SocialEngine 4: How To Create an Online Community

So you want to create a social network, and you want it to be vibrant. What are some things you can do to make sure you’re successful?

First, you have to accept that humans are tricky things. You can’t write a formula for how to grow a community, or at least if you can, I’ve never heard of it. Some fads explode one day and disappear the next, while some slowly burn into a wildfire. But enough with super vague metaphors, let’s talk about community building in the most practical terms possible.

Before I start this, I want to stress two things:

1) These are simply the ideas of one person. I have put a lot of thought into these ideas, but I am absolutely capable of being wrong and…

2) This is an open discussion. If all goes well, I’d love to see you all blow up the comments section with reasons why I’m right or wrong or super insightful or your favorite blog writer ever or just an all-around good dude.

Really though, I want to hear some discussion at the end of all this. So here we go.

Create a Community Around Something You Are Passionate About

I know, this seems like a no-brainer, but hear me out. Your entire community depends on you. There is no one else who is going to pick up the slack when you don’t feel like working so it is of paramount importance that you select something that will inspire you to keep working. Don’t worry so much whether the idea is super “marketable”. It has been my experience that the internet is so big that no matter what your idea, there’s a community out there somewhere who is passionate about the same thing. So build something that you and your friends would spend time engaging in and then the lines between work and play start to blur. While this may potentially be bad for your social life, it’s great to keep yourself excited and focused!

Use Other Networks as a Springboard

You’re probably not going to take down Facebook. Or Twitter. I admire your gusto, David, but these Goliath’s have billions of dollars that you probably don’t have. So instead of slaying the giants, why not make them work for you?

Unless you plan on running through the streets in a funny hat yelling your community’s URL (which may not be a bad idea. I will personally send a dollar to the first person to send me a video of them doing this) you’re going to need to find a place where people already go to tell them about your site. Where is everyone already hanging out? Facebook and Twitter. Make sure your community has a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter account and start using these channels to reach people that wouldn’t normally hear about you.


You still have to engage people to convince them your community is worth joining, but using Facebook and Twitter provide you with a pool of potential users who would love to join a more niche community, like the one you’re building!


You still have to engage people to convince them your community is worth joining, but using Facebook and Twitter provide you with a pool of potential users who would love to join a more niche community, like the one you’re building!

Be Patient: Slow Growth trumps Fast Growth Almost Always

Remember how I said I was done with vague metaphors? Well I’ve got one more and its super cliche, but if the tortoise and the hare taught us one thing it is that cute animals enjoy competitive activities. If they taught us two things, the second would be “Slow and steady wins the race”.

Now in a rapidly growing technology age where the fast eat the slow, this may seem counter-intuitive, but the likely fact is, you’re not going to build an empire overnight, and even if you did, it would be a passing fad that would collapse as quickly as it came up. I have looked over quite a bit of data related to SocialEngine sites and their signup rates and everyone generally has the same pattern. There’s a giant spike in the beginning because you’re new and exciting and over time that growth tapers off. The key is to embrace the fact that growth will taper and from there your job is to engage that initial flood of users and turn them into your core fans. These people will be your most important asset moving forward.

Give your core users incentive to invite their friends

So once you have your core users the best way to continue forward is inspire them to tell their friends to come join. These users will hopefully in turn tell their friends and so on and so on…kind of like this guy did:

Mark Zuckerberg giving an early presentation to investors

So how do we do this? How do we inspire people to take action? What do people respond to? Anyone? Any Econ majors in the room? CORRECT! People respond to INCENTIVES!

You have to give your core users a reason to advertise on your behalf. This could be, literally, anything. Have a community based on coffee? Have a raffle for anyone who tags your community on Facebook/Twitter where the winner gets a bag super cool and obscure grounds from Guatemala. Is your community built around Battlestar Galactica? Please send me a message telling me where to sign up, then offer a first season box set with a super sweet cylon action figure. Reddit people lose their minds over karma and karma has absolutely zero real world value. This offering may cost you some money, but look at it as an investment in future growth.

Alright class, you have been wonderfully well behaved thus far. Now let’s hear what you have to say.

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Author Spotlight

Andrew Cross

Andrew Cross

Hi, I'm Andrew. A am a 26, ICT Administrator which offers support to company's around the South Wales Area. I have created a few social sites for myself and other company's. So far 2 out of 3 have been successful using the powerful SocialEngine Script. I continue to try and help the community of SocialEngine by giving Support and Technical Help where possible.

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