I used to write for UKTerrorist, a website about an online game called Counter-Strike. From 2000 to 2004 we built a community of around 12,000 people. Now looking back, i've been wondering how we did it.
I think early on we ticked a lot of the boxes. We were very much part of the community. We met the big names (games publishers, top players, tournament organizers in person..often), in fact, we recruited most of the major figures to contribute to our website. That really helped. Three things made us successful where other websites failed.
- Names, Names, Names! 90% of our content was about people. People, people, people. Strangers, friends and enemies. Or to quote the Heath Brothers “Names, Names, Names!”. We wrote about people in the community. We highlighted the major people in the community, and then reported on them (players moving teams, major events, latest news – it's a bigger topic than you might think). A community is about people, nothing else (see the bottom of this post).
- Community Competition: We introduced a lot of competition amongst our community. We titillated young egos and at times helped instigated (friendly) rivalries.We ran our own events, used top ten lists and even UKT Personality of the Year (that was an extremely contentious one). Be sure to give a community not only a reason to come together, but a reason not to leave. Keep giving the community something to talk about, encourage them to continually top each other. But make sure it stays fun, not personal.
- Light ModerationThird, we had a very weak approach to moderation. Perhaps too weak, we let anyone say almost anything they wanted….a principle many users took full advantage of.
It took years to build the community and months for that community to dissipate when the content dried up. In those years we learnt a lot. Fundamentally, we learnt a community isn't really about a company, a product or a cause. It's about the relationships with the people that work for the company, that use the product or will benefit from the cause. Anything else is incidental.