When Is the Right Time to Hand Over an Online Community?

According to Feverbee, an estimated 95% of online branded communities will fail within the first 12 months. Gartner’s outlook on private online communities is a bit rosier; only 70% will fail.

What can you do to ensure your online community makes it past the 12-month mark? Don’t hand over too early.

Let’s talk about moving on

One of the most common reasons cited by Feverbee and Gartner on why communities struggled to make it past 12 months was due to a main facilitator or owner moving on.

At the end of 2014, I left my position as Head of Marketing at Paper.li to set out on my own working with other startups on digital strategy and audience development.

Because I had joined Paper.li just after they launched my hand over wasn’t a two-week ‘here you go’. It involved a long process of decoupling startup operations that fed out of one hand in order to handover to multiple teammates across marketing, social media, customer care and community. The process began six months before my departure.

What? Six months to handover? Why so long?

There are numerous reasons, but these three sum it up best for me:

  1. People are the priority when it comes to business. As a community builder, my first priority is the well-being of the community.
  2. Startups run lean with limited time and budget. I wore many hats. The impact of my departure would be felt more intensely by team members if planning and preparation weren’t properly taken into account.
  3. Going cold turkey is tough. A long lead time allowed me to handover, empower and mentor while at the same time weaning myself away from heavy online usage. Seriously, community addiction is not to be underestimated!

In June of 2014, I gave my six-month notice and worked together to handover across customer care, community building, and marketing, except for one community — the #BizHeroes community.

At the time, our team agreed it was still too early to hand over the community. For the past 10 months, I have remained in a role that I have absolutely cherished: the co-host, development director, and community manager of the #BizHeroes community.

So when is the right time to hand over? For me, right around 18 months

January 2015 marked the 88th edition of #BizHeroes chat. It also marked my handover as host and community director to my #BizHeroes co-host, and partner in fun, Magda.

It is always hard to imagine the path you will forge together as a community. When the chat launched in February 2014, there were no expectations except to shine the spotlight on a lot of great people who are worth getting to know and to have some fun.

Since the launch of BizHeroes, the community has always been ‘all sizzle, no-fizzle’. You, the community, have achieved something that 95% of brand communities don’t– success! #BizHeroes falls into the 5% club of online branded communities that make it past the 12-month mark (already, six months ago).

Make change when the going is good!

In a post on Buffer, Kevan Lee talks about why Buffer’s successful blog is pivoting. Kevan says something to the tune of ‘the time for change is when everything is running well”.

There are no real reasons or hard numbers behind handing over now, except that things are going well and that is always a good time to change.


Next time you participate in a community activity, please take a minute to think about the team you are a part of how you are making a difference to the people around you. The #BizHeroes community has certainly made a big difference in my life and as community partipants, I know you are making a difference for others, too.

T.E.A.M — Together Everyone Achieves Miracles

This article first appeared in the Paper.li blog.



Published by

Kelly Hungerford

Digital Marketer, Social Strategist and Community Builder helping European businesses connect with the people who matter most.

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