I've seen a particular type of community fail time and time again on Discord — sports communities. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of successful sports communities on Reddit, Scenes, and Discord. But it's just plain hard to scale a new sports community, simply because most hardcore sports enthusiasts are -
a) already part of a big sports community
b) not keen on being part of a sports community online
c) would rather discuss sporting events over text message with friends they know in real life.
Fitness is sort of the opposite — you can build the 5,000th fitness community and still find a niche to fit and scale in.
Here, I want to tell you how to pivot a community anytime after you've reached 100 users. How do you tell your members that you're pivoting? How do you manage expectations?
How do you pivot
The truth is that most communities find themselves doing pivots (of different scales) at some point in their existence. Some pivots are tiny, with a name change or a platform change. Some pivots are massive, with a sports community pivoting into a startup community.
While pivoting (or even starting a community), here are four golden rules:
a) Your first 10-100 members define your community's engagement and culture:
In some cases, you might want to talk to them 1 on 1; in some you'd want to do an event just for them. If members want to leave, let them, but ask them not to disturb the peace for other people. When spoken to in a 1-1 fashion, they are less likely to cause chaos on their way out.
b) Clearly state what the new community will be about and what it will do:
What its rules, rewards, and goals are. Try making no references to the previous community; it will just confuse new members.
c) Pick a niche that isn't a winner-takes-all:
Sports communities are winner take all. It's hard to find a viable niche in this domain. Finance, gaming, etc., allow for multiple communities with enough differentiation. There's no one community that will win it all — people will be members of all popular communities in the niche if they seem interesting. One pro tip here — don't try to pitch yourself as the "best" community. Instead, try to be "different" from the communities that exist. In short, find an existing popular niche and create a "twist". For example, NeoG was a coding community, which actually gave assignments to all its members to level up, no other coding community did the same. What the twist in your community idea is versus incumbents, I leave up to you.
d) If you're a brand, make the community brand adjacent rather than “all about the brand”:
No offense to brands, but nobody wants to join brand communities. They seem too corporate and there exists an implicit financial agenda. The better way to position the community is tangential to your brand. If you're a health protein bar brand called "StrengthBars", the community should absolutely not be called "StrengthBars". It should be a fitness community called "Daily Strength" or similar. Remember that Airbase's community is called "Off the Ledger", not "Airbase community".
You can sell your brand’s stuff in your community to your heart’s content, but adjacent naming is important.
Conclusively, you need to have a proper plan and clear communication before pivoting your community. Some pivots can be massive and some others minimal. They aren’t easy to pull off, so if you need help, get in touch with us.