The advantages that come with an online community should be self-evident. When you have a dedicated group of people in love with your company, revenues are a foregone conclusion. Building that community, however, takes the following.
Your community will build around something you, your company or your website has to offer. That much should be obvious, when you think about it. However, that thing could be different depending on the company. For many, it will be content. You may distribute recipes, images, videos or other forms of multimedia. However, your community may also line up because you provide a forum for them to congregate and voice their opinions or learn. It might be a combination of the two or a third offering altogether.
Whatever it is, remember that consistency is king. Your community will fall apart and/or go elsewhere if they start showing up and new blogs aren’t posted, for example, or there aren’t any new videos to watch.
Chances are the other thing your experience will need is a uniqueness factor. There are plenty of blogs that discuss the sports world, for example. But many of them have succeeded because they found an “angle” to come at it with. They may only cover a certain sport or the teams of a specific state or city. Some may provide their perspective humorously, while others have an objective, scientific approach.
That’s just one example. But the point is that you’ll always be fighting for your community’s attention if you’re offering the same thing as another website. So always look for ways to provide your market with something they want and only you can provide.
Exclusivity may make clubs cool, but it will kill your community. You want as few steps as possible separating your community from those who may be interested in joining it. One way you do this is by making your content and anything else you have to offer easily shareable. In the age of social media, this is easier than ever. People can literally hit a “share” button and essentially tell everyone they know about your perspective, opinion, company, offer, etc.
Speaking of which, what kind of community would it be without social media playing a role? This development is just too big of an advantage for anyone to ignore if they have designs to build an online community. Everything from organizing people to mobilizing them to just doing simple things like answering questions is now simpler than ever. If you’re not socializing, you’re definitely not building a community. Fortunately, with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, socializing is something you can do each and every day from the comfort of your favorite chair.
Anyone can start a social media account and get busy. So this is why you have no excuses to do the same. However, those who are truly serious about fostering an online community need to have the right software on their side too.
Online community software is more than just CMSs that allow you to post blogs and reply to comments. They also give you things like the option to start a forum on your site, post polls and review all kinds of analytics that will give you an objective look at who your community is.
Let’s look at some popular options that you can use for starting, building and keeping an online community.
- Joomla: Based on PHP and open source, this is one of the most popular community and CMS platforms out there. Its large following is not just an online community in its own right, it’s also quite the advantage where third party plug-ins are involved.
- Drupal: This is another platform that is extremely popular, especially with those who are accomplished in the online community world. Like Joomla, it’s open source, runs on PHP and has thousands of third party plug-ins for you to use.
- WordPress: No discussion about online communities would be complete without mentioning WordPress. While many only use the CMS for posting blogs, the breadth of what it can do could be an article all on its own. Leverage this platform correctly and the user-friendly option could be all you need.
Although this may seem like a lot of work, the rewards are more than worth it. Plus, if you find the online community software that works best for your needs, it’s much easier than it seems.
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