Creative Commons License photo credit: davidkn1

Communities often see downswings in activity around specific holidays or even specific seasons.

For example, you might see less of some people during the summer, when they are more freely able to go outside and take vacations. Of course, summer occurs during different portions of the year, depending on where you are based. If most of your visitors are Australian, you’ll see it in December through February. If most are from the U.S., then you’re looking at June through August.

The same thing can happen on weekends, especially 3 or 4 day weekends that include holidays. In the U.S., it is Memorial Day weekend. I asked for ideas for today’s article and my friend Ted Sindzinski suggested that I discuss seasonality. Specifically, “How can communities thrive through slow seasons, even leverage users going offline?”

I believe it is important to recognize the ebb and flow of community. Namely, that you don’t exist to take over the lives of your members. You exist to complement their lives. It is natural that your traffic will go up and down and it doesn’t mean that the world is ending, either way.

Some communities may be less susceptible to this. A community about Christmas will probably be most active in the months leading up to that holiday. But, a forum about movies won’t see the same type of pattern. Instead, perhaps there are trends in traffic around major movie releases.

A community that has a balanced, more international audience may see less of an impact, as well. If you have a substantial membership from several different countries, that have their own holidays and seasonal norms, you won’t be hit by all of them at once but in cycles.

That said, as a means of adding value, consider seasons and holidays and how your community is uniquely suited for engagement around them. Here are some examples:

You run a theme park community. A lot of your members are heading to theme parks this summer. You could create a summer 2012 (or whatever year it is) guide to the major parks, including new rides and reviews from members. You could start threads, or focused areas, where members are encouraged to share their experiences at particular parks during the season, as they travel.

You run a cooking and/or grilling community. Memorial Day weekend, July 4th and other holidays are well known for grilling. What are people cooking? Photos, descriptions and recipes can be shared and encouraged.

You run a gaming community and have many members attending a gaming conference. Not only can you facilitate discussion about the event and the major announcements made at it, but you could organize or encourage an in person meetup. At the very least, you could encourage people to meet each other, of their own accord. You could also send t-shirts with your community’s logo to some of the members going, so that they can wear them at the event. They’ll be promoting your community, even if they currently are not on it. Just make sure the t-shirts are nice, so that people actually want to wear them!

You run a community of small business owners. Businesses routinely use holidays as a means of boosting sales with some sort of promotion. What promotions are they running? What advice do they have for other business owners? After the holiday has passed and the sales have been counted, how well did they do?

You run a knitting or crafting community. People naturally share their projects. So, it makes sense for this to include holiday based projects and to encourage people to chronicle those projects in a section dedicated to that particular theme.

These are just a few examples. But, you can take them and think about how they apply to your own community and how you can tap into the time of year and the upcoming holidays in an interesting way that adds value to your community.