Today’s Internet is all about connecting with other people. People are social beings- they naturally gravitate towards other people when they are in the same place. It is not a surprise that social networks have exploded in such a big way.
Creating a community website is a great way for medium and large organizations to organize its clients, employees and partners in an interesting and casual way. A community website provides mutual support, exploration and a sense of belonging. All of these things are essential for growing a healthy business.
But creating an online community for your organization is not just about setting up a website where people can connect. It needs to be something special. The website you use is only a platform. When you can find something special that brings people to your website and keeps them coming back, you can create long-term engagement that is the true mark of a great online community.
Do Your Research
So how do you build an online community? You must start by identifying the reason you are creating a community site. You need to understand your own goals and how you want to achieve those goals. When you understand where you want to go and how you want to get there, you can began exploring the resources at your disposal. Research is your best friend during the period of initial exploration. You should visit popular communities and see what makes them tick. You should also take note of the communities that you keep returning to. Why do you go back for more? What unique value do they provide?
What Kind of Community Do You Want?
You also need to decide what kind of community site you want to set up. You can see multiple variations on the theme browsing on the internet. Most community sites focus on a niche, although you will find some (such as Wishsms.com) taking a general approach and doing it well. This decision has two parts. Firstly, you need to identify the ideal members of the project. Will you create a community bonded by similar interests or a group working together to create change? You can create a group that is a safe place for people to meet who would otherwise be geographically separated. You can also create a group for people who participate in the same kind of profession or the same broad activity. Secondly, after you have decided upon a purpose, you can choose the kind of host that will best suit your community. Many organizations have two main options: a social network or a forum. If you want to use an outside host for your community, you can choose to create a forum with vBulletin. A few great hosts for social networks include BuddyPress, Ning, and SocialGO.
Identify Early Influencers
Before you launch your community site, you will want to attract and identify early influencers. You will want someone to communicate personally with early joiners. This is great for building relationships with keen members. These relationships can be incredibly valuable after the site has launched. You want to create a small group of people who know each other and who are happy to serve as the sites original members. In many cases, this group of people become the “cool kids” and their actions are watched by new joiners.
Develop That Sense of Community
Once you are up and running, you need to develop a sense of community between members. Encouraging your members to take initiative in the group is the key for engagement. However, you also need to ensure that everyone feels like they can contribute to the group in some way. Whether you offer rewards to energetic members or just highlight their achievements, this recognition offers an incentive for members to participate. By encouraging both mass and micro communication, you can create an active and engaged online community that will help you attract new customers, generate sales and launch new products.