Revised with new information as of
December 9, 2015
How To Successfully Move an Online
Thinking of moving your online discussion group from one platform to
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.
- Find every place online where you provide information on how to join
your group or how to access the group's messages. You will have to
change all of these directions immediately
upon the launch of your new group home.
- Give the group information about the change to the new system
FREQUENTLY. Provide the information at least one month before the change
date, two weeks before the change date, one week before the change date
and one day before the change date. Provide the information on your
current online group, on your web site (as appropriate), on your
intranet, in direct email messages and, if you have the budget, in a
printed, mailed form. Note exactly what day the last posts to the old
group address will be accepted and what day the new system goes into
- Spell out exactly what features are staying and which ones are going
- Detail exactly how people with specialized settings (they have been
getting the digest version of the group, or they have been accessing the
group via the web rather than e-mail) can maintain these settings.
- Remind people that they can filter messages from the group into one
folder on Microsoft Outlook and Thunderbird or whatever email reader
- Detail what will happen to the archives of discussions for the old
- The day the new group goes live, you should either re-post everything
that was posted to the old group in the last one-two weeks, or, have
pre-arranged with the original posters to resubmit these messages
- Create a message that someone would receive via email upon trying to
subscribe to or post to the old group to direct the person to the new
- Have a small group of current participants practice on the new group
for at least once month before the move, so they can identify and work
out any problems.
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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