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Should I Switch Software & Allure of Member Feedback


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Before this sets off alarm bells for anyone (!), I don't plan on switching software.  This was a question asked by a user on another community: "should I switch software?"

The four or five answers provided by other members were all more or less the same: get feedback from members. 

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This is one of the worst answers that could be given. Most importantly, it reflects a disappointing lack of insight and depth by legacy forum admins who continue to over-rely on member feedback because they have no strategy or vision to independently drive their tactics and objectives. When the default answer is to listen to members as the first and primary directive, you're subsuming your strategy to nothing more than mob mentality.  What will happen in the long run is a never-ending chase for general member engagement.  (And in case you think that's a good strategy, I'd like to gently point out that Facebook and other platforms already won the race for general engagement. You won't win against Facebook.)

I want to be clear that listening to members is obviously important  But it shouldn't be your first tactic.  Doing so means you're fulfilling the whims of member. The proper way to listen to member feedback is as a feedback loop to your strategy. You can adjust your strategy; you can even stop your strategy; but your strategy shouldn't be "member feedback" itself. 

A modern community manager would have responded to the question: what is your community strategy? From that community strategy, how do you plan to implement the objectives and tactics? And for those objectives and tactics, what kind of technology support do you need? 

Some other assorted thoughts: 

  • Software is a tool.  You need to select the right tool for the job, but that means knowing what the job is to begin with.  And this is where I see legacy forum admins continue to fall short.  
  • If your strategy is to offer a discussion on X topic, you can use any discussion platform in the world.  It doesn't have to be forums! In fact, I continue to advocate that most hobbyists and small independent online groups should use platforms like Discord, Facebook Groups, MeWe, or other hosted solutions. Running an independent community requires you to think deeply about why it's strategically important to self host.   
  • Finally, a reminder that a community leader is, well, a leader.  He defines and drives the vision.  The members are along for the ride, but they themselves don't dictate the vision.  It takes courage and bravery for a community leader to push members. 
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