Building Online Communities

Discussion in 'other software & services' started by jrmhng, Jun 18, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. jrmhng

    jrmhng Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2007
    Posts:
    1,268
    Location:
    Australia
    Hi Guys,

    I'm a uni student wishing to start a website with educational videos for all basic level university topics (accounting 101, statistics 101 etc type courses). I want to make these available free of charge. This is because at my uni, even though it is one of Australia's best, teaching quality is very inconsistent. Some lecturers and tutors are extremely good. Others can be extremely boring, hard to understand etc. There needs to be some kind of support for students who are falling behind especially in first year, where having to adapt to uni and the different way you have to study and learn is quite a challenge.

    I post this thread becaues I also want to build a community around this website. I would like to know what makes online communities successful? What made Wilders successful? What was it at the start? How did it hit a critical mass where there was enough information and discussion that kept users coming back? How do you keep people coming back? What are some of the other challenges that Wilders had to deal with?

    Can the mods and people who were here from the begining give me some pointers? Also for all Wilders members, what makes you keep coming back? What does Wilders do that is different from other forums and online communities?

    Any help is much appreciated.

    Cheers
    Jeremy
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2008
  2. NGRhodes

    NGRhodes Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2003
    Posts:
    2,331
    Location:
    West Yorkshire, UK
    I am proud to say that an online community that I started 8 years ago ( left 4 years ago) is still thriving.

    I would say that the foundation of a successful community, is good management and good community spirit.

    Try and involve the community as much as possible in the running the community, its generally a self perpetuating things, all the users will row the boat, you just need to steer the oar to prevent it hitting the rocks.
    You need to listen to the wants and needs of the community, use this information to help plan the future of the forum and always let them know you have listened.
    Encourage feedback and comments, encourage users to report problems and problematic users.
    If you have an idea or a plan to change something, feed it back to the community (via the admin team first), trial it out first, get feedback. Make improvements until they are happy and be prepared to ditch, as users get turned off very easily.
    Always have a team of moderators/admins to help you out, even if the community is small, it helps get an alternative view-point on anything.
    Always have a backup plan, if your sick or die, can someone else get to the hosting account, do you have someone else as superadmin ?
    When your moderator/admin hat is on, you have to put all personal feelings aside and be objective when helping community members out, sorting disputes out, deciding potential changes to the community (eg introducing a way of generating revenue to cover cost of hosting).
    Sensible rules and policies and sensible membership hierarchy and forum structure, this again should be formulated with feedback from users as to what works best.
    Do not forget to be clear about issues to copyright, conduct (insults and abuse to other members), language.

    Good content is important.

    Its very hard to kick start, but again with a good community this will perpetuate itself.
    You sound like you have a good idea, but the community starts with you, therefore you need to start posting content and getting people to comment and contribute (even if you have to beg or bribe :D)
    You need to encourage people (word of mouth, email, bulletin, newsletter) to visit and feedback and provide their own content, maybe you can get the backing of your facility bodies or student union. Of course you will have to be tactful about how you approach these bodies in an official manner - I would even mention this project to your lecturers/assistants etc (be subtle though), you might find some offer to help or give you useful information or even contribute (from past experience of having professionals on my old forum, is make sure you tell them it is 100% informal/unofficial).

    The community will live and die by its reputation, your reputation will be directly related to the community (and do not forget if you make it public that means your community will be on view to the rest of the web).

    Be prepared for a slow start.
    If it seems like too much hard work, then you are not getting enough help from the community itself, do not be afraid to ask for help.
     
  3. jrmhng

    jrmhng Registered Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2007
    Posts:
    1,268
    Location:
    Australia
    Thanks Nick, I appreciate the long post. Just digesting the information.

    A few key questions I have. How do you kick start the community? Is good content enough? What is the critical mass where you dont need to go hardcore with the marketing? Where are places where I can get some good exposure?

    Cheers
    Jeremy
     
  4. NGRhodes

    NGRhodes Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2003
    Posts:
    2,331
    Location:
    West Yorkshire, UK
    How do you kick start the community?
    As I mentioned, the main thing is to get word about, by word of mouth, post a a few pieces of content, ask people to comment, ask people for content.
    You have the advantage of a real world place to get word about, rather than just hoping for someone to visit via google.
    You just have to keep trying, if you have something good to say, people will return.

    The site I ran was a steady grower. A few things that really caused jumps in traffic, was site the site was listed in a national magazine and when various members were featured (I managed to get featured as part of a cover article, my 15 minutes of fame :D).
    But apart from those jumps, it was always quite a steady site, I assume because it was quite a niche site.
    I always relied on reputation and word of mouth (and suitable links from other related sites in the same field), did not pay for any advertising, to increase traffic or membership.

    To gain exposure, of course word of mouth like I mentioned. Web based traffic will come from a combination of google (a big topic - SEO, good content, good linkage all make for good google-ability) and links from other websites to yours (eg putting a link in your forum signature, providing content to other websites in exchange for a link back to yours), it is very dependant on the topic of your site and if you know of other communities and websites in related topics that you think would be interested in your website.

    Cheers, Nick.
     
  5. L815

    L815 Guest

    Look into meta codes & special developer tweaks you can use on your pages for googles spiders to index your site. The more usefull information they can get from your page, the higher the rank you page will get.

    If your site is one of a small amount of similar websites, then the chances of getting up to the first page search results is good. This is good for the people who may not hear about your site, but are interested in the material on your website.
     
Loading...
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.