Community 101 - To build, or not to build?

Introducing, an occasional series.  Community 101 - most of these are lessons I learned the hard way, and I'll share them here so maybe you don't have to. 

When you first launch a new community there has to be some sort of proactive build out on a platform, whether that's message boards, mailing lists, or a social site, but you can't build too much.  Build too much and you'll have a ghost town.   It's a fine line to walk.  Too little and people will wonder if the lights are on.  Too much and people will think it's been abandoned before it got started, and it will be abandoned before it gets started. Funny how that works.

The biggest mistake new community managers (or worse, companies trying to build a community space without a community manager) make is building out too many spaces for conversation.  Even if there are disparate conversations expected, they should all be in one space to start.  Because it's not about giving people a space to have a specific conversation in isolation, it's about giving people a space to have conversations. period.  Think about it, if there's nothing on a site, are you going to be the first to post in the empty space?   If you do post something on a busy page with other conversations that you aren't interested in, you're likely to come back more often if there are updates being made, precisely because it is busy. And being busy is more likely to draw more people who might be interested in your conversation.  

It makes sense if you think it through, but most people don't when they are first starting.  It feels counter-intuitive.