It’s a common problem – you launch an online community but nobody is talking. Even if you have members from (or even before) day one, if they aren’t creating content and engaged in discussions then you don’t have much of a community. As a result, you decide to take the lead and create some posts yourself, but once again there is little engagement. It’s a vicious circle.
Don’t launch your community until you have content and some dedicated, passionate members. These should ideally be people you know – either from offline relationships or from new relationships you have developed online. There really is no excuse for being unable to do this. If none of your friends have a passion or interest in the subject matter of your online community, find people that do. Run some searches on Twitter. Hit up Google Blog Search. You’ll find people. Learn from them, respect them, and develop a relationship with them. Finally, recruit them.
Questions should be the foundation of your online community. You need to be asking yourself questions all the time – in this case, you need to ask yourself why people aren’t contributing. Is the content interesting enough? Is the site easy to use? Do existing discussions get ignored? Are you attracting the right people?
You should also be asking your community questions. Give them a reason to get involved in the discussion.
The temptation to register multiple accounts
You might be tempted to register a few accounts yourself using different pseudonyms. After all, if it’s just you creating all the content, people are less likely to get involved. Even if they do respond to discussions you start, they won’t bother creating new discussions if they come to see that as your role rather than theirs.
Creating multiple accounts is a divisive issue amongst community managers. Some will say it’s unethical (you’re effectively lying to your audience) and not a good way of building genuine relationships with your members.
I’m on the fence.
I don’t think there should be a need to use pseudonyms as long as you have planned your community right. You should know where your potential members are and why they will want to join your community before you launch. You should recruit golden members before you launch and ensure they are talking before you launch. Activity breeds activity.
However, if you are still struggling I don’t think there is anything wrong with using pseudonyms as long as:
- They add value to the community (real conversations, real contributions)
- They aren’t used for promotional reasons (don’t use multiple accounts to endorse products or services)
The danger of multiple accounts
If you stick to those two guidelines, then using multiple accounts can actually benefit your community in the early days. You’ll help establish norms within the community – you’ll be able to help set the tone and seed the culture and personality of the community. You’ll also encourage activity – after all, nobody wants to join a community that only has one active member.
That being said, if you do decide to register a few pseudonyms, pause for a moment and consider how you would feel joining a community and then discovering that the community manager has multiple accounts. Would you feel cheated? Would you lose trust in the community?
Confusion and effort
It’s going to be hard having more than one personality. You’ll need to remember who each of your pseudonyms are and not get them confused. You’ll need different personalities for each one and different writing styles. You’ll need to post at different time intervals. This deception is turning into a lot of hard work isn’t it? Surely all that effort would be better spent attracting genuine members and encouraging genuine member interaction?