We can all agree promising $1000 to the top contributor each month is short-sighted.
You will get a lot more activity, but it won’t be good activity. Within a month you will be left with a spam-filled shell of a community.
That’s the short game.
Any time you’re using tactics to get the activity up, you’re playing the short-game. Sure, you need some activity, but it’s far less than we imagine. Beyond a fairly low level, it’s the quality of activity that matters.
The long game improves the fundamental quality of the community.
When you play the long-game, you’re making the community better (not just bigger). You’re making the community a more desirable place to be (which in turn attracts more people to participate).
When you’re gradually building strong relationships with top experts, improving the signal to noise ratio, enforcing higher standards of contributions, you’re playing the long-game. The community is becoming a better resource. This pays off over the long-term.
When you’re building a more powerful sense of community, providing better ways for people to connect and build more genuine relationships, you’re playing the long-game.
When you’re enabling everyone to explore the cutting edge of the field, report back their findings, and learn from each other, you’re playing the long-game.
The problem with playing the long-game is there aren’t any easy metrics to tell if it’s working. You sacrifice short-term activity for long-term success.
Most of the communities which are growing rapidly today had a year or more of obscurity while the community professional gradually built the relationships, attracted the right members, and established the right quality norms of contributions.
If you’re playing the long-game, you can’t be held accountable to short-term metrics. You need to set the strategy, determine what your community is capable of being, and give yourself enough runway to take off.