We're looking to add a forum/online community area to our website. Previous attempts of encouraging comments and interaction have failed and the community tends to die a death eventually.

So, I've sat back and had a think of how to encourage people to comment and interact within our forum/community (heavily influenced by the stack style!):

1. Ease of signing up: People are lazy in adding new accounts etc so just like stackoverflow, I would use the "sign in with facebook, linkedin, twitter" etc etc.

2. Encouraging people to comment/interact: A points/score system that would reward users for commenting/interacting with the community (a more basic version of stack). An addition would be if a user reaches certain milestones they would receive a % discount on services.

3. New content from us: As well as users commenting, I think a strong presence from us in posting new content/threads/comments would be needed.

Has anyone got any suggestions to add to the list above to encourage interaction within the community?

  • I wonder if your company or organisation is the sort that people don't want to build community around. If I bought nails from an online hardware store and they wanted me to join their community then I wouldn't. All I wanted was nails - end of relationship. (That's actually not such a good example as they might want to build a community of DIYers.) Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 12:05

2 Answers 2


Feverbee, a self-branded "Community Consultancy", has a huge list of resources for community building that might prove useful.

Highlights from The 11 Fundamental Laws Of Building Online Communities:

  1. Have a community manager.
  2. Have a purpose.
  3. Use whichever tool/platform your members are most familiar with.
  4. Create content about your community.
  5. Build personal relationships with your top members.
  6. Let heated debates happen.
  7. Begin building the community before you launch the website.
  8. Recognise individual contributions from members.
  9. Encourage members to recruit friends.
  10. Share control and power with members.
  11. Don't use admin powers unless absolutely necessary.

I also recommend that you read "Does this site have a chance of succeeding" from Robert Cartaino on the Stack Overflow blog. It explains the metrics used to gauge whether a new site on the Stack Exchange network is successful or not, specifically:

  • Questions per day
  • % Answered
  • Avid users

As such, it's worth measuring this data for your own community site and thinking about what you can do to improve:

  • The number of visitors asking questions.
  • The number of users answering questions.
  • The number of repeat visitors/users.

The answer (to begin with) will likely be to build as much traffic as you can to the site by providing interesting content of your own. One site that does this very successfully is QBN (formerly Newstoday), who puts their community forum alongside the main site. Visitors come both for the forum and the content, and often discuss content presented on the homepage in the forum at the side.

Community building can be a fluffy science and a monstrous time sink; there is no straight formula to guarantee a successful online community. I'd suggest that you read as much as you can from people who've built successful communities already (the rest of othe SE blog is superb), launch your site, collect as much data as you can, listen to feedback, and use that to test and improve it. It's an iterative process; no community is successful overnight.


You have forgotten the real first point: bring up interesting content, where a discussion about would be worth it.

1. Ease of signing up: Signing up alone is a huge barrier. If some website asks for my e-mail-address to get things posted, I really have to want to tell exactly this community something. A registration-form triggers thoughts like: do I really have to? …potentially not taking part at all. What is my/the users additional benefit if I tell you my name and my e-mail-address? Some kind of score system isn't enough motivation.

3. New content from us: You should already have some content/comments that looks like a discussion. Nobody wants to be the first in line, if it is up to generate new content. Maybe even a talk between people who work for/with you - but care about who knows. Be aware, not to post some advertisement-like content, because this will result in negative publicity as of doing astroturfing. So only trade with common opinions in the first comments/posts and let a fictional user/hired student be the one who posts aggravating content. But as I said, don't exaggerate—no one would believe it, if there was a community going from 0 to 100 posts in one day.

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