Chronicling the transition of a hobbyist Facebook Group to an online community

(Griff Wigley) #1

I run a small Facebook Group (2,800 members) for recreational mountain bikers devoted to improving their riding skills. I’ve made the decision to move the community to a new platform (Discourse) so that I can add more value (via technical features, events, mini-workshops, etc) and in turn, encourage more people to financially support the community via Patreon.

There have been a couple other topics related to this type of transition, for example:

2017: Transition away from Facebook Groups


But I think this is different enough to warrant its own topic.

I know the trend – hobbyist forums are declining and FB Groups for hobbyists are booming – so the likelihood of success is certainly more than questionable!

I’m confident, however. I created several online communities in years past that had good runs. And having read Buzzing Communities recently, I have a better understanding of the mistakes I made and why they eventually failed.

I’ll begin by summarizing the transition steps I’ve taken in the last month. And then I’ll post an update once per week or so as I go.

Feel free to comment and ask questions anytime, including questioning my sanity!

(Griff Wigley) #2

Here’s a listing of the transition steps I’ve taken in the last month:

  • Feb 1-10: I individually contacted (via FB Messenger) about 20 of the most active Group members to ask if they might be willing to help me plan the next phase of the community by joining a private FB Group which we would use for planning

  • Feb 13: I set up a welcome topic in the FB Planning Group and individually contacted those who confirmed interest (about 15) a URL to request admission to the Group. When they did, I replied individually with a link to the welcome topic and approved their admission to the Group

  • Feb 14: I created some new topics, in which I explained 1) why I thought it was good we started with a Facebook Group; 2) the problems we’re now having with the platform’s limitations; and 3) what we could to better serve our members; and 4) what platforms we might consider moving to

  • Feb 15: I posted an open invitation in the main FB Group, inviting anyone who was interested in the planning group to contact me and request admission; I then started contacted more people individually over the next week until I got a total of 50 members in the planning group

  • Feb 19: Created a draft of an online questionnaire to help develop our community concept, asking for feedback on its design

  • Feb 20-26: Launched several more discussion topics on key issues, including brainstorming possible names for the new community

  • Feb 28: Launched the questionnaire

  • March 2: Posted the questionnaire results

  • March 5-7: Initiated 5 new discussion topics addressing issues raised in the questionnaire

  • March 7: Posted a list of all the Planning Group’s discussion topics to the main FB Group

Moving a community from a Facebook Group to Zendesk Communities
(Sarah Hawk) #3

Yay! Good choice. :wink:

If I can help with any of the platform technicalities let me know.

Good luck with your project.

(Griff Wigley) #4

Thanks, Sarah! I plan to use a self-supported version, using @Jay_Pfaffman for his install service on Digital Ocean.

I’m also planning to integrate with Patreon. If I get stuck with that, I might bug you for best places to get help.

(Jay Pfaffman) #5

I’ll keep an eye out, @griffinjay. My new Standard Install includes the Patreon plugin. Now that it’s only $10/month, I recommend going with a 2GB droplet with many plugins, but you could give it a shot with 1GB.

(Gillian Wu) #6

Griff, I’m about to embark on the exact same journey, but I’m about 1 month behind you - I’ll also be transitioning our Facebook group to an in-product forum (we’re using Zendesk Communities). Will be following this thread really closely.

Here’s a question - at what point did you start hinting to the FB group that there would be a transition to a new platform? My colleagues don’t want to announce/launch the Community Forum to our Facebook group until it’s somewhat established, but I’m wondering if there’s a better way to communicate that we’re planning on a transition.

(Sarah Hawk) #7

I believe that is a mistake. I’ve done a few platform migrations over the years and it’s my experience that if you start talking early, your members will feel like you are including them in the journey and that helps with the transition. If you suddenly spring it on them they feel like they have no control. You don’t actually have to let them influence your decision at all, but give them the impression that they are a part of the process.

(Griff Wigley) #8

@gillianwu, my timeline gives a bit of an indication. About two weeks after handpicking a small group to start planning the transition, I posted an announcement to the larger group, inviting anyone else interested in helping to join us. And then a couple weeks after that, I posted an update to the larger group on what kinds of issues we were tackling in the smaller group. I plan to keep doing that every week until the transition in complete.

Hope that helps. Let me know what questions you have.