Loving County: Least populous county in the US
Creative Commons License photo credit: rutlo

My friend Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, who I co-host the Copyright 2.0 Show with, asked me to write about the following topic:

One thing I’d be very interested in, something I don’t think you’ve covered here, is an article about how to get a community started.

If a community is like a fire that you have to cultivate and maintain, I want to know how to light the spark so to speak including getting the first members, encouraging the start of the conversation and so forth.

If you are thinking about launching a community on a given topic, there is a good chance that you know some people who are also interested in the topic. That is a good place to start. Reach out to them individually, tell them about your community and ask them if they would like to help you get it started.

You should invite those people to participate pre-launch and give them private access to the community. You should encourage them to start discussions around the topic and you should join in yourself. These pre-launch discussions will give you content to launch with, something to have in place that will help attract new members from the people who happen across your website.

This can go a long way because it makes your site look that much better than if it had no content at all. Generally, people want to join a community that already has something happening, rather than helping a community get off the ground. So, get that core group going before you even open your doors to the public.

Online communities are still websites, so search engine traffic is vital for most. Make sure your site is search engine friendly, has a good domain name, that your title tag describes your content (for example, “Martial Arts Forums” or “Knitting Forums”) and all of those good things.

Once you launch, ask those pre-launch members to spread the word to their networks and you do the same. Continue to engage with the people on your site, no matter the number, so that you can keep as much quality, legitimate activity going as you can.

There aren’t any magic tricks or shortcuts. Tell your friends, ask them to spread the word and appreciate the members that you do have, no matter the number. Communities grow 1 by 1. For some it is faster than others, but it is always 1 by 1.

From there, your marketing efforts are limited by your own imagination. There are free and paid methods, online and offline, like marketing any other product or venture. Think about where your audience is and how you can get in front of them. Whatever you do, however, keep it ethical and don’t be a poacher.

Thank you to Jonathan for the prompt. If there is a topic that you would like me to cover, please let me know.