Sometimes you want to build an online community in the quickest time possible. Perhaps you have a target to reach a certain number of members. Perhaps you have a target to reach a certain number of posts. Here are some community building shortcuts for those looking to reach numeric targets.
Hire paid posters
Caveat: Most paid posters will have no interest in your community. This will shine through in their posts. You’ll likely see off-topic content which will add little value to your community. What’s more, as soon as you stop paying, you’ll lose those ‘members’. Additionally, regular members may not be happy that some people are getting paid to contribute when they aren’t.
Exchange forum posts
Caveat: Why on earth would you want to spend your time posting on someone else’s forum in exchange for them posting on yours? That person has no interest in your community’s success – they are only out for themselves. You can’t guarantee quality or value – even though you may be contributing just that to the other community. If you are going to post on a forum, post on your own forum!
Spend big on advertising
Caveat: You’ll attract traffic, and you will be able to target your demographic (to some extent). However, you won’t necessarily be targeting the right members for your community. Google doesn’t know how passionate individuals are about your brand, product or service (yet). Facebook can help you drill down by interest, but the best way of getting the right people to join your community is by encouraging your best members to get people like them (ie their friends) to join.
Hold big competitions
Caveat: People are only in it for the prize. I’ve lost count of the number of communities I have come across that ran big competitions only to become ghost towns once the competition ended. Don’t offer prizes for members that refer the most members – they’ll just sign up multiple accounts themselves. Don’t offer prizes for members that make the most posts – you’ll end up with junk.
Encourage negativity and arguments
Caveat: You’ll definitely see more activity if you have no community guidelines and encourage abuse, arguments and mudslinging. Your community will likely end up damaging your brand though, and advertisers won’t touch your site with a bargepole.
Post a link to your community everywhere you go
Caveat: Getting the word out is a good idea, but don’t drop a link everywhere you go. Some places might not attract the audience you are after. Some places may consider your link as spam. Tread carefully, act carefully and think before you link.
Send out press releases and emails as soon as your community opens
Caveat: Most press releases announcing a new online community are terrible. Don’t list the features in your online community. Instead, make sure you tell people why they want to join and what’s in it for them. Even then, you need to consider whether your online community is ready for a sudden influx of new visitors – is there enough engaging content there to encourage them to join? You’ve only got one shot at this.
Ideally, you want to email your subscriber list in chunks and only when there is enough activity already in your community to make it worth your subscribers’ time to take a look. Email them all at once and if something isn’t right, that opportunity is gone forever.
Give moderator privileges to all members who make x posts
Caveat: Your top posters would love to have moderator privileges – they probably already feel they are your most valuable members, and therefore deserve extra responsibility. If you hand out powers as soon as members reach a certain number of posts, you’ll see a flurry of activity – but you’ll likely be encouraging low quality content, and consequently low quality moderators.
Automatically register members
Caveat: So you decide all users of your site, all of your customers, or all of your subscribers automatically become members. You’ll have a huge member count overnight. The thing is, very few of those people will be active (real members) – so you’re only creating a deceptive ego stroke. Furthermore, some may resent that you signed them up for something without asking them first. Not a great first step.
Real online communities take time to develop. To build a genuine online community you need to choose quality over quantity (members and content), and build relationships and trust between members and with your members. That takes time.