Grow my community

Obviously it depends on your expectations and the potential audience size. Still, this sounds like a rousing success for the start of a new community. It’s important to remember communities follow the power law. If you have 400 members, something like 40 have contributed something and only a handful contribute regularly. If you focus on the most active users, it can feel like a failure even though getting critical mass is the key step that many (many) communities fail to reach.

Most communities start strong and fall off after a month or two. This is especially true when there’s an exogenous such as winter holidays. That gives you a bit of time to evaluate the community and make sure it’s got a good core to build on. Is the content meeting your expectations in terms of quality? Does the community have a productive attitude around the mission of the group? Now is the best time to address those concerns.

One of the reasons activity dies off is that causal members forget to come back and to see the latest activity. Most will be happy to be reminded of the community especially if the existing content meets their quality expecitations. It can help to copy a couple of exceptional posts and send them to members who have drifted off and potential members who hadn’t signed up.

If your community isn’t private, building up more on-topic content for Google to index can help in the long run. If you can contribute regularly or ask the most active members to commit to writing new posts, it can attract Google search clicks. Eventually you want most of your traffic to come via search, [1] but that can take a long time.

You might consider organizing events to focus contributions. I’ve had success with weekly topic challenges. If you have an expert or two, AMA-type events can give your community a boost. On a private community I’m working with, we’re experimenting with Post Voting to select questions in advance for the experts to address in a video event. Polls can help too because answering a poll is incredibly easy, but still encourages participation.

The key to participation is giving potential users a way to feel helpful by contributing. Removing barriers is important, but people will put up with a lot in order to contribute if they are motivated to do so.

I don’t recommend being purposely wrong, but the more content you have, the more likely a visitor will find something they want to correct. Asking for contributions from individuals who you know to be interested in some aspect of your subject works even better. At this stage in your community content is king. Give learners reasons to come back.

  1. The exception is if you literally have the entire audience already on the site. Most communities will have only a small percentage of people who are interested in the topic. ↩︎