Profit From an Online Community
What if you could setup a website, then lay back and collect money while web
users build your website for you? Surprisingly, there are many ways to do just
that. Examples are websites that let users post classified ads, articles, links
to ebooks, and message forums. This article focuses on starting and profiting
from your own online community.
You could start a general topic online community, but it's better to focus
on a specific topic. Some popular forum topics are: celebrity gossip, child
rearing, relationships, free lancing, and home businesses. Having a specific
topic gives website purpose, and attracts people interested in that topic.
Users like an online community because they can communicate even though they
may be geographically separated, and they don't have to be online at the same
time. Newcomers can read past messages to catch up on the conversation, and
join in when they're ready.
An online forum is profitable to the owner because they start out with a
targeted audience and by monitoring message threads, the owner can fine tune
the website's advertising to the very specific interests of the Community.
The most challenging part of starting an online forum is to attract people
to the community. you'll need to set up some threads and have some friends start
discussions. People are attracted to a community that has a large number of
active discussion threads.
After joining and participating for a while, members will tend to stay
because they make acquaintances with other members. After the community reaches
a certain number of members, it will become self-sustaining without much
effort on your part.
One decision you need to make is whether to provide synchronous or
asynchronous communication. Synchronous communications, for example a "chat
room", allows members to communicate in real-time. Of course, the members have
to be online simultaneously, and users with slow dial-up Internet connections
will not be able to keep up with the conversation.
Asynchronous communications, for example a "message board", means members
leave messages that others can respond to later. With asynchronous communications,
users will be able to put more thought into their messages before responding.
Some online communities provide both message boards and chat rooms. This
allows individuals to break away from a message board thread and engage in
their own real-time conversation.
Your online community can be moderated or unmoderated. In a moderated forum,
before messages are posted they must be approved by a moderator to make sure
that they conform with the community's rules and policies. In an unmoderated
forum, messages are posted directly by the users without filtering.
There are several options between fully moderated and free-for-all totally
unmoderated. For example, a new member's messages could be moderated for a
short trial period, after which they would be allowed to post directly to