Save time with these community building shortcuts

by Martin Reed on 25 June 2009 in Articles

community building shortcuts

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.

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Mr Woc June 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

Hi there

It never fails to suprise me how some people start a forum and then dont want to post onit lol, paying someone to post on your forum never works and exchanging forum posts is a waste of time.

As your post says, you need quality posters, the mor quality posts you get hte more people you will attract, also forums tend to go in fits and starts, where sometimes they can be very busy then other times they can be quiet, so you have to keep introducing new subjects each day if you can !


Nicole Price June 27, 2009 at 6:29 am

Like any other business activity, this to will take time to build and flourish. Any kind of short cut activity to increase volume, is likely to result in unwanted results.

Flint July 2, 2009 at 2:51 am

I wholeheartedly agree with you that hiring paid posters is a bad idea and will likely sour your community some. Also, as Mr Woc said, why make a forum if you want someone else to post for you and you will post on theirs – No one wins. If you want a lasting community you have to put the time and effort needed to succeed. Thanks Martin for the article.

Shawn July 2, 2009 at 9:21 am

I definitely agree on those points; some competitions can work but they’re more often than not hard to get the members to follow into. The best way that I’ve found to do this is to have routine contests, let them expect it, and do it at a frequency where you’re not giving away your entire paycheck, but to keep it in the back of the members’ minds that one is coming up. We’ve found that inexpensive/funky gifts seem to work well, people seem to be obsessed with weird/different. Another thing we’re about to start is “grab bags” similar to the “bag of crap” which will likely contain more eclectic items that we find. I’m definitely excited to try that one out.

I am a big fan of your sentiment on not giving moderator duties to the highest posters or most popular posters as well.

Jon Guildford July 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Excellent article.
You always need to be careful when using shortcuts. When building a successful business you need to think of it as a house. It you scrimp or use cheap materials when building the foundations then then the main structure will always be weak and liable to fail.

Farrhad A July 10, 2009 at 6:50 am

Awesome post, Martin. I just shared it on my forum.

Juanita July 10, 2009 at 8:51 am

Hiring paid posters is honestly the most terrible idea ever. You want to have a real community, not some people being cheated into beliving that the group is bigger than it actualy is.

Joseph July 19, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Good call on this one, anything good takes time to develop and usually it seems like trying to get instant results (in anything) is a pretty good way to actually ruin what you already have.

Paul November 14, 2009 at 2:53 pm

These shortcuts should be used sometimes to increase your numbers and help you recruit more “Real” members. After you get the ball rolling, these shortcuts are not essential anymore.