Classic-Castle.com


The source for all your LEGO Castle needs!

Growing and promoting a forum

Discussion of photography, editing and publishing techniques

Growing and promoting a forum

Postby renagrade » Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:37 am

Bruce N H wrote:Hey,

Thanks for pointing that out. I'll look into fixing that page, which is sorely out of date, and has some broken code. What do you want from an admin? Feel free to PM me or e-mail me at bricktales@gmail.com or just post in this thread.

Bruce

Thank you very much! I think I shall just ask my original question(s) here. I am very interested in the makings of this website and how it all got started.

Was this website hard to begin? As I understand this is apart of Euro-bricks, or they at least help? Did this make it easy to get new members and traffic, or was it still difficult?

How active is this site on average? Has it been more active in the past? It seems very active, but it is always hard to tell.

Thank you!
User avatar
renagrade
Peasant
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:36 am
Location: China

Growing and promoting a forum

Postby Bluesecrets » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:00 am

As I understand this is apart of Euro-bricks, or they at least help?

How active is this site on average? Has it been more active in the past? It seems very active, but it is always hard to tell.


I know Bruce will answer the rest of the questions for you, but these ones. No we are not part of Eurobricks. Never have been.

This site has a pretty steady level of activity, which increases exponentially in November and December. Of course like any website, things run in cycles. We have days and months where there is less activity, but then the reverse is true.

But having a website for an ever-green theme makes it easier. There is always new sets and things to discuss. Other themes that don't have regular sets, find it more difficult to keep activity.
~ Brickshelf~Flickr~

Queen of Tan

Any building, is good building. Build for the fun of it!
User avatar
Bluesecrets
High Priestess of the Vermillion Order
High Priestess of the Vermillion Order
 
Posts: 2055
Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 6:21 pm
Location: On the girls side of the room.

Growing and promoting a forum

Postby Bruce N H » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:50 am

Hey,

I'm not one of the founding admins, but I was one of the first to join after the founding admins announced the site, so I think I can answer these, but someone like Ben might be able to correct the details.

No, we are not a part of Eurobricks. We actually started about five months before they did, and my recollection is that in the early days they were a much smaller site, though they have certainly grown in membership and traffic. In their very early days I saw them as being a more regional site, limited to "Euro", perhaps in reaction to the perception that Lugnet was dominated by American builders. Today they are a much more world-wide site. But you should ask people there more about how they started and how they grew.

Back in the day (around 2000), a large part of the LEGO online community (particularly the non-Bionicle English speaking community) was on Lugnet. Lugnet had initially started in the late 90's I think as a way to network LUGs, or LEGO User Groups. Lugnet was, and still is, but it is less prominent now than it was, a multi-themed LEGO site. The castle builders on that site were quite active, both in online discussions and in participation in AFOL gatherings such as BrickFest. Two things really led to the creation of this site as a castle-specific site. First, there were a bunch of people who liked writing LEGO-illustrated castle stories. They really wanted a site where they could post their stories and share them with others. Second, there was a newish trend of creating collaborative displays at AFOL conventions - the Space builders had developed the Moonbase standard which allowed people to make separate units that when brought together at a show could be hooked together to make one massive display. So at BrickFest a number of Castle builders got together to discuss a common standard for building walled cities. Some of these people were the same people who wanted a site where they could share stories. The discussion at BrickFest became the initial discussion of creating a castle specific forum to allow people to collaborate on displays and share their stories, and also to share news about the Castle theme and to display our MOCs. The discussion continued via e-mail after BrickFest, and about a month or so later, the initial group of five or six announced the formation of this site.

As to traffic, it has gone up and down over the years. I do think our signature contest, the Colossal Castle Contest, has been a good magnet for builders, as this is the longest running regular LEGO building contest. Castle is a popular theme, and LEGO continues to produce sets in this theme (and also in relevant licensed themes), so new castle builders are always looking for a place such as this. In the past year and a half the LCC project has generated a lot of interest and brought some new builders to this site. I'd like to think that we have fostered a pretty good community spirit over the last decade, and I think that helps bring a lot of people to the site, or at least to stick around once they check us out. Some people have been active the whole time, others who used to be quite active have faded away, though sometimes they show up again, still others have become quite active in the last year or so.

Hope that helps.

Bruce
User avatar
Bruce N H
Precentor of the Scriptorium
Precentor of the Scriptorium
 
Posts: 6717
Joined: Mon Sep 15, 2003 9:11 pm
Location: Middle Zealand

Growing and promoting a forum

Postby renagrade » Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:47 pm

Bruce N H wrote:

Thank you for you speedy and informative reply! You guys seem to have built a really fantastic community! The way I found this site was through LCC, which I am considering joining. Sorry to bother you again, but you guys seem very qualified to answer question I have had for a long time.

1. How do you get people involved? You have so many people talking in the forums, participating in contest, and reading your tutorials, and I am very curious as to how you achieved this. I created a LEGO, picture based video game where you make choices by clicking on link, which then brings you to another set of pictures, and another choice. (I am really not sure if this made much sense :tasty: ) The site got more traffic than any other site I have created, (though that is not saying a whole lot), but I got very little feedback. I put up a survey, discussion, and pole. The pole had 11 people take it, the survey 9, and the discussion had 1 person post. This was disappointing to me, considering the site has received several thousand page-views, and over 900 unique visitors. This is obviously not a huge number, but the proportions seem off to me. What could I do to improve this?

2. Also, where do you get your traffic from? This site is big enough to be found via google, but what other sites do you promote this on? I posted my site on MOCpages, YouTube, and Flickr, but was unsure of any other communities that I could show people my game from.


In case you would like to see it, here is the game- http://identitythegame.weebly.com/
User avatar
renagrade
Peasant
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:36 am
Location: China

Growing and promoting a forum

Postby Bruce N H » Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:13 pm

I'll write more later, but several years ago I wrote a long blog post on this sort of thing.

http://vignettebricks.blogspot.com/2006 ... 2.html?m=1

Bruce
User avatar
Bruce N H
Precentor of the Scriptorium
Precentor of the Scriptorium
 
Posts: 6717
Joined: Mon Sep 15, 2003 9:11 pm
Location: Middle Zealand

Re: Growing and promoting a forum

Postby renagrade » Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:26 am

Bruce N H wrote:I'll write more later, but several years ago I wrote a long blog post on this sort of thing.

http://vignettebricks.blogspot.com/2006 ... 2.html?m=1

Bruce

Unfortunately, the country in which I live in cannot access blogs. Thank you though, I look forward to your reply!
User avatar
renagrade
Peasant
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:36 am
Location: China

Re: Growing and promoting a forum

Postby Bruce N H » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:20 am

Three other things I wanted to add to the discussion.

First, you note that you had lots of traffic but few comments. I read an interesting article the other day that essentially asked why you care how many comments a blog post gets. It all goes to the purpose of the blog. If the whole point is to create some sort of community, then comments are really important. If, OTOH, the point of the blog is to drive people to buy products, you're still on the winning side if the blog results in more sales, even if no one comments. Now this was written in the context of blogging for some commercial enterprise, but I think the lesson can still apply. If you are getting hundreds of people visiting and playing the game you created, I'd call that a win. Sure, people commenting and giving feedback would be great, but I think the sheer volume of people is in itself a very positive comment. You'll see great variations in commenting - e.g. the Brothers-Brick is probably the most-read LEGO news site (hmm, maybe GeekDad gets more volume? but they're not LEGO-specific, they just seem to run a lot of LEGO news), and lots of their posts will only get a smattering of comments (except for 'controversial' posts). Brickset, OTOH, gets lots more comments. Take the announcement yesterday of the new Cuusoo set, surely a big news story in the AFOL world. Brothers-Brick got 10 comments and Brickset got 129, and I don't think there's any indication that Brickset gets ten times the views that BB gets. I have no idea why the one gets more comments than the other. I do see that Huw (of Brickset) is usually very involved in comment threads (see my final paragraph below), but, then, the Brothers-Brick guys respond to comments as well, so who knows?

Second, you asked about how we promote Classic-Castle. Really, by now the community has been around ten years, and we don't really do much to promote outside of posting notices of the CCC and other contests around. I suppose we could do more to self-promote, but people interested in Castle LEGO pretty much find us by Google, by interacting with CC members who post castle LEGO MOCs on Flickr, by meeting CC members at AFOL gatherings, etc. Several of our members and even admins are involved in many different blogs and forums, so there is a lot of opportunity to refer to CC, etc. Basically the community collectively going out in the LEGO world is our promotion.

OTOH, if you were trying to launch a new site, you would have to do some marketing. Just to summarize a few of the thoughts in that post you can't access, before you even start marketing, make sure there's some stuff in place. There should already be some real content in place. Directly invite an initial group, either as co-admins of the forum or just as a founding team of beta-testers, and have them start some discussion threads. That way, when you do market and people click the link to the site, there will be something there already. It just doesn't work when you see an announcement of a new forum and you go to it and there is exactly one post (the welcome from the founder). Why would anyone go back? As to marketing, if it's a LEGO forum, try and post in the various LEGO forums and invite people. Before doing that, you should ask those forums' admins if it is okay to announce other new forums. Most won't mind as long as it's LEGO, but it's always good form to ask. Also, just know that you are going to get a much better reception if you first get involved in that forum. Make some real posts, comment on other people's creations, etc, so that people see you as a contributor to the community rather than just someone who is joining simply to draw their members away to some new community. Let's face it - if you and I make an announcement here asking people to check out our new websites, I'm going to get a lot more hits (at least initially), just because I've got a history here and people will check it out on the basis of knowing me better. In addition to marketing on LEGO sites, consider relevant non-LEGO sites as well. For instance, if I was starting a new website all about Star Wars LEGO, there are a ton of different Star Wars forums I could post in, or whatever.

Third, and here I'll just quote from the blog post you can't read, the way you as owner/admin of the site interact with your readers/members will greatly affect the growth of a community. You asked about how CC grew as a community, and I think part of that can be credited to a group of about 20 or so people who were active in the very early years (both those in 'official' admin or mod roles but also other forum members) fostering a great conversation. Of course it doesn't hurt that we've got the most awesome theme in the most awesome hobby, so there's always great stuff to talk about. :D Anyway, here's what I said on that blog post:
Once people start showing up on your forum, you need to moderate the heck out of it. Now, I'm not saying that you should rule with an iron fist, deleting posts and banning users. I mean that you should be on top of the various conversations, putting in helpful comments, starting intelligent threads, and generally raising the level of discourse. You should regularly post cool MOCs in the forums (by yourself or things you find on Brickshelf). Give real feedback to others' MOCs (not just "that's cool"). Where there are violations of your terms of service, (e.g. if you say no off topic threads or no swearing), you should correct those quickly (though politely - always clearly tell people why a thread was locked or a post was removed). Keep an eye on your member list for spammers, as these pop up all the time. Mainly, though, it is the example of you and your team that will keep things going down the road you want. The higher quality posts you make and threads you start, the higher quality posting you'll get from your members. This will, in turn, further attract new members who will also strive to quality conversations.


Anyway, I hope those thoughts are helpful to anyone involved in growing an online community, whether this is founding an online forum, or just trying to get more comments and feedback on their site.

Bruce
User avatar
Bruce N H
Precentor of the Scriptorium
Precentor of the Scriptorium
 
Posts: 6717
Joined: Mon Sep 15, 2003 9:11 pm
Location: Middle Zealand

Re: Growing and promoting a forum

Postby renagrade » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:52 pm

Wow! Thanks Bruce, I learned a lot here! You seem to be very knowledgeable, and I am glad that you took the time to reply to this! I guess it is displaying exactly what the blog talked about: posting high quality material! I know I have asked a lot of questions, but as I read this, and think about all that I have just learned, I continue to think of more. I hope you aren't tired of answering these :tasty:

How do you find a sponsorship? I noticed that you have the Toys Surplus LEGO at he bottom of the CC homepage. Did they come to you, or did you seek them out? Also, I noticed the MOCpages, BrickArms, Brickshelf, and all those others on the main page. Do you link them simply because they are good resources, or are they also sponsoring this site?

Back to my original question, I am currently hosting a contest on MOCpages. I started the group, added in all of the details, then invited several hundred people to it. After that, I went and searched for a sponsor. I found one, and they are going to be giving about 40 dollars in prizes. The contest is now successfully in round 2, with 54 entries in round one.

However, looking back, I see several mistakes. For one, I began the contest before a prize was obtained (I know this effected the amount of entries). Two, I only promoted it on one site. Three, I didn't actually think for all that long about what site I wanted to host my contest, and kind of just picked one. Luckily it has turned out, and I think that I would have no prize had I not contacted the site. Is this concept transferable to a forum or my game site? Should I seek out sponsors? Should I wait to get sponsors to build the site, or give them something to see so that I can get the sponsors in the first place? Or should I just not seek any out, and let them find me?

Also, since this related to the going to many different forums, how many sites should I mention it on? Because I feel that if I post something about it on too many places, people would be annoyed, and not want to visit the site, or visit with a negative attitude?

One final group of questions. You mentioned having a team. This is something that, surprisingly, never occurred to me. I always have done the marketing, the graphic design, the content, everything. I think there are a few reasons for that. I never really thought of having a team, I enjoy all aspects of creating a site, I feel like I cannot trust someone I don't know (almost none of my friends have any LEGO at all :P) to do a good job, and I felt no need. But as of recent, I have had very little time, and have had to limit the amount of time I spent marketing, creating new content, etc. So I am now wondering if I SHOULD have a team. Here are my questions about having a team.

Where do you find trustworthy people who you know will do a good job? Where do you find people with the same interests that will be willing to help? How do you know if they are who they say they are? How many other admins or MODs would recommend?

Sorry, lot's of question! I am really very glad to be able to talk about this, and learn from you guys!
User avatar
renagrade
Peasant
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:36 am
Location: China

Re: Growing and promoting a forum

Postby Bruce N H » Sat Oct 26, 2013 3:37 pm

Hi,

Troy (of Troys Surplus LEGO) is one of the LEGO castle builders who first met together back in 2003 to discuss creating a site. He's one of the founding admins of this site and continues as an admin, though he is more active behind the scenes and does not post often in the forum these days. He has a LEGO sales business, with both online and brick-and-mortar stores, and so when those guys first discussed creating a site, he volunteered that we could use his computers to host the site, both as a service to the community and as a good advertisement for his store.

On the other buttons on the front page, some of those are just important community sites, and we put links to them back in the early years of CC (Brickshelf, MOCpages, Peeron, Lugnet). Forbidden Cove is a spin-off site from CC focused on pirates. The other buttons (BrickForge, BrickArms, BrickWarriors and altBricks) are custom parts dealers who have donated prizes for past contests here and we put links to them on the front page as a thank you. Those people have donated prizes both because they are members of the community and wanted to support the contest, and also quite frankly because it is good community relations and free advertising for them. It might be hard to get such donors before you've established a name for yourself and your contest - we've been running this contest for 11 years, so it's got a pretty high profile by now.

Congrats on the successful contest, btw. With those sort of numbers it will probably be much easier to find prize donors for the next one. Can you provide a link to it?

MOCpages is a good place to host a contest, but personally I prefer Flickr. Some of the community is less likely to go to MOCpages these days because they have had some bad experience with that site crashing a year or so ago. Both MOCpages and Flickr are free sites to put photos, and both have options to leave comments and organize groups for contests.

How many forums to post one is a hard question. As I noted, it's much better to post in places where you are active, as opposed to just signing up for a forum, posting a notice of your new contest or forum, and then running away. So that's going to seriously limit how many places you can advertise.

On creating a team, the initial team here at CC was made of people who knew each other through online forums and attending events such as BrickFest. They got into a conversation at BrickFest 2003, which led to this site, and they were the first admins. Other admins and mods (including me) were people who became very active in the forum and were making a contribution to the community here. We really believe in Classic-Castle as a bottom-up community, so if general members want to start something, like their own contest, or the LCC for example, that's completely cool. The admins and mods are really just here to set site policy, maintain the website, create new content, and make sure that we maintain the nature of the community.

When a community is just getting started, the biggest advantage of having a team is that you already have the kernel of a community. If you just open up a forum and post 'hey, everyone, come discuss LEGO in my forum', and that's it, your forum will be pretty dead. OTOH, if you start with a team, they can be having conversations about LEGO already, and people who check your forum for the first time will be much more likely to join in to the conversation.

As to finding trustworthy people, start with your friends. If you are involved in either a local LEGO group or an online forum, or just exchanging comments with a group of people on Flickr etc, talk to those people.

As to the number of admins or mods, it all depends on the size of the community. If there are only a handful of posts a day, one person can read them all and be involved in all conversations. But if there are tons, it will take more. It will totally vary.

BTW, you might want to decide if you will divide up roles among your community, or if everyone will do everything. Here, for instance, we have roughly blocked out areas of responsibility, though all of the admin team pitches in on different areas.

One last thought. Being an admin of a forum is like being a good host of a party. If all you do is lay out the food and drinks and say 'come on in', your party will be pretty dead. A good host is mingling, participating in lots of different conversations, inviting new people to the party, introducing people that may not know each other, etc.

Bruce
User avatar
Bruce N H
Precentor of the Scriptorium
Precentor of the Scriptorium
 
Posts: 6717
Joined: Mon Sep 15, 2003 9:11 pm
Location: Middle Zealand

Re: Growing and promoting a forum

Postby renagrade » Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:55 am

Thank you so much for all of the answers! This will help me a lot for years to come! I think those were all the questions I could think of. Here is a link to my contest. http://www.mocpages.com/group.php/23174
User avatar
renagrade
Peasant
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:36 am
Location: China

Re: Growing and promoting a forum

Postby AK_Brickster » Mon Oct 28, 2013 6:11 pm

Thanks for the interesting discussion, guys. I learned a lot as well :)
Image Image
Plastics make it possible! (BrickLink) - - - My Flickr Stream
Courage, Honor, Loyalty! For Garheim!
User avatar
AK_Brickster
Visconte des Paysans de Gong
 
Posts: 3220
Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:02 pm
Location: Mushing through the Great Driftplains of Garheim

Re: Growing and promoting a forum

Postby Sir Erathor » Sun Nov 24, 2013 3:23 pm

I learned loads there! Thanks you two :)
For the Glory of Loreos!
Flickr|MOCpages|The Brick Tavern
Image Image
User avatar
Sir Erathor
Landlord
 
Posts: 923
Joined: Tue May 14, 2013 4:25 pm
Location: Glorious Loreos


Return to Publishing

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests