Monday, December 05, 2011
When starting a community site makes sense

It used to be all the rage to want to start a “community” on every website. But as Google is learning, no one will use your social media site if the need isn’t there. Facebook and Twitter filled needs that were previously unfulfilled. But a social site aimed at a community that doesn’t exist, or one that already has a place to interact, is unlikely to succeed unless there’s a compelling reason for users to switch from what they’re already using.

Niche sites, however, might have reason to start a social site of their own. For instance, Farhad Manjoo recently wrote on Slate about Ravelry, an online community for knitters. Non-knitters might find this bemusing, but knitters have a huge community online. It makes sense, after all: it’s an activity that’s very popular, often solitary, visual (requiring lots of photos) and beneficial of community support, whether it’s recommending patterns and yarns or offering assistance on a tough project. And while knitters want to talk a lot about knitting, their non-knitter Facebook friends probably don’t want to hear as much about it – so there’s good reason to go elsewhere for knitting talk.

BBC News just posted a story with a couple of other interesting examples, like a tool company with over 35,000 member in its community. Not only does it let tool lovers talk about how they love and use their tools, but it offers the company good customer insight – and offers customers community support.

Thinking of building your own network? Ask yourself: Are people already out there talking about this subject? And do they have an online home?

- Kat Tancock
About Me
Kat Tancock
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.
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