Creating an online community without the community?
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As a new forum administrator myself, I'm sure that my frustrations are shared among my forum comrades. You've gone through the trouble of registering a domain, picking a host, installing the software, tweaking the coding, and advertising your site. All these things cost money, and you attempt to make use of tasteful advertising in order to offset those inital costs. However, one thing is lacking: a community.

"Well," you reason, "I am advertising my site, after all. It's not like I'm sitting around doing nothing except for hoping that people visit my site and join my community." But still, the people do not come. You've read articles on the internet that suggest to offer contests, prizes, and other rewards to get people to join your community -- your baby. But still, the people do not come. In the back of your mind, you want people to participate in your community because they want to -- not for the prizes. In other words, you don't want "to buy" your community. You want a real community. You've created a myspace profile that advertises your site. You've told your friends, family, and classmates about your site. You're paying Google or Yahoo or MSN to display a link to your site according to the keywords that reflect your site's content. But still, the people do not come.

Are people trying to tell you something when they don't register?
Is your site really that inferior?

It's easy to get frustrated. And in a certain way, you believe people are just not interested in your particular site. "People just don't care," you presume. People do have lives outside of the internet, right? Not everyone has access to a computer, and if they did, chances are that they are visiting busier sites, more established sites, than yours. "So why bother with it? Why go through the expense of attempting to provide people with the resource of your site when people do not take advantage of it in the first place?"

In other words, you've done everything in your power to build a community but the community isn't coming. It's at times such as these that you have to remind yourself of a few things.

1. If you created a site with the expectation of building a community, the people won't arrive immediately.
It takes weeks, months, and perhaps one or two years to build a community. Even though you've done your best to stand out from the crowd, people are slow to discover your particular site because the internet is a huge place. Even though many people will browse your site and will read what little posts that you have, some people take longer than others to actually join a site. And once they join, some people will contribute; others will never contribute. The phrase "long time reader, first time poster" comes to mind. As a concrete example, consider the "popular" forums. There are some forums that have thousands of members, and thousands of posts. However, not all of their members actively post -- only a small percentage of them do. How many times have to seen a forum that has 100 members with 1,000,000 posts?

2. Your site should reflect something that you, as the administrator, is genuinely interested in.
Forums, blogs, and static websites have one thing in common: they reflect what their creator is interested in. And as the creator of your site, the site's content reflects you -- and that should be good enough. If others are attracted to what your site is about, then a community starts to build around the administrator's interests. If people "don't care," then that should not affect the administrator's commitment to their dream -- their baby. In other words, new administrators should believe in their own site first and foremost, and it shouldn't matter (there should be no expectation) whether or not other people are interested in the same thing. That's what makes the interent an awesome place -- there's a site dedicated to any topic that you can imagine. If people are interested, then they will find you eventually (See #1). Other people's interpretation of the administrator's passion should not deter the administrator's passion. The administrator should be passionate about their site in the face of discouragement.

3. In light of #2, new administators should not expect to make money from their site.
I realize that people at least want to break even. You've invested in all those things I mentioned at the beginning of this message, but there's no guarantee that you'll see any return of monetary investment. But even in the face of this possibility, the administrator's passion should not waiver. Any site on the internet reflects its creator's passion. Time, patience, and original quality content will build your community (see #1). Never, ever, count on other people to help you offset your costs. It's your site, your passion, and your content. Accept responsibility for creating a site: you will either nuture your site, or you will abandon it.

4. And finally, you are never truly alone until you delete your site.
Millions of people use the internet. Out of those millions, there has to be several people who are interested in the same things you are. You're never "out of the game" until you hit the delete key. Just focus on building your content yourself -- because your site represents your interests to the world. Like I said earlier, if people find your site and join it, then a community can start. But if you, as the administrator, are half-hearted about your own site, you cannot expect other people to be whole-hearted about it.