|stimulating board participation|
how to keep it going after initial bang
We have a site which is built around a database for finding dogsitters / finding dogs to sit. Thanks to some media attention, it grew to ~10,000 members within 18 months.
Recently, we set up a board, sent out a newsletter and offered a small gift (a book) to the ten most active posters in the three weeks after the launch. Of course, all users could immediately use it, no second registration was needed. It started of great, ~150 posts on the first day, running up to around 1,000 within one week. It slowed down after that, so much that the next 1000 posts took well over a month. Naturally, we'd like another speed and growth (right now, 140 of 10800 active users have participated with a lot of people having less than 5 posts).
There's the question: what have you done to keep the crowd interested and active?
We've thought about a few things like starting threads that are controversial and draw people into a discussion - but it's pretty hard since the userbase is pretty homogeneous, so we don't see much place for different arguments. Since it's getting kind of pricy, we don't want to stimulate participation by giving out gifts.
Whar are the magic tricks to get people to interact more?
any input will be greatly appreciated!
You need to get people talking about their dogs, present and past, etc. If you can do that, you'll keep people engaged.
If you've got reasonable traffic, this is a good time for you, or other admins/mods, to keep fanning the flames of conversation. Post intriguing new topics, bump other topics that have slowed down but still have potential, etc.
Think people agree on everything? Try some threads like, "Which breed is smartest?" (Or, "easiest to care for?" "best for a small apartment?" "best around kids" etc.) I'm guessing you'll find lovers of particular breeds just as cantankerous as Apple/PC partisans.
thanks for your reply -- the main problem with inducing heated arguments is, that we've got >85% female users. you won't believe the harmony the place is spreading. One thread we had going where there were two opposite positions taken by a few members dissolved in a big "let's agree to disagree"-grouphug.
I was thinking about starting something like collaborative working, e.g. asking users for their opinions on dog shelters, which are good and which are not etc pp. I don't know if that will fire it up, but I thought it might be a good way to motivate people to share their stories and by that draw more people into participation. Is there a right way to do it? Should we engage as staff members or should it be a black op using faked users?
I'm a little worried faked users might backfire should anyone be suspicious...
LOL - janharders is right. I run a few successful forums, but the two that are busiest is a forum for dog sledding, and the other is a forum for teen webmasters. You wouldn't BELIEVE the difference in discussion. Let's just say webmasters are much quicker to fire back at others...;-)
I would though, suggest starting threads as rogerd pointed out. This works like a charm. Also - do you have an "Off Topic" forum? Even though it isn't on topic to your subject matter - its definately helpful in "breaking the ice" for many of your lurkers/members.
Also - start a competition! Offer a free product (e.g. book, dog collar, etc.) that will be won depending on the amount of people post. That has always brought back great results for me - and for a $20 investment in purchasing a book and shipping it, it features a great ROI.
From the way you describe the community, I agree with naitsirhc26 - an "off topic" forum is a great idea.
Features, features, and more features.
Think about your user here. Put yourself in their position. What is their typical day like? What challenges are they faced with regularly that maybe you could assist them with? Where are the best deals on products that they may use? Who's Who in the industry? That type of stuff.
Have you thought about providing Ratings for the Dogsitters? That gets a bit tricky but it gets the visitors involved to some degree.
Do you allow them an image portfolio to share pics?
How about Polls? We run them in a closed forum and they do well. The Polls are specific to the niche and very well received as they share information that many will "want" to know.
I wouldn't suggest that you travel down the "monetary incentive" path. As you say, it can get quite expensive and it attracts a certain type of visitor which you may or may not want.
Use the board and find out what your users want. That's where the Polls come into play too. Send out email announcements with new features, featured posts, etc. Keep them involved and keep your brand in front of them. Do not let up. Once the momentum is going, then you can sit back and allow your board Administrators and Moderators do their thing. Those individuals may or may not be monetarily compensated. ;)
|right now, 140 of 10800 active users have participated with a lot of people having less than 5 posts |
For a lot of people, that is a very respectable number. Don't think you "haven't" accomplished anything. But, KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING!
thanks a lot for all your input, guys.
@pageoneresults: we're not really sure which way to go in terms of broadening the site's scope. going into web2.0 is an option of course but there are specific risks (especially legal risks in germany) and it's nothing we want to rush -- after all it might damage our user's trust if we try it and then later decide we don't want to go down that road.
we sort of have an offtopic-board but it might just be that we haven't made it clear enough, since now that I'm thinking about it, it is the section with the most posts but only by a few ... In most boards I regularly visit, offtopic is #1 by far.
I will put together an option plan and talk to the guys making the decisions. I'll let you know of our actions and results - might be helpful to someone else, some day.