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What Stage of Online Community Lifecycle are You in?

By: Christian Britto 03 Mar 2017

Online Community Lifecycle. What Stage are you in?

Online Community Lifecycle

Wondering how to effectively grow your online community? Do you need to foster engagement, while keeping tabs on member activity and data? Start with inception!

Inception -- Establishment -- Maturity -- Mitosis


When starting out building an online community one of the first steps is inviting members to join. Establishing a base of users is important because that initial momentum will snowball until your community enters the next stage. Proving valuable information and engaging content is key to keeping members involved in the community. This phase focuses mostly on drawing members into your new online community.  

Remember to be friendly and not to pressure people to join.

The best members will want to join willingly, and be excited to receive an invite!

How to Start Your Online Community

  1. Start by promoting your new community on similar groups on social networks. You must be actively recruiting members by meeting them where they already engage with content.

  2. Drive users to your platform by developing engaging content. Be knowledgeable of the kind of content your community already likes and engages with, and provide similar, but more in depth or first hand experience in your content.

  3. Build relationships between members by asking questions, initiating discussions and even by hosting online events.

As your community begins to grow, you will enter the establishment phase. This phase focuses on

a) growing members 

b) building activity among members.

online comunity development theory


When your community is beginning to reach a critical mass, you enter the establishment phase. Here, your activity growth is between 50% and 90%. Activity is generated by members and thus your responsibility as a community manager shifts. Now, your job will include some of the same steps as the inception phase, because you are still growing your user base, and some new steps to keep them actively engaged.


Growing your community is important! Remember to feed and water them with content, relationships  and keep track of the growth!


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How to Establish

  1. See How to Begin steps 1 - 3 above

  2. Isolate key members (you can find them by seeing who participates the most)

  3. Engage with key members

  4. Recruit volunteers to help moderate the community or create online events

  5. Collect and analyze data

  6. Resolve any disputes between members

Your community is now beginning to operate on its own. Discussions are curated by members, and your role shifts from being an active recruiter, to focusing on your current members. From isolating your most valuable members, to analyzing your member data, now your are going to be deep in member

Now you are entering the maturity phase. Here, you will focus on your members, their data and developing sustainability.



Once your community has almost reached the point where 100% of activity, growth and content is generated by members, your role is to make sure it will be self sustaining. The most important part of this phase is being able to analyze your members metrics. Here metrics will help you scale, optimize continue to develop community.

How to Mature

  1. Establish a referral system

  2. Guide the community

  3. Recruit and train volunteers to take over specific aspects; volunteers can work on growth, content, discussion, relationships and events

  4. Shared vision

  5. Focus on macro-level wins that develop long term

    1. Causes / fundraising

    2. Events

    3. Continuing educational opportunities

online community development theory


While this can be considered the last phase of the lifecycle, it is also the beginning of the next community. At this point, your community should be self-sustaining. Sub-groups will begin to form and more involved communities will develop. While not all communities will develop to this phase, many will, and you need to be prepared if your community does.

What Next?

Growth during this phase should be consistent, but also growth of the smaller communities will begin because they will be in the inception phase. Your role will be to expose the new sub-groups to the already existing main groups.

This is very similar to the inception phase above. Part of a community manager's job is to designate roles for the new subgroups. People will need to manage data, invite members, and create content.

Like the inception phase it will be your job to identify topics that your subcommunities will talk about, engage with and spread.


This is where your community will cycle back to the inception phase. Your sub-group will start with inception and grow from there.


With the right strategy, you can watch your community grow from one main group to tons of sub groups!

online community development tips


Original Article Source - Feverbee


If you enjoyed reading this post, check out related posts:

Community Online: Analysis Your Association Should Be Doing

6 Content Creeds for Associations

Christian Britto

Written by Christian Britto

03 Mar 2017 in management

Christian is the Operations Manager at rasa.io

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