Have you ever had a professional of some kind, who you were trying to set up an appointment with, just call you and tell you they are 15 minutes away, despite the fact that you never actually nailed down that appointment? Home appraisers, contractors, cable installers, real estate agents, plumbers, whatever. When they do it, isn’t that just the best?
No? It’s not the best? It’s highly inconvenient, annoying and off-putting?
I agree. And that’s why you need to be careful not to do in to your online community.
Redesigns and meaningful visual changes are the biggest example. People like to know a new website is coming, they just don’t like to visit the next day and … hey, what happened? Anymore then you’d like someone to paint your room one night as you slept.
When you change your guidelines in a meaningful way, that needs an announcement. You don’t necessarily need to say “hey, this guideline is going into effect on this day,” though that might be appropriate in some cases. But, in general, telling them that it has changed is advance notice. What is not advance notice is changing it quietly and then contacting them after they violate it.
Suffice to say, when you are making a change, one of the biggest things you can do to ensure the success of the change is to provide advance notice.
It also impacts how successful community related activities and events are. Launching a new content area? Need content to launch with? (Of course you do). Tell people about it before hand and let them get it started before the official launch. Planning to hold a contest, some community awards or host an in person event? Advance notice is your good buddy. It gets people excited and gives them time to make arrangements.
It’s not just about the act. It’s about how you set up the act.