Change Management Best Practices for Online Community Migrations

Jackie Bartolotta

You’ve spent months evaluating the best online community platforms and which is the right one for your organization to move your external community to. You’ve prepared a detailed comparison matrix to review all of the features and functions, security, integrations, technical details, and community software pricing among the top platforms. You and your team have confidence that you have selected the right tool, and have a good plan for implementing it. 

But if you build it, will they come? 

Whenever we speak to customers about what went wrong in previous community implementations, I usually hear, “It wasn’t rolled out well.” Communicating why and the benefits of the change are essential for a successful community launch, but knowing your audience, tailoring the message to each group and timing your communications properly will help you have the best chance of success.

What is Change Management?

Change management communication involves informing employees and other stakeholders about changes in the business and why they are occurring. Whether it's a process change or an intranet upgrade, these changes often bring concerns. Without consistent, well-established internal communication, employees may feel resistant or disengaged.

Why is Change Management Communication Important?

People are naturally resistant to change. When changes occur frequently in your organization, employees might feel exhausted and stressed, leading to decreased commitment. Effective change management communication helps mitigate these issues by ensuring everyone understands the reasons for the change and the benefits it brings.

Consider the example of migrating an intranet platform. Employees rely heavily on intranets for accessing information, collaboration, and daily tasks. If the migration to a new intranet platform is not well-communicated, it can lead to confusion, frustration, and decreased productivity. Clear and timely communication helps ease the transition, addresses concerns, and highlights the advantages of the new platform, ultimately leading to better acceptance and use.

How to Communicate Your Online Community Migration to Key Stakeholders Successfully

  1. Leadership Team and Executive Stakeholders

Once your core team has selected the right community platform software and set a project timeline, it is a good time to begin communicating to executives and leaders across your organization. You will likely need resources from their teams to do some preparatory or housekeeping work outside of their daily responsibilities as you switch platforms, and they may also need to participate in training or champion related activities in the rollout. 

Communicating the benefits of the platform migration to the company as well as to their individual strategies will go a long way in getting their buy in on the project. Sharing key date milestones will also help them feel informed and will help them cascade messages down to their teams. 

Key talking points for executive communication:

  • Why a change needed to be made, what platform you are moving to and why this platform was selected
  • Major organizational and employee benefits
  • Key dates and launch milestones
  • What resources will be required from their team
  • Any major risks or obstacles that might affect the timeline

Having “the boss” believe in the benefits of your new platform and support it with their team is one of the biggest indicators of successful adoption. The earlier you can start communicating these changes to your leadership team the better. Depending on the size of your organization and the length of your implementation project, this could be 3, 6 or 9 months before launch.

  1. Site Owners, Community Managers and Content Owners

Next, you will need to target the members of your community that are responsible for publishing content and/or managing different pages, sites or groups within your community. This group may have some substantial legwork that they need to do prior to launch, as well as be a key lynchpin in successfully launching out to end users, in the form of pre-migration housekeeping and post-migration configuration.

While getting the buy in with this audience and getting them excited about the platform is critical to having them be evangelists, they are going to be more excited or critical about the nitty-gritty technicalities of the new platform. This Power User group are the folks most likely dealing with bugs, annoyances and workarounds.

Communications to this audience should focus on the improvements that the new platform offers, how to achieve some of the same content, communications and collaboration outcomes, key project timelines, and how much time they should expect to spend preparing for launch.  

Key talking points for site owners and content managers:

  • What platform you are moving to, why, and major organizational benefits
  • Key project milestones
  • Major decisions that will impact the content, access or implementation
  • What they can do now to prepare
  • When they will be able to demo or access the new site
  • How to get support or ask questions

Staying very connected with this group is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure a successful launch. Having regular communications through a community specifically for platform migration planning will help you answer frequently asked questions, share news, updates, and training materials, and build excitement as you get closer to the finish line! 

Depending on the size of your organization, you will want to ideally start communicating with them 2-6 months before your launch date, and give them time to have their new spaces configured and completed 1-2 weeks before launch.

  1. End Users 

You are reaching the finish line, and now it is time to let your largest audience, your employees or end users, in on the changes that are coming! The goal with this group is to help them understand what is changing, how it will impact their daily work, and an understanding of their digital workplace and what tools they will be using to support enterprise collaboration, knowledge management, and news and announcements.


These communications should focus on when users will see changes, how to access content they need to be productive, and any significant changes in collaboration brought by the new tool. Aside from updates from their team leaders about upcoming changes, most of these communications should happen closer to the launch, within 1-2 months before the launch.

Key talking points for end user communication:

  • What changes are coming and when?
  • Pre-launch buzz to build excitement about new experience or new features
  • Any blackout periods where they will not be able to access old or new platforms
  • Welcome from leadership, including organizational and end user benefits
  • Overviews, how to’s, training and support
  • Post-launch support and communications highlighting features or solving pain points (search tips, adjusting notification frequency)

Be sure to have a dedicated help and support area within your site to store these materials, actively monitor and triage questions and issues, and keep the feedback loop open for any improvements or integrations that can be added to your digital workplace road map.

Lastly, listen, and thank your team for their input, patience and efforts to make your launch successful. Be sure to celebrate your organization’s successes after your successful launch, and then breathe a sigh of relief - after months of evaluating, careful planning, and communicating, you did it! Congratulations on your success!

Ready to Ensure a Successful Online Community Migration?

Selecting the ideal community platform is a significant milestone, but it's only the beginning of your journey. With a well-crafted implementation plan in hand, you're ready for the next phase: ensuring your community members embrace and adopt the new platform. This is where effective change management and communication strategies play a vital role in the success of your migration.

Managing this critical phase can be challenging, but you don't have to do it alone. As experts in online community migrations, Social Edge Consulting offers a comprehensive suite of intranet and external community services to guide you through the entire process, from platform selection to post-launch support.

Our online community consulting services include:

  1. Platform Selection: We work closely with you to evaluate your needs and help you choose the software platform that aligns best with your goals and requirements.
  2. Content & Data Migration: Our team has extensive experience migrating content and data across over 30 different software platforms. We follow the industry-standard ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) process to ensure a smooth and lossless transition.
  3. Platform Configuration: We configure your new platform to match your brand and set up your community homepage, groups, and landing pages to create an engaging and intuitive user experience.
  4. Change Management & Communications Planning: Our strategists develop a tailored plan to educate your employees and community members about the new platform, communicate key milestones and changes, and provide comprehensive training and support resources.

By partnering with Social Edge Consulting, you can focus on your core business while we handle the complexities of your online community migration. Our expertise and proven methodology will help you throughout the change management process, ensuring your new platform's successful launch and adoption.

Contact us today or book a free online community demo to learn more about how we can help you achieve your online community goals and drive meaningful engagement.