Revised with new information as of December 9, 2015

How To Successfully Move an Online Discussion Group

Thinking of moving your online discussion group from one platform to another?

A popular online discussion group I supported for many years changed their delivery system at least four times in two years. The result was a significant dive in member numbers and activity on the group. 10 years later, the group still hasn't recovered.

Which brings me to this topic: what to do when changing an online discussion group from one delivery format to another.

First off: think very, very carefully about whether or not moving the group is, truly, a good idea. You will see a significant drop in the number of subscribers and participants after making this transition, and it will take much work to make sure the word gets out that your group is now hosted via a different platform. Make sure this new format is going to truly be an improvement, that it is something you are going to stay with for a long period of time - many years - and that you have the capacity to take action to counter the drop in membership numbers.

When transitioning to a new system, there are important steps to take to keep the list alive and growing:

Have a plan for the first day of the group's new home, the first week, and the first three months. You will plenty of interesting content and discussions to inspire people to want to participate in the group in its new home, and encourage stragglers to join up and not miss out.

If, after four weeks, participant numbers are significantly down, you have a problem! You will need to contact former participants directly and ask them what's up. You may need talk people through the process over the phone of subscribing to the new home of the group. You may need to develop a short webinar to help stragglers understand how to join the group's new home.  

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