questions about how to make this decision effectively. So, I've decided to do some writing sharing my experience making this big migration. In a previous post, I shared my process for deciding if moving off of Facebook was the right move for my community. Plus, I shared a quick worksheet you can use to go through that process yourself. If you’re interested in that guide, you can download it here:
In this post, I’ll be sharing my insights on one of the biggest challenges community managers will face when they explore moving a community off of Facebook: skepticism from members. I’ll share top concerns from community members, and how you can address them. Plus, I’ll share some of my favorite strategies to make sure your migration is met with the support it deserves.
Common concerns from community members (and how to address them)
When moving my community off of Facebook, I heard and honed responses to lots of questions. These are the top few. Anticipating these and being prepared to answer will help you build support.
“If you move your community off of Facebook, I won’t go there anymore because it isn’t convenient for me. It’s too hard to log in or remember to go to a new space.”
You’ll hear this one a lot from community members who are nervous to move off of a platform they’re comfortable with, and for good reason—it can be tough to learn a new software, and keeping track of yet another username and password is tedious. You should take these concerns seriously, and do everything you can to make the login experience for your new platform easy. I fought to have Single Sign On (SSO) implemented between my new community platform and my company’s software so that my members could use their existing credentials to log in. If you can’t do that, try to find a community platform that already has SSO with something your members already use, like Google accounts. Doing your due diligence on this step will make this concern easier to address—it will come up.
But, there’s another part of this objection that I take a bit less seriously—the assertion that community members won’t use a community unless it’s convenient for them. In my case, I wasn't particularly interested in harnessing “foot traffic” to my community. I was looking to foster a higher level of conversation. Plus, I’m putting in the work to infuse my more-than-a-forum community program with perks I know my members want—things like exclusive presentations, challenges, and chances to learn best practices from other members. If your members are only visiting your community out of convenience, and not because there’s anything there that they want enough to proactively visit, then there's a root problem there that's worth addressing. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this concern from members is accurate at its root: since people are not generally traversing non-Facebook community platforms on their own, you’ll need to have a strategy to get them there—which takes me to the next big common objection.
“You should always go where your community members are. Any attempt to get them to congregate elsewhere is futile.”
I actually heard this one from another community manager about a week before I flipped the switch on my community migration...*gulp.* I chat with other community managers pretty regularly to try to stay on top of best practices, and there’s always something to learn. I’m appreciative that this CM shared their honest perspective. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the “go where your members are” line, and a few of my members have said it, too. But, I find it a little backwards.
I think a lot of community managers have the perspective that it’s their job to hunt down their customers anywhere they may be on the internet and engage right then and there—this perspective assumes that the members set the tone and the community manager follows. And this is the case, in terms of the humility and deference that community managers show in building an authentic culture in a community. But, professional community managers should not be content to follow along with whatever randomly arises. As a professional community manager, you have the bird's eye view required to create the ideal community experience and then help guide your members into taking full advantage of it—which, yes, takes some effort.
To move off of Facebook, you do need more of a strategy and more know-how to habituate your members, but it is absolutely possible to do so. Suggesting otherwise is a bit strange to me, and seems to tie into the false equivalence that some draw between community and audience—there are many well-established strategies for marketing and helping members habituate with a new product, and there is no reason these strategies (like email marketing, education, and personal outreach) cannot be effective for communities. I've written a blog post all about engagement strategies for new communities that you can check out here. This goes more deeply into some of the ways you can proactively engage members, even if they're not stumbling across your community while on Facebook.
“People won’t discover the community anymore if you move it off of Facebook.”
This is a short one. Unless you are using your community for organic acquisition, there is no reason to be concerned about discoverability. While there are some cases where communities are used for acquisition, by and large, communities are retention tools. Don’t try to use them in lieu of more effective acquisition tools.
Proactive strategies to build support for you migration from community members
Now that we've talked about how to address common questions and concerns that community members raise regarding community migrations off of Facebook, let's dive into a few proactive strategies you can use to build support for your migration.
1. Bring your members into the decision-making process.
When creating your new community strategy, do some research with your members. Talk to your most engaged members on the phone, and get them involved in the process of determining the features and format of your new community. Ask them about their pain points with moving off of Facebook, and make sure you address them. Share your vision with them, and help them understand why you think an off-Facebook platform will help that vision become a reality. When the new platform is ready to test, let them take an early look, provide feedback, and make sure they're happy with it before you open it up to your whole community.
2. Tap into your "support squad."
If you're like me, you may be fearing the day you announce to your community on Facebook that you're planning a migration. But, as we all know, the tone of posts on Facebook are often influenced heavily by early commenters. But, you can influence the perception of your announcement by asking those who you know will take a positive approach to weigh in quickly. For those members who you speak to about your migration in depth, and who you let test out your platform early, call on them to support you on the day of the launch. Let them know exactly when you're making the announcement and ask them to comment sharing a few words of support on the post. All the better if they are respected members of the community who others know, like, and trust.
3. Make sure your new community is noticeably better.
Probably the best way to ensure your migration is met with support is to make sure that the new community experience off of Facebook that you're offering is actually better. A good way to do that is by focusing on the elements of your program that make it more than just a forum or another place to chat. Do you know your members really want live Q&A time with you? Monthly challenges? Swag? Whatever it is, provide at least one high-profile feature that distinguishes your new community and makes it a cut above the previous one on Facebook—this will help your members push past skepticism to try to get the features of your new community.
4. Don't worry too much about getting 100% support right away.
If you're sure this migration is the right move for your community, don't worry too much about pleasing everyone. There will be some members who are not happy with the move, and others will be thrilled. Keep your long term goals in mind, and remember that although not everyone will be an early adopter, with time, you'll get plenty of chances to prove the value of your new space to your members. Good luck!
Are you working on migrating a community off of Facebook? Are questions and concerns coming up as you socialize this idea to your coworkers, or your community members? Leave a comment below—I'd love to hear more about your experience! Plus, don't forget to join my email list to be notified of new posts and other special offers.
Thanks for reading, and looking forward to hearing more from you!