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Imagine your community has gotten into a mess, it simply does not work anymore due to mistakes, wrong decisions, and wrong turns taken in the past.

But the general idea and concept of the community is still good and promising and the targeted audience is still out there. The corresponding niche in the marked of online communities is still there, waiting to be filled. Succeeding in doing so would make many people happy.

With hindsight, it is clear what went wrong and what should have been avoided.

So the idea is to some kind of restart or reboot the community without making the same mistakes again.

How can such a restart of the community be done without losing the trust of the target audience?

There are a few good people that should be taken over into the restarted community. Some good users have been present during a certain time but they could not be retained in the present community. It would be nice to see them again too.

There are also announcements and advertisements for the present community and in principle it might still be that from them, some people would like to join us, and they should be led to the restarted community too.

This question is somewhat related to How can I restore the focus of a community without driving away the userbase?, but just trying to refocus the community seems no longer sufficient or feasible.

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Clear, concise and transparent communication on your ambitions and goals of the community go a long way with rebooting while maintaining or even acquiring trust.

Here is some food for thought in terms of steps:

Step 1 - Time For Change

This is where you communicate your clear, concise and transparent message to your community that focuses on those ambitions and goals for the future. You know why you want to improve, how you think you may achieve that and how you are pushing forward. Stay positive, allow for open feedback from the community, let them help you shape it.

Step 2 - Identify Influences

Yes, this is generic but still important. Identify who is on board with the change and use them as ambassadors for change. Use them to also help expedite your plan and help emphasize your new message.

Step 3 - Be Receptive

Change is sometimes hard. This is why you fear the loss in trust. The best way to help minimize that loss is to be open to feedback. If the community feels they have no say in the new world you may be building, they won't have time to lose your trust. They will just be gone.

Step 4 - Provide Updates & Results

Of course, announcing a change and receiving feedback is easy enough. However, don't forget to keep the community informed on the progress. You may see that a good majority don't actually respond to your initial messaging and calls for feedback. They may just be silently watching to see what happens expecting the worse. With the consistent updates and proof that things are changing or maybe even getting better, this will help pull them back to not being the silent majority, but the vocal minority.

Step 5 - Be Human

This is always important, especially if trust is a concern. Being human, not being a marketing machine and showing that community health is important can go a long way. Remember, although many marketing guys and the like see communities as a target audience for some type of messaging for some type of product or service, communities exist to share a common interest with other HUMAN beings. Very few actually enjoy joining communities just for your spam mail. They join to discuss and meet others like themselves.

But, that's just me.

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