Unhappy with the activity on your community? One way to take matters into your own hands is to start topics on your forums, allowing people who want to participate to add to the activity, rather than having them feel as if they have to create the activity. After you get past the standard sort of threads, you may be wondering: where can I get ideas for new ones? Let’s talk about five of my favorite ways.
1. Social Bookmarking and News Sites
My favorite way to find interesting and/or funny content that I can share is on social news sites. My two favorites for this purpose are Digg (add me) and Mixx (me). The quickest way to do it is to visit the site and open up the main category pages or the categories that most interest you and scan the top stories. Share the ones that you feel are the most interesting and appropriate for your community.
There are plenty of other ones, like StumbleUpon (me), Yahoo! Buzz (me), Propeller (me), reddit (me) and Kirtsy (me). There are also niche sites dedicated to specific topics that may be even more helpful, such as Tip’d for financial news and Sphinn (me) for online marketing news.
2. News Aggregators
These sites allow you to see the biggest news stories of the day, from a very wide array of publications, from just a single site, which can save you time. The ones that I recommend are Google News and Yahoo! News. The sites are pretty straightforward.
But, perhaps even a bigger benefit is the ability to search for news related to your community’s niche in one place. So, for example, if your forums were about the Jonas Brothers, you could run a search for “Jonas Brothers” on Google News. You would then be able to see all related headlines and you can even sort them by date to find the most recent ones, if you need to. Or if your community was about or was interested in breastfeeding, you could monitor that.
A cool way to monitor these sources is with an RSS reader. For example, here’s the RSS feed for the Google News search “Jonas Brothers.” You can also subscribe to e-mail news alerts.
3. Topic Focused Blogs, News Sites and Publications
Depending on what the subject of your community is, it is highly likely that there are blogs and publications focused on that subject, in part or in full. You can monitor these sites and subscribe to them to receive the latest news on your subject arena, as well as interesting features, tips and ideas. You can then bring this up in your community and allow your members to discuss it. You can find them by searching for your site’s keywords in Google, by themselves and along with words like “news,” “blog” and “magazine.”
For example, let’s say your community is about comic books. A search for comic book news brings up Comic Book Resources, Newsarama, Wizard Universe and Marvel. If your community is about camping, a search for camping blog brings up Camping Earth, David’s Camping Blog and CampingBlogger. You get the idea.
4. The Calendar (Holidays, Events, etc.)
Yes, the calendar. What holidays are coming up? You can wish people a happy holiday, ask them what they have planned, ask them what they received, what they ate, where they went.
What events or conferences are coming up that are relevant to your subject? Are your members going? Did they go in the past? What did they think? The calendar is not just dates, but experiences.
5. Your Surroundings
Look around. What do you see? What you see is likely what a lot of your members see, as well. Do you have a Nintendo Wii? An Xbox 360? An NES? What are your members favorite games? Do you have a TV? What are your favorite shows? What type of music are you digging right now? What brand is your computer?
What was the last movie you saw on DVD? What do you have hanging on your walls? What book is closest to you right now? And on and on. Look around at your surroundings and use them as inspiration.
A Word on the Proper Way to Cite Sources
Don’t take just ideas – credit people who gave you the inspiration. Link to people, share the love, show them respect. When quoting a news article, quote no more than one fifth or one sixth of the article and link to the full version. Do not, by any means, post the whole thing – even with a link. If you found the cool link through a site, why not credit them with a “via” at the bottom of the message? For example:
I thought this was a pretty cool video.
I found the link through Digg, so I sent them a credit link. Do I think you absolutely have to do that? Not necessarily. But, I do think it’s a cool thing to do. That said, if you do quote from any article, you need to link to it and that’s just the way it is. If you are in doubt of what you should or shouldn’t quote, just link to it. You want people to respect you, so be sure to respect them. You won’t get in trouble, you’ll be doing right and it can lead to good things down the line. Like, maybe you want to partner with that site.
Question for the comments: what’s your favorite way to find news and/or topics to share with your community?