When your online community is focused on a particular topic – as most online communities tend to be – the emphasis tends to be on expanding as it relates to the subject matter of your community.

If you’re a toy community, and you see a lot of discussion around a particular toy or type of toys, you’ll launch a new section for those toys. If you’re a web development community, and you see a lot of questions about a particular programming language, you’ll introduce a new section for that language. And so on. That makes sense.

What can be lost in the shuffle, however, is the off-topic section. If you look for the off-topic section on most communities, that’s all you’ll find. One section, dedicated to everything that isn’t about the chosen topic. Sure, they might have an introductions section, an area for announcements and maybe one or two other forums, but for the most part, everything “else” is happening in that one section.

Your focus will always be your focus. With that said, I believe that it’s worth identifying trends in that off-topic section to see if you can grow out additional areas based on the passions of your members. A lot of really great community is built in the off-topic areas. That’s often where your members can really get to know each other.

If you have a passionate group of moviegoers, maybe it’s time for a movies category. If your members are talking about tabletop gaming a lot, add a section for it. Are there active discussions about sports? A sports forum could be in the cards.

You never know what could come out of this. More activity, stronger community ties, even an entirely new community. Don’t ignore the off-topic section.