Building a community based platform model is tough nut to crack. Obvious reason being is – it totally depends on factors outside your control. There is no magical formula to make someone to be active on the platform and contribute effectively. It almost falls in the realm of ‘free will’.
Here are some points on how you can facilitate that to happen.
- First and foremost, it has to be freemium based model. Since you are not really going to pay user to generate content, you should not charging him to be on the platform or to consume content. Freemium based model slashes entry barriers to users to try out new things and adopt to the platform as well.
- You can categorize platform participants as below.
- Content creators – These are the ‘active’ participants on the platform who generate content and contribute to overall platform. This group is typically governed by social recognition and would be willing to go extra lengths (like trying new features) to showcase their social standing. Platform becomes extension of their day-to-day lives and consume significant part of their day. They would typically be around 1-5% of total population.
- Content Hybrid-ers – These are the ‘hybrid’ (mix of active & passive) participants who like to be part of the group and would contribute occasionally. They generally like being on the platform and would be willing to help to make it better. They are not as driven by social recognition as first group. They contribute occasionally and consume content more. Platform is minor extension of their working day and they would typically use it during short-breaks/spurts of time.They would be typically 15-20% of total population on the platform.
- Content Consumers – These are the ‘passive’ participants of the platform and consume content occasionally. While they appreciate utility coming along with the platform as well as being part of the group, they are not as driven as active ones. In fact, they are exact opposite of the first group. They consume content passively and contribute sparingly (mostly driven by peer pressure). They would be around 80% of the population and platform is generally very remote extension of their working lives.
- It is important to have a content/tools for each of these users.
- For active users, you can focus on ease to generate content (including multi-media – video/gallery/photos). It would also be interesting to project their social standing – whether it is point/rank-based systems or decorating top-contributors on the community front page.
- For hybrid/passive ones, ease of ways to consume content is must – whether its about omni-channel or user-based profiling to generate suggestions to consume. Since they will also be top consumers for advertising (one of the key sources of revenue in freemium model) , so ‘relevant’ advertising based on preferences/profiling is also important.
- You should understand that even content has an ‘expiry date’ . It is important to incentivise generation of ‘relevant’ content for the community. Concept of ‘relevance’ includes –
- User-specific (matching to user interests/preferences)
- Categorized (similar to the way news are categorized -Sports on last page, for example)
- Abuse/inadequate/illegal content is fact of life for any community based marketplace. Abuse/illegal content including on-line sparring (as frequently seen on twitter) is something you have deal with day-to-day. There are two approaches to deal with it. first one I call it ‘Strict Policing’ – to punish the offenders and set an example for the community. I do not think that its effective since nobody likes to be in kindergarten-mode in on-line forum. It also dissuades first group (active ones) since they rely on ‘freedom’ to contribute and most likely take it as barrier to their freedom. Second approach is – Community based policing model where members can like or dis-like contribution, thus improving likeliness of favourable content on the platform. It is also important to seen as fair authority if you are considering ranking/reviews based system which is difficult to rig by participants.
With these points, you are essentially setting an environment for community to grow. You still need to ‘water’ it regularly as you would do it for the plants.