Building Online Communities
Subject:   Building online communities - not as easy as you think.
Date:   2002-10-24 08:45:05
From:   jamble
Great article, not particularly groundbreaking in many respects but well written and containing some great points of reference. Like many people these days, I run a personal site which contains forums and my homepage is a weblog which I try to update as often as possible in order to keep content up to date, something often neglected by many "webmasters" of personal/portfolio sites.

With respect to building an online community, it's easier than ever now for people to install and run a forum/message board, there's a wide range of software available that can literally be installed in 5 minutes via ftp and you're ready to go. I do however feel that this the early point that seperates your average person and a community builder, the hours and effort involved in attracting members (and more importantly retaining them) is something most people take for granted and they assume because a forum is installed, people will sign up and start posting et voila, a community.

It really couldn't be further from the truth in most cases, you not only need a site theme which is well covered in the article but I genuinely feel you need to put in a hell of a lot of work into customising your site and forums in order to make them stand out from the crowd and attract members who will hopefully then sign up and be part of your new community.

I'm not entirely certain that the theme/direction of your site needs to be specified right from the outset though, this can evolve with your site and member base according to how people treat your site when they visit. I've seen countless sites and threads on message boards where someone has posted a link to their freshly installed forums asking for members (and more amusingly offering moderator positions when they have less than 10 members) when their site offers the same sorts of forums / discussions / threads as many larger more established sites so why would people sign up?

Personal service.

I strongly believe it's the administrators role for small sites to ensure threads are replied to and help is given as quickly as possible when requested. After all, you've added help forums so if people should submit a question, get it answered and they're more likely to return if they're stuck in the future.

It's a slow process building a community and often very frustrating but there's no doubt the rewards in terms of personal satisfaction are there if you stick at it :)

Great article, next time someone asks how to make their site popular, I'm going to refer them to this page!