Communities are the lifeblood of Wikia. In the simplest terms, a community is the sum total of all of the editors on a given wikia.
What is a community?
Communities work together
Merriam Webster's dictionary defines communities as "a unified body of individuals" who have "common interests" and work together within a larger group. They often work towards a unified goal. On Wikia, that goal is building a community about their shared interests, whether it’s about movies, like on Star Wars; video games, like on Elder Scrolls; or genealogy, like on Familypedia. Communities work together to build the information, to solve problems that arise, and to create a positive atmosphere for everyone to share their passion on the wikia.
Communities make decisions
Communities should be thought of as the ones ultimately in charge of a wikia. Admins are there to guide and support the community, but are not meant to be rulers. This idea is an ideal scenario. It’s one that may not be the most practical if you have a very small group of users, but this is the goal you should shoot for. This means that admins don’t make the rules on their own and don’t make unilateral decisions, but rather they use their tools to carry out the will of the community.
Let’s take Star Wars Fanon as an example. One of the central policies there is the Manual of Style, which overviews how articles are formatted and put together. This was not a policy created by the admins alone, but one that had input from the community and was voted on by the community before it ever became policy. When a Star Wars Fanon admin enforces that policy, they’re not enforcing their own arbitrary ideas about what you should do. They’re saying “this is what the community would like you to do.” That’s very important, because it brings a form of democracy to the wikia.
Just like in a democracy, when a community votes on decisions rather than decisions being made by an admin, it sets up an important relationship between admins and the community that says the community is the most important decision-maker on the wikia. Admins have lots of extra editing tools that non-admins don’t have, but it puts admins into the position of not being the most important part of a wikia.
Building a community
Building a community isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding when it pays off. We’ve talked about how communities work together and make decisions together, but there’s still more to it than that. To work towards the goals of the wikia, you always need to be willing to compromise. Whether it’s a wikia full of fans of a TV show or video game, or those with the same hobby or personal interests, there will be people with very strong and very different opinions. That’s great and it’s perfectly normal. Different ideas and perspectives can often come together to make an even better idea, taking more than one opinion into account. Where that breaks down is if you’re not prepared to compromise. At that point, it’s just people yelling at each other.
That leads to another important point, and something you want to avoid when building a wikia: drama. Drama can be all kinds of social issues like personal disputes, name calling, arguments, or anything else involving conflict between users. This can happen and sometimes it’s unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to avoid it. The best way to steer clear of drama is to focus on building the content and reaching the goals of the wikia. Who said what, who thinks what, who ships which characters, who likes what movie more than another, and any other kinds of debates that can cause conflict should be avoided if the people involved are not respectful of others’ opinions. You certainly don’t need to say that those conversations can never take place, but making sure your main focus is on building content by writing pages about the subject is the best way to avoid major drama issues.
Ultimately, the big philosophical driver behind a community on Wikia is to be friendly and respectful of others, and especially to assume good faith. What does that mean? To put it simply, assume everyone on a wikia is working together towards the common good until proven otherwise. The vast majority of people are here to help, not to cause problems. People will make mistakes, especially when they’re new, so don’t treat potentially great and helpful users like they’re troublemakers.
That is what leads to the last point: be open and welcoming to new contributors. People come and go, and the most dedicated contributors can only do so much. Without new users coming in, a wikia can’t survive. Always remember to give them the time they need to learn how wikias work, and to always be welcoming, helpful, and respectful of them.
If you can keep all of this in mind, you will be able to build a great community that can work together towards its common goal.
In order to have a thriving community, you want to make sure people can find your wikia. You will want to identify places where potential contributors could be attracted and then talk about it there. Founders and the early contributors will likely carry a lot of this weight themselves, but only at first. Once more users start to join the wikia, more people will be able to spread the word and help the wikia grow.
Before you even begin promoting your wikia, you want to make sure there is something to promote. It’s not enough to go through the wikia creation process. You need to begin creating the content of the wikia. It's important to get your basic structure, help pages, and forums sorted out, as well as adding as much content as you can. The more and better content you have, the more attractive your wikia will be to search engines.
Once all of that is done, there are any number of ways to promote your wikia. Just remember that there is no single “best way” to promote a wikia, so you should choose whatever seems appropriate to your topic and the community you wish to build. Having said that, here are a few ways you might be able to promote your wikia:
- Talk about the wikia on websites that have similar topics, and explain that the wikia can be a common effort for all fans of that topic.
- Be welcoming to visitors and encourage them to become part of the wikia.
- Encourage the best contributors to contribute even more!
- Once you have 200 pages, you can apply for a Wikia Spotlight to advertise your wikia on similar communities.
- Create an awesome theme for your wikia so potential readers and contributors can see a great looking wikia when they arrive.
- Create a Facebook fan page for your wikia so readers, contributors, and others can "Like" your page. Be sure to post about your wikia's Facebook page here.
- Create a Twitter page for your wikia and spread the word to your followers in 140 characters or less! Be sure to post about your wikia's Twitter page here.
- Make a YouTube account for your wikia so you can upload interesting but relevant videos, and create an appealing channel to invite users to subscribe to.
- Learn how to start a new wikia
- Learn how to build a successful wikia
- Learn how to raise your wikia's search ranking