Of the twelve months of the year, the summer ones (June through August) represent the toughest time to launch an online community or campaign of any sort. Having launched several at various times of the year over the last five years, I’ve seen how web surfing and community participation numbers drop sharply in early June and continue a downward trend that levels off only slightly in August with the two weeks prior to Labour Day being the quietest as everyone tries to shoehorn the last hurrah into vacation season before work and school rhythms kick in.
Summer is just one of those times of year that sends people outdoors and overseas. Even the extended reach of 3G and the convenience of mobile computing with cool gadgets like the Android, iPhone and iPad haven’t done much to prevent vacations from the virtual world to the real one; particularly this summer which has been one of the best, weather-wise, in recent memory.
The good news for those who are hoping to build or strengthen online communities and see an increase in participation is the trend should start skewing upward now, if it hasn’t already. My experience with more successful communities including JustOneMoreBook, which one year had 3,000 visitors/day (except in the summer which dropped below 1,000/day), is those numbers return to normal by the end of September. Communities that get creative this month may see their participation rates and memberships increase since September also appears to be a month when people step up their sharing of online destinations and communities with friends and colleagues as they reconnect.