Social Question

lilikoi's avatar

How do sites like this gain a "critical user mass"?

Asked by lilikoi (10031 points ) January 14th, 2010

I know people who have started forums for things where no other forum exists to talk about those things yet they cannot get them off the ground. It seems there is a catch-22: No one wants to use a forum that no one else is using.

For highly technical subjects that a limited audience would be interested in, you can’t really get all your friends to support you because not all your friends are interested in it.

I’ve noticed that many successful fora provide a specific useful tool to the masses (e.g. Craigslist, Yelp, Fluther, Twitter, Facebook, Shelfari). But others for specific topics do exist and do have loyal followings. How does a forum become an internet staple and avoid getting swept under the cyber rug?

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8 Answers

janbb's avatar

I don’t know about other sites, but for Fluther it has happened gradually. In its early months, many of the members screen names had some variation of the name “Finkel” in them. Gradually over time, people began to read about the site and join. A big boost came when it was featured as an iPhone app and we hav had numerous influxes from othe Q&A sites as people became disenchanted with them. There has also been publicity through magazine and newspaper articles, interviews of the founders and the SxSW conference in Austin.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

How does one define “critical mass” for this website?

Does it involve a revenue vs. cost sort of analysis.

As registered members, we do not see advertisements so I do not understand from where a revenue stream arises unless our ID and attitudes are analysed and marketed to the commercial sector. I do not believe this is the case!

I don’t know how the site even supports itself!

What then does “critical mass” signify for fluther?

gemiwing's avatar

I think the key is to appeal to a wide audience while retaining your core values and vision.

Say you want to make a website/blog/MB for people who like M&M’s. M&M’s are your favorite and that’s what you want to talk about. Well, it’s not going to get going very quickly unless you widen the scope a bit.

Start including Reeses, specialty candies and other sweets and watch the site grow. People like to have a bit of movement within a site so having multiple topics helps. You may not only talk about M&M’s but it will be in there- in the mix so to speak.

Fred931's avatar

Generally, luck causes this. If there is enough generated interest and enough activity going on at the site/forum all at the same time, the site has a good chance of becoming commonly used by many people.

mrentropy's avatar

If I knew, my blog would be a lot more popular.

wundayatta's avatar

Networking. Slowly developing more connections and then people spread the word through their connections. The options to place things on Facebook also leverages the networks of members. People with many connections are more valuable to facebook than people with few connections.

People like me are pretty much useless to them. Therein lies their problem. Many flutherites suffer from mental illnesses. To the extent that depression is associated with fewer friends, depressed people are less valuable. Fortunately, they aren’t discriminating against people with no friends.

I think it’s a great model for growth. The probably should probably find a way to reward people with greater networks, or who provide more links to the site. They also provide little buttons for people to put on their blogs. So, network, network, network. That’s how you grow.

As to a critical mass? When you’ve got more users coming in than leave. Whatever that is.

philosopher's avatar

People have on line friends word gets out about where they can chat .
Many people from AB came here.

Cruiser's avatar

Give away free beer and food.

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