Building an online community is hard work. For a forum to be successful it needs content, members and interaction. Without content, you will get no members. Without members, you will not attract members. It’s a viscous cycle and one that is hard to break out of. With hard work though, it is possible to make a new online community succeed.
As a follow-on article to my post entitled ‘5 early warning signs that your forum is failing‘ I want to ask all of you whether you’re making the following mistakes with your online community:
Failing to create new content
A community cannot be successful without content. When you begin a new project, it is only natural that you will be enthusiastic and highly motivated. When they start off, most bloggers post numerous times each day, then they lose motivation and quit after a few weeks or months. The same thing often happens with forums. Set yourself targets and stick to them; make sure you have a good amount of content prior to the launch of your site and make sure you follow this through with a regular flow of additional fresh, quality, unique content.
A new community cannot stand on its own two feet – it needs care and attention. You need to ensure that there is a good amount of fresh content on your site to keep visitors and members interested. If you abandon your community before it is ready, it will fail within days. Do not let this happen.
Failing to get involved in your community
One advantage of setting yourself targets to create fresh content on a regular basis is that it keeps you in touch with your community. By visiting the site and getting involved, you have the opportunity to really get to know your members. It is essential for any community owner to be involved in their community and to lead by example. If you want your members to be friendly and chatty, you need to take the lead.
Not only will your community come across as far more friendly and welcoming if the administrator is getting involved, you will also better understand your members and be able to cater to their needs before they feel the need to jump ship and move to a competitor’s site.
Failing to integrate your forum
Many community sites develop over time. Many websites that have become community focussed didn’t start out with this as their intention, and very often this shows. Your forum should be integrated within your site. It shouldn’t appear to be separate from the rest of your site, and should carry a navigation structure and design that is consistent with the rest of your site.
At the end of the day, a visitor that clicks on the link to your forum is not expecting to end up at another site, so don’t make your forum look like it is a separate entity.
Failing to explain the purpose of your forum
It is easy to forget that every visitor to your website will literally give you only a few seconds before they decide whether to even look at another page on your site. Don’t make things hard for your visitor – make sure the purpose of your forum is explained clearly and prominently.
A visitor should be able to understand what your forum is about as soon as they arrive on your site. If they don’t, the chances are they will leave before giving your site a chance.
Failing to be different
If your online community is the same as all the others out there, you will not attract new members. Why should someone make the effort of joining your community if there are hundreds out there that do the exact same thing? You need to be able to lure new members into your site – you want new visitors to your site to find it impossible to leave without registering and getting involved.
You need to be different. Give your forum a personality. Create unique content. Have a unique design. Do whatever it takes; just be different!
Of course, these are only my opinions – are there any community building mistakes that I have failed to mention? Share them and the rest of your ideas by leaving a comment below.