Q: What’s the difference between buying a new home and selecting a community platform?
A: One is a major expense, fills you with angst and forces you to move all your stuff. The other changes your address.
Joking aside, we tend to approach the selection of a new platform like we would a new home. We research. We draw up lists of features we want. We work to see through the sales pitches and spot anything they are trying to conceal. We consult trusted friends and seek their counsel. But in each case, the most important questions may be the ones we ask ourselves about what we want and need.
Platform questions are common in TheCR Network — and through the Community Manager Handbook we explored best practices for selecting a new community platform with TheCR Network member Maria Ogneva, who lived through the process most recently in her community role at the ridesharing startup Sidecar. Among the tips:
Start with behaviors, not features: Just as you should start your community strategy with the behavior change you want to drive, start your platform selection thinking about behaviors, not bells and whistles.
Think about your technical prowess: A custom community might be able to check all your community boxes, but what happens when there is a problem or you need to make a change? Without the right people, the wrong platform can become a burden.
An eye toward the present, an eye toward the future: Pick a platform that can handle your expected growth, but not at the expense of your present-day needs
The most important thing to remember is that different types of community structures will have very different platform requirements – there is no one size fits all vendor or solution. Think about your community – its size, purpose, technical abilities, support and security needs – and yes, your budget – plus any other special factors that should play a role in your choice. By starting with your needs, you’ll uncover the platform that can best serve them.
After all, in the end it’s not about choosing the best platform. It’s about choosing the best platform for your community.
Are you charged with selecting a community platform? Check out the Community Manager Handbook for more best practices, strategy ideas and a case study with advice from Maria Ogneva.
Want the chance to contribute to research like the Community Manager Handbook? Members of TheCR Network get exclusive professional development opportunities like this and more! Join us and let us help you grow your career as a community manager.