1. You chose the wrong niche.
In your mind, you came up with a great niche for your community. As far as you’re aware, people love your product. Maybe you didn’t do your research first, though.
Sometimes, regardless of what you think or what you predict, people just aren’t interested in talking about certain topics – even if they’re important to the people you’re trying to reach.
This is yet another reason why community planning is so important – before you build a community website, try connecting people and encouraging discussion. See how that works out before you spend more time and money on your project.
2. It isn’t relevant to them.
You’ll get people join your online community only to find it’s not for them. Sometimes you can turn these members around by asking them what they were expecting and adjusting your offering.
Perhaps you need to make your community’s mission clearer and make it more prominent. That way, you’ll be attracting the right people for your community – sure, registrations may drop but you’ll have a far more relevant (and consequently interested) membership base.
3. It’s too complicated.
Don’t try to build the biggest and fanciest website. Keep it simple – very simple. Don’t feel embarrassed if your site will be nothing but a forum. If that’s all your members need to communicate (they’ll rarely need much more), then you should be proud that you made a smart decision and avoided the temptation to go for technology over functionality. To make things even easier, consider drawing up roadmaps for members of your online community.
Remember – start small; you can always expand slowly as the community develops. Personally, I love the look of Vanilla.
4. Nobody else is contributing.
People won’t talk unless others are talking, too. That’s why you need to introduce people to each other and encourage discussions yourself. You don’t want to be the focus of your online community, though – so make sure you do most of your matchmaking behind the scenes.
Encourage members to post about things they’re passionate about (you know what they’re passionate about, right?) If one member starts a discussion topic on a subject you know another member is interested in, encourage that member to join in. Prompt, cajole, encourage.
5. They’re scared to post.
Being a community manager and being a community moderator are two different things. You should dread having to use moderator privileges and you should only use them as a very last resort.
If people go off-topic in a discussion, let them. That’s what happens when people have real discussions. If you come across posts that are a little distasteful, turn the spotlight away from them. The more you react to the behavior you don’t want to see, the more you’re likely to see it.
Encourage the community to ignore the type of content you (they) don’t want to see. Of course, if things go too far you’ll need to delete content and even member accounts but this should be something you hate doing.
6. They don’t have time.
This is just an excuse. See point 7.
7. It’s boring.
A lot of online communities are boring. That’s because they’re run by organizations that have excessively strict guidelines for the community, moderate their communities heavily and don’t allow much in the way of off-topic discussion. They’re being too protective.
Your online community should have an off-topic discussion section. You should also consider having a humor/games section. These aren’t a waste of space – they’re another way for members to get to know each other and they can be remarkably addictive.
8. They feel anonymous.
Small communities are personal and often far more rewarding than larger communities which are usually influenced by a small number of elite members. New members feel anonymous, unrecognized and ignored. As you grow, make sure you keep things personal by dividing the community into smaller groups.
Pay attention and be sure to remind individual members that you’ve noticed them.
9. They’ve forgotten about it.
Online communities don’t exist solely on one website. You should be engaging with your members wherever they are – and you shouldn’t be afraid of them building relationships with each other using websites other than your own.
Keep in touch with your members (and those you want as members) by using the websites and services they use and by sending community newsletters (with their permission).
10. There’s nothing in it for them.
If your online community offers no benefits, people won’t get involved. I’m not referring to gimmicks like prizes for the most prolific contributors. Instead, reward members by naming sections of the site after them. Draw attention to them in the community newsletter. Give them perks and privileges.
Turn the spotlight onto members who do great things in the community. Make them feel special.
If you still can’t get anyone to contribute, perhaps it’s time to try something a little more radical.