Personally, I would be posting in the forums daily. When I first look at your forums categories, I see a post from 13 hours ago then Oct 23...May 24th...Nov 1, 2011....this just shows little activity. If you keep writing something, people will read it and will make your site appear more active.
Also, until your classified section takes off, I would maybe move that either do0wn the page or onto its own page. Again, this is due to a lot of empty listings that make it seem like you have little activity.
Other than that, you site looks great.
Good feedback. Thanks.
Your site looks good: Clean, emphasis on content, not over-designed.
Like Tyler says. It took us a while but we figured that putting our most active sections on top of the page was stimulating engagement.
You could also try this tip here from Jen.
That's how we did it:
Constantly fresh content is a requirement. Whether created by you or by your members. At first, it will be mostly you. Later, your star members will carry the load. Look for star members and support them. Let them know you need their help and they are doing a great community service. You will find people that LOVE being involved in their local community and will work very hard to keep your site full of great local content.
Since you are so geographically based, you will need to do a lot of offline marketing to the community. This can include sponsorship of local events where you can get a mention and place a banner (a real physical one), business cards in holders at the checkouts of local businesses. Do an ad swap where you exchange promotion of their event to your members for a sponsorship mention, banner, ad in the program, whatever. You can do this with any event that has a printed program: plays, high school sports, etc. These events would LOVE to have an announcement of their event sent to your 500 LOCAL members. You already have a valuable asset you can trade for being a sponsor of their event. As you get bigger you will be able to charge for this promotion but for now you will swap it for more exposure for your site.
Years back I had a local directory site (pre-Ning). I sold it and it has subsequently folded but it was a great source of local information. I used the businesses I already had within my local directory as the source of traffic. Approach that business with a stack of business cards that say "I'm a Featured Business in Stapleton Connect - Your Source for All Things Stapleton". Include your URL and a great tag line call to action. Give the business a business card holder to put your cards in and ask if you can place these at the checkout/front desk. Most will. Put a sticker on the card holder that says "I'm a Featured Business in Stapleton Connect - If there are no more cards here please contact StapleConnect.com for more." When you have gone to all the business in your directory, YOU enter more businesses and then approach these businesses as well.
Once more locals arrive, always be promoting a local event and encourage all members to share this event announcement on your site with their Stapleton friends. That will get more locals to the site. Once they arrive, have a compelling reason for them to sign up: perhaps a weekly newsletter with all the local community events, etc.
You will need to be sending an email newsletter weekly anyways that highlights the best of Stapleton Connect. Keep your members engaged and they will want to invite more locals if you make it easy to do.
I have made some updates to the design... would love additional feedback. the insights given below have really helped! Here's the latest and greatest: http://stapletonconnect.com/