How not to run an online community

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An article on journalism.co.uk shows the importance of nurturing and growing online communities carefully and strategically.

The Sportsman newspaper, which launched and then folded shortly afterwards last year, reportedly failed to take advantage of it’s forums and community sites. Even without the print version, this community, if managed successfully, could have become a revenue source in its own right. The problem, it seems, was that the community wasn’t set up or managed effectively. The firm moderating the site reports that in the space of about three weeks, the site’s activity dropped from about 300 posts a day to just 30. A small group of members had taken over, and despite warnings from other community members nothing was done about this.

There are many examples where a small number of troublemakers are allowed to take over a community and alienate the other members. In these cases what usually happens is that first other members will complain or try to take back their community; but if nothing happens they’ll just leave. To stop this happening is really about having two very clear processes in place:

  1. Set-up and seeding - it’s critical that the community is designed in a way to appeal to the audience you want to attract, and then to work with a small number of community members to seed the community. To refine the structure and content and to help to establish the house rules. Getting these people on side at the start and spending time with them refining and finalising the community is critical.
  2. Ongoing community management - good and ongoing management of the community is critical - of both the members and the discussions. House rules need to be enforced and troublesome users warned or removed. Trust is critical online and you can build this trust by being firm but fair and letting the broadest group of community members possible contribute.

There were no doubt other issues with the Sportsman forums and community, but the lack of sold set-up and seeding and an apparent unwillingness to deal with troublesome members certainly didn’t help

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One Comment

  1. 2. Champions, active users and trolls | FreshNetworks Blog|Social media agency|Online communities:

    [...] There are several possible types of troll (it may be a cry for help, they may be being picked on in their own lives, they may be desperately lonely), and while the effects are still the same and there are no excuses for rule-breaking, understanding the motivations can help you deal with them. But do not underestimate their determination, or potential power, just ask The Scotsman. [...]