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Building a Successful Community

Building a Community
By Sharon Housley

Building an online community demands time and sustained effort. While numbers are not everything when it comes to communities, there are several tricks that can increase the number of subscribers to your forum. However, it is important to note that a large number of members does not determine the success of a community; a smaller number of active and interested members can often result in a very successful online community.

When first starting an online community or forum, it may be necessary to seed it with initial posts or to recruit participants to contribute on a regular basis. Trying to establish an empty or sparse forum may seem daunting, or even impossible, but inciting some initial activity and contributing relevant content to your forum will ultimately attract new participants and allow your forum to begin to expand.

Most successful online communities expand slowly. A principle that is in part responsible for this trend is that the quality of the posts in a forum is far more important than the quantity of posts. Many brief, trivial posts that offer nothing new to the community do little to improve a forum, and may in fact harm it; such posts can clutter a forum and make it difficult to locate quality content. Populate your growing forum with well thought-out posts to contribute far more value to a discussion than a slew of one-line responses.

In slowly expanding an online community, one should abide by the adage "moderate with moderation." Moderation is important, and recruiting responsible posters to assist with moderation and follow up on posts is generally a wise decision. Bear in mind, however, that the more moderation a forum experiences, the less active and happy that community will be. Finding a good balance is essential to the success of a community.

If your forum is focused on your product or brand, do not delete negative comments about your brand. While keeping bad press in the public eye may seem imprudent, it is best to respond to any criticism openly and honestly. Candid and responsive posts will go a long way to build customer support and positive branding, and your community members will appreciate such responses to criticism far more than merely silencing it.

Most importantly, be active and stay active in your own community. This is especially important to new and growing communities, but may be relevant to older and more successful communities as well. If you neglect your community, particularly in its early stages of development and expansion, your members will, too.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.


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