As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, one of the things a new visitor to your website will look at is the number of members and posts, and how recent those posts were. Some websites I have come across have attempted to edit these figures to portray a more active community. Some may see this as willful deception, others as a reasonable way to help build a community.
Methods of ‘faking it’ can include:
- Editing the ‘total posts’ statistic
- Editing the ‘total members’ statistic
- Signing up multiple user accounts yourself, or encouraging others to do so
For me, the jury is out as to whether these are legitimate methods to help kick start a community. I have never used these methods on any of my own websites, but that is not to say I would not consider at least the last method.
I would always steer well clear of editing posts and membership statistics. Most users will be able to tell if these have been edited if they spend a few minutes surfing around your website. Once found out, the user may well feel deceived and is unlikely to consider you trustworthy enough to hand over the information needed for registration. Additionally the user may think your website is a little desperate if it is going to such lengths to attract members, rather than working hard to build the community through content and genuine interaction.
The method of signing up a small number of users yourself may be effective so long as you make the effort to create fresh content under each username. Common sense would be needed here though – if a thread appears with four people interacting with each other all with the same writing style, signature message, and all in the space of thirty seconds then your game is up!
I believe that if each username you are using is generating real, quality content for your website it may well be a good way of initiating interaction in your community. As your site develops, you can then retire these alter-egos.
Before deciding whether to ‘fake it’ with your website, put yourself in the shoes of the potential new visitor – how would you feel about joining a community and finding that everything is not as it seems? If you are going to edit statistics or create alter-egos to kick-start your community, think very carefully about the potential benefits and the potential pitfalls. The last thing you want to do is ruin your relationship with your members before it has really begun.