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6 Ways To Make Your Site A Community

6 Ways To Make Your Site A Community

6 Ways To Make Your Site A Community

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People want to be heard, and they want to interact. One-way communication, from brands to audiences, isn’t the way things work online anymore. Brand loyalty is created when your users feel like they are a part of the conversation and not just being talked to. Building an online community can begin with setting up a Facebook page, but it shouldn’t stop there. Social media presence and activity is just one expression of genuine community spirit – it can happen anywhere, but cultivating it takes some effort.

See Also: 5 CREATIVE WAYS TO INTEGRATE SOCIAL MEDIA INTO YOUR WEBSITE

Making your website an interactive community is achievable – it’s not hard, but nor is it an exact science. By taking these six practical steps, you can make your corner of the Web a vibrant, go-to hub.

Make It Interactive, Then Interact

An online community is a way for members to interact with each other and with you. If there is a way to interact, then there is a community. Allowing for comments is the easiest way to do this, but there are other ways too: hosting online chats and Reddit-style ‘Ask Me Anything’ interviews take a bit more work, but they can drum up interest better than ordinary comments can.

Which raises another point: interaction is a two-way street. If you, your company, or your brand is the reason that people are visiting the site, engage with them! Give them something more than just another press release – join in the discussion, have some fun, and remind visitors that there are people behind the logo. This sort of reciprocity can help foster a lively community.

Make It Human

The computer screen can be an antisocial place – if your users aren’t sure they are talking to actual humans, then they are less likely to talk at all. Creating staff profiles on your site is a great way to introduce your team to your community, and provide easy conversation starters. Including real life anecdotes in your articles and posts is another good way to turn your brand from a loose collection of content into something relatable. Finally, let users create profiles with avatars, ‘About Me’ sections, and the like – and be sure to fill yours out!

But why stop there? If you want people to know that you exist offline, why not meet offline? Having a simple meet-up is a great way to get your community to put faces to names, and know they’re appreciated – and that sense of appreciation is key to holding communities together. As an added bonus, you’ll get plenty of human photographs out of it, which can extend the event’s reach online.

Allow Input & Personalization

To have a true community is to pay attention to its wants and needs. Allowing the community to co-create the site with you is essential – if your users have ideas and input that they feel are being neglected, they’re liable to leave the community, or start their own splinter group.

Beyond helping your users shape the community with you, you can also create a more personalized experience for them. Offering content suggestion features like ‘Users like you also enjoyed…’ can help increase the portion of the community people actively interact with, while features like ‘What’s trending’ can help bring varying sub-communities together to create a shared experience for the whole group. Not everyone will take advantage of these options, but there is nothing to lose by providing the option.

Make It Fun

Gamification has long been a part of online communities, in one way or another. Quantifying community appreciation with such features as user post counts, community feedback (like the ability to ‘like,’ ‘fav,’ ‘upvote,’ ‘star’ and so on), member ranks, and leaderboards, has the effect of turning online conversations into a game – and gamified versions of activities are virtually always more motivating. Partaking in a vibrant online community is its own reward, but by finding ways to reward engagement, you can help make your community vibrant enough to be intrinsically rewarding.

See Also: LET’S PLAY! HOW GAMIFICATION CAN ENHANCE YOUR SITE

Provide Something Unique

“If you build it, they will come” is only half the story. Giving people something that stands out, that they can’t get anywhere else, is a great way to draw people in and keep them coming back. Useful information is the number one draw – being a source of information, or organizing a community that itself can act as a source of knowledge, is a no-brainer. Things to try include: daily tips, video tutorials, infographics, Q&A sessions, and curated articles.

See Also: MICRO MOMENTS AND MICROINTERACTIONS – TINY BIG IDEAS

Be Friendly

Now that all the nitty-gritty has been tackled, it’s important to note that a friendly, casual, conversational tone goes a long way to building brand loyalty. A good sense of humour can keep a community running smoothly, seeing it through any rough patches with charm and aplomb. Finally, even better than acting nice is being nice – a little corporate social responsibility is good for the world, good for the brand, and always a smash with the community. So put a little love in your heart, Scrooge!

Your website should be an inviting, engaging and comfortable place for your users. Invite people in, encourage participation, talk to them, get them talking to each other, and pepper in the occasional event or special content. Really, starting an online community is like hosting a party where nobody knows each other – with a little encouragement, a lot of attentiveness, and the right amount of self-involvement, it can take off. Just don’t panic if nobody shows up right away – they’ll always arrive later than you think they will.

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