Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 15

Thread: Communities. Do you really need to build one? Probably not.

  1. #1
    @haroldmansfield Array Harold Mansfield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Las Vegas Nevada USA
    Posts
    6,362

    Default Communities. Do you really need to build one? Probably not.

    Since last year and the development of Buddypress, more than 50% of my calls and contacts have been people wanting to build community websites (like Facebook, of course).

    Most of the time it's people that haven't given any thought to how they will build membership, marketing, and actually running the community...basically they just think it would be cool and people will come running because there is no community for whatever obscure niche service or product that they are in.

    But should you really tackle every thought that comes into your head just because no one else has done it?
    Probably not.

    Odds are someone has done it and it failed, or smart money has determined that it's not financially viable and moved on.

    Communities are incredibly difficult to build and time consuming to run. Most times all you really need is a simple discussion forum, but of course everyone wants to be the next Facebook, even though they have no understanding of how Facebook was built outside of what they see on TV and movies.

    I have probably built 10 or more community sites in the last year and most of them have no shot at success. Furthermore, I suspect that the owners will grow frustrated and quit when they realize that people aren't lining up to join like they thought they would. It is probably the one and only thing that I consistently try and talk people out of..to no avail.

    My advice to most people who are contemplating building a community site is to stop and ask yourself a few questions before powering through.

    How many followers, subscribers and readers do you have at your blog /website? Or how many in your existing organization?
    If the answer is none or not many, then building a community is not going to change that. It will actually only serve to make the space you build look even emptier.

    How many Facebook and Twitter followers do you have?
    If you aren't successful in building followers here, odds are that won't change if you build your own.

    Are you technically knowledgeable to run the software that runs communities?

    The most popular community building tools is Buddypress. However most popular communities are run on custom built scripts. Contrary to popular belief, websites like Facebook, My space, Mommy Blogger and so on are run by many, many people on huge server systems with ample marketing budgets. That's something to take into consideration when you are comparing your idea, to those conglomerates.

    Outside of the people that you know, how many other people do you think will honestly be interested over a long period of time?
    Many business owners do this. They envision how their friends and family will enjoy their business idea and never put themselves in the shoes of strangers that don't know them. This is a mistake in a lot of businesses, and the downfall of many.

    What will you do that is truly different than other communities and can you afford to do it?
    If you start off by saying something like "I want it to be like Facebook, but...", you need to stop right there. No one has ever come to me with $100 million budget so that they can even remotely get in the same league as a site like Facebook. And even Facebook didn't start with all of the features that you see today.
    It''s fine to study those that have come before you and want to improve on it, but when talking about building a community, you also need to study he graveyard of fallen communities that have failed in the past....and there are a lot of them. Many started by large companies with unlimited resources like Walmart, Google, Viacom, and some major publishing companies.

    Most community sites fail because they can't answer this question from consumers and users:
    Why would I want to join a social networking site that doesn't do anything special when compared to the others that already have me hooked?
    Now, I'm not saying that there is no room for another community, or that you can't be successful tackling your niche market. Just know that building, and running a community is much harder than building and running a website and much more difficult to grow.

    If you don't have a plan other than being just like what is already out there, or has already failed then you need to reevaluate what you really want to accomplish and is building a community the best way to do it?

    Wikipedia has a decent list of existing Social Networks. It's not a bad place to look when you start saying things like "No one is doing it like this":
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...rking_websites
    Last edited by Harold Mansfield; 04-01-2011 at 06:35 PM.
    Small Business Web Consultant
    1:1 Web Help for Start Ups, Novices, and DIY’ers

    WordPress Website Design » WordPress Support

  2. #2
    Member Needs New Keyboard Array Spider's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    3,677

    Default

    Aw! And I was going to build me a community -- And I was going to have you build it for me!

    Guess I'll just put my $100 million back in the bank!

  3. #3
    @haroldmansfield Array Harold Mansfield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Las Vegas Nevada USA
    Posts
    6,362

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Spider View Post
    Guess I'll just put my $100 million back in the bank!
    Hey, I didn't say we couldn't talk about it.
    Small Business Web Consultant
    1:1 Web Help for Start Ups, Novices, and DIY’ers

    WordPress Website Design » WordPress Support

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Array
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    1,343

    Default

    I agree, Harold. I think the same thing happened with a lot of forums. While there are certainly some hugely successful forums, and thousands of active forums on almost any niche you can think of, I continue to stumble across forums where the newest posts are months old. People felt that if they built a forum on [name your niche here], that people would flock to it.

    I see the exact same thing happening with online communities, even more so. At least with forums, it is not that hard to be involved in several different forums that reflect a person's different interests, business and personal. With communities, I see that as much harder because the degree of involvement in each seems to be higher on the whole. A person can only spread himself or herself so far.

  5. #5
    @haroldmansfield Array Harold Mansfield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Las Vegas Nevada USA
    Posts
    6,362

    Default

    Also, the "giddyness" of the internet is over. The days where people where signing up for everything like a new puppy sniffing the floor are over. People use the internet with purpose now. You really have to work hard to keep their attention and even harder to get them to sign up for something.
    Small Business Web Consultant
    1:1 Web Help for Start Ups, Novices, and DIY’ers

    WordPress Website Design » WordPress Support

  6. #6
    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Boulder, Colorado
    Posts
    13,599

    Default

    One other thing I see all the time with people who want to build communities is they seem to think the community will just happen without them doing anything. Community builders need to be very active, especially early on. After a time and assuming the community has a attracted a core group of members who can be counted on to create and carry on discussions, ownership can pull back, but early on community owners need to be very active or find a few people to be very active for them.

    I think too many people build communities with the notion if you build it they will come. They won't come though unless your community is active. People aren't interested in joining empty and inactive communities.
    l Search Engine Friendly Web Design | Vanseo Design
    l Design, Development, Marketing, and SEO Tutorials | Steven Bradley's Notebook
    l Custom WordPress Themes |Get my book about Design Fundamentals

  7. #7
    @haroldmansfield Array Harold Mansfield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Las Vegas Nevada USA
    Posts
    6,362

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Business Attorney View Post
    I agree, Harold. I think the same thing happened with a lot of forums. While there are certainly some hugely successful forums, and thousands of active forums on almost any niche you can think of, I continue to stumble across forums where the newest posts are months old. People felt that if they built a forum on [name your niche here], that people would flock to it.
    The number of webmaster forums that were around just 3-5 years ago was staggering. Everyone and their mother had a webmaster forum. Most are all gone now and of the ones that remain, membership is down because after a while there are only so many ways you can ask the same questions over and over. And the web still changes frequently, but not as quickly as it did say 3 years ago. There are also fewer people jumping in with the illusion that they can set up a free hosted blog, with copied content and get rich with adsense. Although there are still many that rotate through.
    Last edited by Harold Mansfield; 04-01-2011 at 09:00 PM.
    Small Business Web Consultant
    1:1 Web Help for Start Ups, Novices, and DIY’ers

    WordPress Website Design » WordPress Support

  8. #8
    Queen of the Forum Array KristineS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Traverse City, MI
    Posts
    4,502

    Default

    I learned this lesson the hard way when I started my current job. I thought our industry was desperately in need of a forum. We got one of the industry magazines on board. We created a really nice looking forum and invited all our customers to come. We worked to keep it stocked with interesting topics. Basically, we ended up talking to ourselves. The industry just wasn't computer literate enough to participate in a forum. After a while we ended up shutting it down. The whole experience was a good lesson in taking the time to know what your customers will do and what they want before you build what you think they need.

  9. #9
    Member Needs New Keyboard Array
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    rochester indiana
    Posts
    2,149

    Default

    that happened to me too kristine.... i started a forum last year....and just closed it...we had about 40 members but the talk just never got going..... it was mostly just me towards the end....very uncomfortable....we did have several hundred posts...
    .. it was a store forum ....and i sure believe in the idea but mine didnt make it....one member wanted it closed and just for approved retailers....so the public couldnt read , , so i went that way...which might have made it way too hard to find...anyway its gone..but i love the idea...
    ... the last 2 i was on degenerated into ' retail is awful and i want to close...and thats not me at all!!! and one other im on that is too boutiqueY for me, ...and many are having a real hard time and talk about closing a lot......i was on a good fourm for stores once and really liked it....
    i liked reading eborgs post that started this thread......it could be skewed a bit and fit perfect for a good warning about starting up a store.....
    Last edited by greenoak; 04-02-2011 at 12:38 AM.
    ann at greenoak www.greenoakantiques.com

  10. #10
    @haroldmansfield Array Harold Mansfield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Las Vegas Nevada USA
    Posts
    6,362

    Default

    Ann, you would probably do better with communities about antiquing, re-purposing, design and home stuff, rather than a retail store forum. Not only could you add a lot of experience to the community, but you would be interacting with people that not only could be potential customers but the interaction would give you a pulse on what people are looking for.
    Small Business Web Consultant
    1:1 Web Help for Start Ups, Novices, and DIY’ers

    WordPress Website Design » WordPress Support

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •