How to keep your membership community from shriveling up and dying

Plenty of communities on the internet have started off strong, and then fizzled and died. The key to preventing this is to foster discussion between your members. How do you do this?

The answer to this one varies quite a bit depending on if you’re just starting a site (or a community/discussion forum), or if you’ve got an established community you’re trying to reinvigorate.

Let’s focus on the latter for now.

The first and best thing you can do is to be an active participant yourself.

You should be in your discussion forum on a daily basis – several times a day, in fact – answering every unanswered question, @-mentioning other relevant folks in discussions (most forum software allows for notifications when you e.g. type their username like “@username”), etc. Be the most active person on your site!

Use automation to your advantage.

Discourse has an “email digest” feature. You can set this up so that if members don’t visit for a while, they’ll get an email with recent discussions they missed:

Other forum software might offer something similar. If people aren’t visiting your site, email is a great way to pull them back in. Britney said it best:

Consider planned topics/discussions

Many communities have weekly or monthly discussion threads on specific topics. For instance, if you’re teaching piano, you might have a “weekly critique” thread, where members can share recordings of themselves playing and get feedback from other members (and you, of course).