Congratulations, you've started a community! Now what? That's a question many people have. Building a community and making it successful can be a challenge, but it's not as hard as it looks.
The first section of this page covers helpful ideas for building your community. This includes the content and the design, as well as how to promote your community and make it a fun and engaging place to be. The second section discusses how to attract users and motivate them to contribute and help build the community.
Building the community
Focus on building content
- Create the first ten pages: You don't need to have a complete article right away, just start with a few sentences. It helps to start with pages about the most important aspects of your topic.
- Link to other pages: Add links to your newly created pages on the main page. You may want to make other main page changes.
- Upload images: Add pictures to provide extra description and content to your first pages.
Update the design and format
- Build the design and upload a wordmark: The Theme Designer gives you an easy way of creating a unique design, and the ability to upload a wordmark to symbolize your community.
- Create sections on your community: Dividing up the community into sections, such as News, Did you Know?, New Pages, or Wanted pages, can help guide users to places that may be interesting or that need contributions.
- Create categories: Adding categories is an important way to help people find what they are looking for.
Make your community a fun place to visit and participate in
- Make it easy for people to contribute: Create lists of ways to help, upcoming events, wanted pages, and make clear what is and isn't welcome as content on the wiki. Don't make too many policies, and be sure the rules you do have are easy to understand.
- Make sure people get the help they need: Offer to help when you can, and if you can't, send them to the Fandom forums or staff.
Publicize your wiki
- Tell your friends!: Reach out to groups interested in your topic to attract contributors (but learn the community guidelines before you post so you don't end up spamming).
- Promote inside of Fandom: Write a blog on Community Central to share your wiki.
- Make your community searchable: Follow our advice on raising your community's Google ranking.
Keep track of your progress
It can be hard to keep track of what stage you're at in your community's development. With the Fandom Progress Bar, you have a tool that leads you through the first days and weeks of creating a community. There are specific calls to action that give you the steps you need to get your community off the ground. Once all 30 tasks are completed, the percentage indicator moves to 100%, and you have a great base with which to grow your community and make it thrive!
Advice for building the user base
Small communities are different
Shoot for the stars, but don't aim too high in the beginning. Wikipedia is humongous and Fandom communities like Wookieepedia or Fallout Wiki are really big, but they didn't start out that way - and not every community will or should be that way. Some communities and subjects are smaller than others.
That means that a small community has different priorities and a different structure, and it needs different rules. "They do it this way on Wikipedia" is not a good way to run a small community. Find what works for you, your wiki, and your users, and then run with that. You don't need to stick to what may seem like a preordained model.
The individual is important
The biggest difference between a small community and a huge community is that a small group needs to value each individual much more highly.
An individual contributor doesn't mean that much on Wikipedia. The top ten Wikipedia contributors could all take a month-long vacation at the same time, and it wouldn't make any difference to the project as a whole. If one person drops out of the project -- even a long-time, knowledgeable, valued contributor -- there are still hundreds, even thousands, who could take that person's place.
On a small community, each individual is very important. The top contributors in a small community are probably the administrators. They're the people who understand the structure. They're the institutional memory. They're the people who mentor new contributors and help to referee disputes. If you lose an active contributor in a small community, there isn't necessarily anybody there to take that person's place. If you lose two or three of the most active contributors, then your community is in big trouble.
The flip side of that coin is that an individual can also do a lot of damage to a small community. One vandal, or one babbling kid, can't-do much to harm Wikipedia -- the database is too big, and there are plenty of folks who enjoy finding and reverting nonsense. On a small community, there aren't as many people around to clean up the mess. If there's no one around to clean it up, the community could lose contributors.
Therefore, you need to pay attention to each individual in a small community. Each contributor needs encouragement, mentoring, and appreciation. You also need to set boundaries that make the productive contributors feel safe and happy.
People don't like anonymity
It's amazing that people still believe in the old cliché that "on the Internet, people prefer to be anonymous." That may be so if someone is misbehaving, but aside from that, it just isn't true.
Compare these two hypotheses about what people like:
- "People like to be anonymous, and seek out places to hide. It's satisfying and fun when they can contribute to society without anyone knowing who they are."
- "People like social experiences, and to seek out ways to interact with other people. They like going to places where they feel well-known and welcomed. They enjoy being around other people, and when they're completely alone, they feel lonely and abandoned. They like being recognized and appreciated for their work."
If you look around at the way the world is structured, it's pretty clear that people crave social experiences. People work, play, and relax in places where other people are around. Sure, everyone needs some alone time, and some people need more than others, but that's not how we live our lives.
Look at a college campus on a sunny day. You see kids studying - a solitary, intellectual activity that requires concentration and silence - but they're doing it outside, on the lawn. They like studying there because they like having activity going on around them - other people studying, or chatting, or playing frisbee. It's worth the extra noise and distraction - in fact, people like being distracted by a low level of human activity around them. People enjoy being around other people.
But there are those who still argue that "on the Internet, people prefer to be anonymous." As if there's a difference between how we behave on the Internet and how we behave when we walk around in society. That's equivalent to saying that we become different people when we're on the telephone.
There is no "Internet." It's just a communication medium. You're still a person, with human needs and human feelings, and people don't like being alone.
A wiki is a volunteer project
There's one easy way to predict whether a community is going to thrive, or stagnate and die: look at the Wiki Activity or Recent Changes page, and check out how active the Message Walls and Talk pages are. If there are almost no conversations - then that community is in trouble.
A wiki is a volunteer project, and the admins should act as if they're the volunteer coordinators at a non-profit agency.
If you walk into a non-profit agency to volunteer, there's somebody there to say hello. They get you oriented, and they check in with you about how things are going. If it's a successful, active program, then other volunteers are there too; they talk to you and help you out. There's always a sense that your participation is important, and appreciated. If you're not getting paid for being there, then they need to give you something, and usually what you get are pride, satisfaction, and appreciation.
A community where nobody posts on your talk page is like a volunteer program where you show up and walk into a big, empty room. There are a few people working in other rooms, but nobody talks to you or tells you what to do. You're expected to just pick up some work and start doing it, and when you leave, nobody says thanks. It's not surprising when people show up at those communities, try a few edits, and then don't ever come back.
People who like working alone have their own personal websites and blogs. People come to wikis because it's a communal project, with lots of people collaborating toward a common goal. They want to feel welcomed and appreciated.
The admin of a small community has three essential tasks - to welcome new people, to mentor the new contributors, and to be absolutely certain that they know how to participate productively and encourage communication on Message Walls. Everything else is secondary.
User names build trust
Having a stable identity makes communication possible. Contributors with user names build a record of contributions and a reputation. If the community as a whole knows that a particular contributor is trustworthy, then that can influence how conflicts get resolved. You need a stable identity to earn people's trust.
Allowing people to sign in with a random string of numbers breaks down the community's sense of trust and common goals. You can't build a strong team of trustworthy colleagues that also includes shadowy, faceless strangers.
What's a better and more welcoming idea: not knowing who someone is, or being able to see who someone is and know more about them? The answer to that is obvious:
Setting reasonable boundaries for anonymous contributors proves to your active members that they matter, that this is a group worth protecting and taking care of. Groups like it when the leaders act in the group's interest. It makes them feel needed and secure. That's basic group process technique -- it doesn't matter whether the group is on the Internet or in your living room; that's how you build a group.
If there are two ways to build content and a contributor wants to build it the second way, let them choose this way. In a small community, a contributor is more precious than a piece of content. Don't discourage people, but guide them. If a contributor builds a part of the wiki in a different way than you would build it, move on to other parts and remember: Thanks to them, you will have less work to do.
Love your contributors
This is all basically saying the same thing: Love your contributors. They're working for free. Some of them are spending hours of their personal time every week. The only reward they get is the satisfaction of adding to the project, and the pleasure of working with a group.
That's magic, it's pure magic. It's one of the best things about human nature. We like to work together, just for the pleasure of building something. That's why so many people believe in wikis because wikis are a pure expression of our generosity, our passion, and our strange, quirky enthusiasms.
That's why you have to take care of your contributors - talk to them, welcome them, take their interests to heart. Learn their names. When something is bugging them or frustrating them, take care of it. Pay attention to them, and make sure they feel appreciated.
These are extraordinary people, doing extraordinary things. Love them.