Everyone and their dog (including myself) harps on about how important it is to differentiate your community from others. Some feel that because of this, if they have a ‘general’ forum without a specific focus or niche they cannot succeed.
General forums can succeed – you are catering to a huge audience by not restricting your community to a specific niche, although you will need to work harder to differentiate your forum from others.
Opportunities and challenges for general interest communities
By administering a general interest community, you are not limiting your potential audience. See this as an opportunity – virtually every single Web user is a potential member of your site. You may think that because your potential audience is so huge, getting your community off the ground will be easy. Wrong!
It is precisely because your potential audience is so large that you will have to work extra hard in attracting and retaining members. It will be harder to target individual, niche sites when link building as you will be after visitors with various interests.
There are also an overwhelming number of general interest communities online – why should someone register at yours, when there are so many alternatives? Many of these alternatives will be far busier and more popular than your community – so how do you compete and attract visitors?
How to differentiate your general interest community
Once again, the key is to differentiate. Your community must be different to all the others that are out there.
Make sure you are the odd-one-out. Make sure that your community offers something that the others don’t. Customise your forum – never stick with the default design. Give your community a distinct personality – go a little crazy! Get your visitors intrigued and get them involved.
Keep an eye on the competition – see what they are doing wrong, and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes. Newcomers tend to be the biggest innovators – you need to do the same if you want your general interest community to succeed.
Do you have a general interest forum? How do you differentiate your community from all the others out there?