Forums and Communities : Building and Optimization

Nov 16, 2006 • 2:23 pm | comments (0) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under WebmasterWorld 2006 Las Vegas
 

Roger B. Dooley is up first. there are youth oriented communities, the challenges include population changes from yea tot year, behavior issues and generation caps. But they spend a lot of time online, they are a desirable demographic and they can benefit from it. He is sharing a youth community case study. The new site was to provide free info for kids and parents for college making decisions. The site features in 2001 were articles, advice column, and discussion forums. In 2006, it is the leading community in its space. 1.5 million pageviews per day and is constantly growing. What made it grow? They made clear rules for behavior and language. Impartial moderation is important. Treat all members as adults, even though they are kids. Member "moderation" where members moderate others, reporting features, etc. Provide areas of looser moderation, like cafe areas, etc. They have an adult membership of about 15% that help things from boiling over. There is a lot of turnover, because a student's life-span is only so long. To deal with turn over they have good word of mouth, ongoing link development, targeted forum topics to keep students on. Going beyond the forum is the next stage, look at myspace, how do you users want to react, he shows off tools to give your community for that community. The successes include lot of content, lots of work, real rewards to help people, make connections, change the world, and helping individuals.

Lawrence Coburn from RateItAll was next up. He runs a site named RateItAll.com. Why are online communities important? online community is disruptive, allows little guys to run with big guys, self sustaining, lightweight business model. Why do people participate in online communities? (1) recognition, (2) selfish interest and (3) the good samaritan. He gives examples of this. Characteristics of successful communities; common interest, communication, personal investment of users, relationships between users, online reps, minimal barriers to participation, user recruits other users, utilitarian vs. entertainment and offline presence. Community enhancing features; user pages, user to user messaging, widgets, publishing tools, alerts, user search, tagging, networking, reputation indicators, accreditation, editorial privileges, business blogs. Social Network theory: reed's law as nodes are added to a network, the value of that network will grow exponentially, why enable social networking? user acquisition. linking network growth to user experience is hard to do. Distributed Social Networks: widget mania, the aggregators and the edge feeders. The embedded flash player by YouTube helped them skyrocket. He also talked about StumbleUpon's toolbar, a way to rate sites you are on. Types of incentives; adsense integration so users can make money (but be careful with that), recognitions is still the foundation of it. User recognition include avatars, hall of fame, featured posts, moderato status, newsletters, etc. Reputation tracking by quantity, quality, etc. So what is next for it? Portable reputations, distributed social networks, implicit vs. explicit participation, niche social networks, and convergence of mobility and community.

Elisabeth Osmeloski from Search Engine Watch Forums. Keys to a good community include; passion about the subject, pay it forward by sharing knowledge, good vibes and opportunity to meet/network in person. He gave a background on SEW Forums... She goes over more stuff with history. She shows some stats on SEW's growth compared to other forums, comparing WMW, SEW, HighRankings, DigitalPoint Forums, and so on. SEW is fairly liberal on most parts but they have a 3 strike and your out rule. They do allow URLs to be posted, for the most part. Mods staff needs to help with guiding users. What does SEW have to do better? they need to make sure the rep remains solid, set the ton, be unbaised, attract new members, keep quality conversations up, crosslink content within network, upgrade vBulletin and add new features.

Brett Tabke of WebmasterWorld explains that what works for some communities doesn't work for other communities. See what works within your industry and find your own niche. He got the idea from Steve Jobs about connecting the jobs at Apple, to start his own forum. He was born in 1962... Involved in community in 84 and WMW went live in 99 and goes back about his past computer history. WMW gets about 150M uniques per day, he said. Star Trek was hugely influential for him. He talks about his personal and computer historical past. Talks about his SEO stuff, infoseek, excite, alta vista. Then talks about early conferences. WebmaterWorld has unique software, easy to use, we focus on the members, site designed for member comments first, success is members on site time, it isnt about the content is is about the relationship. Stuff WMW avoids includes visual noise, social networking noise, and it is about relationships and interactions. The hardest thing they do is maintain the long term relationship with the members and moderators, not everyone thinks alike. They are a subscription based model over an advertising model. They dont care about signups, they care about quality posts. Professional forum spamming is much more advanced these days, it is a challenge. Rogue spiders are an issue also. Biggest challenge over past year was a press release stuff and PR stuff. Speed, size, community and cultural awareness sums it all up.

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