When is The Right Time To Hand Over An Online Community?

According to Feverbee, an estimated 95% of online branded communities will fail within the first 12 months. Gartner’s outlook on private online communities is a bit rosier; only 70% will fail.

What can you do to ensure your online community makes it past the 12-month mark? Don’t hand over too early.

Let’s talk about moving on

One of the most common reasons cited by Feverbee and Gartner on why communities struggled to make it past 12 months was due to a main facilitator or owner moving on.

At the end of last year, I left my position as Head of Marketing at Paper.li to set out on my own working with other startups on digital strategy and audience development.

Because I had joined Paper.li just after they launched my hand over wasn’t a two-week ‘here you go’. It involved a longer process of decoupling startup operations that fed out of one hand in order to handover to multiple teammates across marketing, social media, customer care and community. The process began six months before my departure.

What? Six months to handover? Why so long?

There are numerous reasons, but these three sum it up best for me:

  1. People are the priority when it comes to business. As a community builder, my first priority is the wellbeing of the community.
  2. Startups run lean with limited time and budget. I wore many hats. The impact of my departure would be felt more intensely by team members if planning and preparation weren’t properly taken into account. 
  3. Going cold turkey is tough. A long lead time allowed me to handover, empower and mentor while at the same time weaning myself away from heavy online usage. Seriously, community addiction is not to be underestimated!

In June of 2014, I gave my six-month notice and worked together to handover across customer care, community building, and marketing, except for one community — the #BizHeroes community. 

At the time, our team agreed it was still too early to hand over the community. For the past 10 months, I have remained in a role that I have absolutely cherished: the co-host, development director, and community manager of the #BizHeroes community.

So when is the right time to hand over? For me, right around 18 months

This week marks the 88th edition of #BizHeroes chat. It also marks my handover as host and community director to my #BizHeroes co-host, and partner in fun, Magda.

It is always hard to imagine the path you will forge together as a community. When the chat launched in February 2014, there were no expectations except to shine the spotlight on a lot of great people who are worth getting to know, and to have some fun.  

Since the launch of BizHeroes, this community has been ‘all sizzle, no-fizzle’. You’ve achieved something that 95% of brand communities don’t– success! #BizHeroes falls into the 5% club of online branded communities that make it past the 12-month mark (already, six months ago). 

Make change when the goin’s good!

In a post on Buffer, Kevan Lee talks about why Buffer’s successful blog is pivoting (again). Kevan says something to the tune of ‘the time for change is when everything is running well”.

There are no real reasons or hard numbers behind handing over now, except that things are going well and that is always a good time to change.

With this post, I send a heartfelt thank you and a virtual hug to each and every one of you who’ve helped make this chat 1 Billion+ impressions strong and awesome. It has been a blast.

It has been so fulfilling seeing a warm and welcoming corner of the Twittersphere take shape where people to come together, make friends, exchange knowledge and hang out. You are making Twitter human, more approachable and a more wonderful place to be.

Please join me in wishing Magda all the best in her new role as #BizHeroes host and community manager. You know her and we all love her. She’s got exactly the stuff that makes Twitter hosts and community managers tick — spark, spunk and a big, warm heart. 

Additionally, I give mucho props to the Paper.li team for all they do in continuing to keep community about people and not products. Not all companies can do this, and they have done a good job at it. 

I look forward to ‘seeing’ you all and chatting with you all still on Tuesdays. Next time you participate in a community activity, please take a minute to think about the team you are a part of how you are making a difference to the people around you. You’ve certainly made a big difference in my life and I know you are making a difference for others, too.

T.E.A.M — Together Everyone Achieves Miracles


Awesome image credit: Christian Bucad


Kelly Hungerford
Kelly's a Digital Operations Specialist and Social Brand Strategist. She helps Startups and SMBs build lean marketing operations leveraging Social Media to support business goals and connect with the people who matter most. As former Head of Community and Communications for Paper.li, she was responsible for building community-centric operations to support Paper.li's rapidly growing user-base and founding #BizHeroes, Paper.li's Brand Twitter Chat that takes place Tuesdays at 2pm ET.

7 thoughts on “When is The Right Time To Hand Over An Online Community?”

  1. Kelly you have done an absolutely fabulous job creating and developing the #BizHeroes community. It’s very difficult to start and create a new Twitter chat these days but you not only did it in 2014, but made it one of the few top chats on Twiter. I’m very excited to seeing what you do next! Good luck to Magda, she’s learned from the best!

    1. Mack, thank you. You and #Blogchat were my guiding light and my role model for how to do a chat right. Your words, friendship, mentoring and guidance in planning the right strategy put this chat on the right track. In other words, without your wisdom, and belief that I could do this, I’m not sure I could have!

      It goes to show how far we can get when we have the right people around us. After 18 months, I also think ‘wow, and you’ve done this for 7 years now?’ My 88 chats pale in comparison to 350+! Respect!

      I have loved every minute of growing this community I am so excited for Magda and the community. Change is good and this is a great thing for everyone. Thank you for the friendship and being my mentor. You’re a good friend, Mack Collier. Thank you.

  2. I agree with Mack: you did such an awesome job with the community! Anyone who works with you will end up learning a lot. I know from experience. 😉

    Thank you for all you have done!

    1. Cendrine, thank you! Your support and the active role you have taken in the BizHeroes community has been appreciated by the community and the team, more than you will ever know. I can say the same for you. Anyone who has the chance to work with you should jump on it!

  3. You have been an inspiration Kelly – keep up the good work in whatever you decide to do next.

  4. I have been so blessed with your friendship and mentorship through these past years. You believed in this community and built it up from the bottom up, you set the foundation on which it stands and now it is a thriving atmosphere of shared knowlege, camaraderie and networking. I applaud you, Kelly and I will miss my partner in fun and crime behind the #BizHeroes scenes!

    1. Thank you, Magda. Your support helped make this community what it is today. It was a real honor to be a part of this community and we are so fortunate to have earned so many friends and friendships along the way. I can’t imagine anyone better than you to be its new champion. You’ll do a fabulous job!

      #BizHeroes will always carry a special place in my heart and remember… I’m only a Tweet away! On a personal note, I’m looking forward to joining the happy hour with a glass of Swiss wine in hand. Something I couldn’t do as host — I don’t Tweet and drink 😉

      Time to mingle!

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