How to Build a Strong, Vibrant Community

Sometimes we want our communities to thrive and we push them too fast. But friendships and trust take time and dedication. You can’t convince your community overnight, but you can create an environment where members can learn to rely and trust each other.

How many times have we attempted to communicate with forum members in a joking manner and it has been misunderstood as rude or mean behavior. A major reason this happens is that most of the time when we communicate it is through visual cues. But on a forum you are talking to people you don’t know and have never seen so it is difficult to assess the way that people are saying things.

And of course,people on forums are essentially anonymous. On the one hand this allows people to open up in a way they might not with friends, on the other hand people often will be offensive and rude in a way they never would in real life. This aspect of forums also effects how fast your members will feel comfortable on your site. As forum owners, administrator and mods it is our goal to create and remember the following:

1. A unique environment. The subject may not be unique but the environment should be.

2. A safe environment. Some forum topics are more sensitive than other forums, expect these forums to take more time to unfold. Make sure whatever your communities’ guidelines are that they are followed.

3. If your forum is a complex subject matter then people that are novices may take time to stop being afraid of making mistakes or asking the “wrong” questions. If a member is new cut them a little slack and thank them for their posts.

4. Your layout should be user friendly–and not just for the users that have been there for a while. Reassess and consider reorganizing your forum if it is too difficult to navigate.

5. Be real! Share your personality and your time and others will follow suit.

6. Get people talking! Sounds simple but it is really important. Ask questions of specific members.

You have to earn the trust of your members. If you harass them, spam them or are rude to them then you probably are not using the right methods. Although it is counter-intuitive build your community steadily but not necessarily quickly. You want to cultivate relationships and if there are swarms of people descending it might actually take the community a longer time to unfold. Bottom-line don’t be afraid to let your community grow at its pace. Instead of focusing on being the next-big-thing focus on building an environment of trust and relationship. People will come if you have a good thing going.

What do you think? Does a slow approach mean a stronger community?

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April 2011
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