How to grow a more diversified and balanced community website?
Let me introduce myself first. My name is Scott and I am the founder of OzBargain, a community website for shoppers in Australia to share and discuss bargains, deals, products, shopping, etc. It was started as a spare time project 6 years ago (well, I love cheap stuff), and that thing just grows - mostly virally. It now attracts 1.1 million unique visitors a month, mostly from Australia, and we have some members following our website religiously, checking it multiple times a day.
I have been working full time on it for almost 2 years now, and have 2 employees helping me to keep the site running and to keep on growing the site & its community. I guess some of you guys might have actually stumbled across my site. I know that many retailers and service providers, large or small, have been using OzBargain to push their promotions. I'm glad to join this small business community (and nice to meet both Phil & Wendy in person this week). I'll be here at SavvySME trying to help anyone with questions.
Now, here is a question of my own. OzBargain has historically been male-dominant. I am a gadget-loving nerdy guy, and I tend to seek and post deals that reflect that nature. Many of our early visitors came from Whirlpool.net.au, which is a tech-oriented community website (that I presume is also male-dominant). When I look at the popular deals on OzBargain, it's again mostly gadgets, computers, video games, etc. Even the most popular food-related deals on our site are Domino's pizza coupons. However, I think for OzBargain to move forward to serve the Australian bargain hunters, we will need to grow into a diversified and balanced community.
Rather than being male-dominant, I would like to see more balanced discussions. Rather than gadgets dominating our home page, I would like to see fashions, good dine outs, etc. I think the problem is more than just "how to attract more female members to sign up," but there will also be an internal resistance of change. The existing culture - opinionated, cynical, sometimes sexists comments - need to change as well, but at the same time I don't want to be seen as "oppressive" or "dictating." Or maybe I am fighting a battle that can't be won? Anyone experienced with running a community? Please share your ideas.
You should know the answer to this! It's pretty much how you started OzBargains!
There are definitely people out there who want cheap stuff and a bargain, much like you 6 years ago, and I'm sure they can be found on the internet somewhere. They go to a specific place because it can be trusted and they find value in it...but that usually means that the path needs to be paved first. Unfortunately not everyone is willing to do the hard yards (or else we'd all be filthy rich) so you will need to pave the way for others to follow.
What you'll need to do is find those pockets of people (or they could be other large forums) and give them a reason to come to your website...convince and convert is your game (imoh).
Another thing I would suggest you look into is the useability of your website & who it currently appeals to. You've hit the nail on the head with who the website currently appeals to, so you'll need to 'make the switch' so that it appeals to both your markets.
Find out what your target market thinks about your current website and what you want them to think about your website, identify the gaps, then fill it in.
I remember in the past I have done some social work for a fashion (70% female dominated) client, basically they wanted to spread the word about an offer they were promoting. I remember looking at the top 20 of so deals based websites in the niche. Pushed the deal out to most of the sites and it was picked up quickly as it was a well known brand. I remember moving to OzBargin to promote the offer and the lead time was a bit slower you had to do all this verification ect, sure it was probably to keep spammers out but if you are a big brand surely it could promote quicker movements (maybe an option)
In regards to picking up more female customers, I think you need to think about partnerships with female dominate sites like Vouge forums for example.
Another idea are you could make a new section for well priced cosmetics and then promote that to the female audience, I have worked on a few cosmetics sites in the past and ladies love a good cosmetics deal =)
Then the next thing is working out the best way to promote your female sections of the site to this new market, Guest posts, PR, promote via other websites ect.
Hope this helps mate.
How did your first attempt at attracting Female customers go ?
I can understand you wanting to diversify to the female community, perhaps you could take tips from Wikipedia who has 84 % Male editors. In general it looks like women don't like to have conflicts and wage flame wars.
There are some good links to read related to that study that go behind the reasons, and the same apply here in OZbargain, everytime someone posts a deal that's an invitation to others to try and beat the deal on price.
Unless it's an extraordinarily great deal women especially might be hesitant because they know they'll get negged into oblivion by the community.
The sexist comments, jokes and puns and all the male Banter is what gives the community it's feel so not sure toning it down by force would be a great idea. You are right to leave it to the community to self moderate.