You have had great success with your online community Menewsha.com. What is Menewsha about, and where did you get the idea to start it?
Many people do not understand the concept Menewsha, I guess the name even confuses them! However, the concept is very simple and easy to understand like most great ideas.
The focus of the website is the community, the forum. Users can create their own avatar to represent themselves; their avatar then appears with them with whatever the user does. On the forum, these avatars appear next to the user’s posts.
The website isn’t just a forum. It has it’s own economy, games, shops so that you can dress up your creation.
I helped out on a site similar to Menewsha a long time ago, it was called Zantarni. This was mainly to help improve my own programming skills which have dramatically progressed over these months.
After leaving, I decided to create my own site with a similar basis but I would improve on the flaws of Zantarni. At the time of creating Menewsha, I barely knew about the major competition which is Gaiaonline.com, the largest forum on the web.
It is in a very similar niche to Menewsha, however it focuses on the anime community. I now check Gaia now and then to ensure Menewsha’s features are superior.
Menewsha has enjoyed phenomenal success in such a short time – founded in January 2007, you gained over 6,000 members and over 600,000 forum posts in three months. What do you think has been the key to this success?
Perseverance. Problems occur very often, it’s all about working through the tough times. You have also got to be unique, have an upper hand on the competition with something, anything. Menewsha stands out with it’s unique art, games and community.
How did you build awareness and traffic to Menewsha in the early days? How did you encourage users to become members and interact on your site?
With some past experience with communities, I knew it wasn’t easy. I planned out some ways of marketing the site. What I have found works best is viral marketing. I now try to implement some form of this into all of my projects.
This consisted of giving each user their own unique link to Menewsha which they refer their friends with. When their friends signed up, they were given 100 gold (currency) to their account. This really got the site to take off, bringing thousands of unique hits and hundreds of new members to the site each day.
What efforts are you undertaking to continue Menewsha’s traffic growth, and how do you retain members?
There seems to be a steady flow of new members each day now. The site is now at a stage where I need to let it mature for some time before I start doing any more promoting.
Users are still telling their friends about the site, word-of-mouth marketing is working very well for the time being. I’ve even seen articles about Menewsha crop up without my knowledge.
Due to the fact that Menewsha has it’s own economy, users are on the site a lot. I don’t need to put in too much effort to retain current members. Of course, I do so by constantly adding new features and items to the website. I have paid some flash developers to create games for the site.
I recently had to purchase a new server for Menewsha because of the sheer amount of traffic the website was receiving. I am now in the process of upgrading this server because of growth.
How much time do you spend each day on developing Menewsha and what tasks do you undertake an a daily basis?
I am still in full time education, so the amount of time I spend on the community on weekdays can be limited. The amount time that I spend working on the site has always been very varied, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On weekends it can be anything from an hour to most of the day. It all really depends on what has happened and what I have to do.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in developing a successful online community?
The first six months. Even though I haven’t passed this milestone yet, it feels like Menewsha has been around for years.
The first six months in any community can be a struggle, getting those active members can be hard. It’s tempting to just throw a community on to the SitePoint Marketplace, but then you’re back at stage one… right?
I agree – most of the fun is to be had in developing your community and watching it grow. Have you made any mistakes with your online communities in the past? What is your biggest regret?
Looking back, I don’t really see any big mistakes I have made. I much prefer it this way, I’m not the type of person to regret my decisions. I wouldn’t make a decision unless I was confident that I would not look back regretting it.
Earlier this month, I was approached by a very famous forum guru (you guys would know him) about partnering on the community. After a tough decision, I decided to turn him down. I don’t regret this decision one bit. However, I am very curious how the community and my future would turn out if I did partner with him.
Have you ever had problems with abusive members? How have you resolved these issues?
Oh yeah, we get a lot of forum trolls. Spammers are an issue that we just have to live with. I’m quite harsh when it comes to spammers as well. If they wish to come and spam the community, I will just ban them straight off. The Menewsha community has grown quite close due to the strict rules.
There have also been other occasions with arguments over the boards. I tend to let my moderators deal with these issues over private messaging.
I understand you have administered forums in the past – what is your attraction to online communities?
Online communities are awesome. Unlike other sites, they are unpredictable. You get much more out of a community than a normal site, it’s easier to interact with your members.
Even with my normal websites, I like to integrate a community. It helps give the user a reason to come back.
You have been documenting your online ventures in your blog, JoshBuckley.net since January 2007. What inspired you to establish the blog, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
I love to read blogs of other internet entrepreneurs and web developers. I love to hear about other people’s projects. After reading some of my favourite blogs for some time, I decided that it was time for me to start my own.
Not only does my blog help me promote my own websites, but it also helps me promote myself. It’s got my name out there. Without the blog, we wouldn’t be having this interview right now.
I’m hoping that my blog will carry on with the path that it’s going down right now, bringing me new friends and helping to promote my projects.
How do you see your blog developing in the future? Do you hope to make it another earner in your portfolio?
I see my blog becoming much more popular in the future. It’s even surprised me that people like to read that stuff. Although, I don’t see my blog becoming much of an earner.
The entrepreneur bloggers that seem to make money are those who are writing articles and advice. I’m simply writing about my projects and with some other small things. That can only grow so much.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan on developing online communities, or will you branch out into other areas of web development?
To be totally honest, I don’t want to plan ahead. I would rather let things just happen. I do plan on doing further education as something to fall back on. But I will definitely want to open some more sites. I do have some ideas floating around in my head; time will show if they will succeed.
Finally, what is the biggest challenge and the biggest reward in being an Internet entrepreneur?
Good question. I couldn’t really say one reward, as there are many. But, it can be a massive amount of money and working for your self are the two major rewards for me.
There is a lot of risk involved in this industry, a lot of things that could go wrong. It’s a big challenge to get noticed and start making good money.
It sure is a huge challenge – I think the risks involved just add to the excitement and satisfaction of working for yourself.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day for this interview, Josh. I wish you the very best with your current and future web ventures – I for one, will be watching your progress!
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