Your online community has the potential to drive sales, build trust, significantly improve loyalty, and reduce service costs. However, the heart of a community is not profit; community is all about relationships and interaction. So instead of starting with a business strategy, we recommend that you start with your customer in mind. No matter how great your features and functionality are, if you don’t build your community from a customer-centric point of view, you’ll be left with a virtual ghost town.
To create a thriving online community, start by exploring these twelve features to harness the enthusiasm of your customers and build strong connections.
1. Activated Advocates
Successful online communities encourage, honor, and showcase their superusers. When you empower your most passionate community members, they will develop into brand advocates, who often contribute the majority of content while also actively assisting other customers.
2. Relevant Content
Smart brands understand the value of creating an environment that encourages users to produce useful and authentic content. Because it’s written by real people for real people, user-generated content (UGC) is more likely to be trusted and shared.
3. Mobile Responsiveness
More people worldwide access the internet from mobile devices than from their desktop.1 For your online community experience to be rewarding to all users, it must be mobile-responsive.
4. Crowdsourced Ideas
Collect ideas for product innovation and feedback from your best customers by enabling features that allow customers to submit ideas, vote, and add comments.
Attracting individuals to your community is only one piece of the puzzle. For your community to succeed, you must have a way to motivate users and empower them to get to know and trust one another.2 This can be done through a robust reputation system, which is a structure that recognizes users for their participation in order to build trust through reputation.3 A reputation system works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to recognize users for their participation. You decide (often with input from your members) what activities matter in the community, and you write those activities into the rules that govern the assignment of ranks. Recognizing high-quality contributors or superusers provides an incentive for them to participate more and helps users identify quality content.4
Inspire and cultivate community by giving members a curated feed that shows content that is relevant to them, motivating them to contribute more.
9. Engaging Content
Bottom line—visually appealing communities drive more traffic. Give control to your customers to add photos and videos to their galleries and in their posts.
10. Searchable Repository
A knowledge base or repository allows your customers, users, and employees to produce and share tips, answers, and advice.
Gamification encourages customers and employees to enthusiastically share with each other more frequently. Automate gaming mechanics for everyday actions, like awarding badges the first time an online community member posts, replies to a post, or gives kudos on another member’s post.
12. Performance Measurement
It’s essential to be able to measure the health of communities and take action to keep them at their best. Focus attention on metrics that matter most with features that measure these six health factors: traffic, content, members, liveliness, interaction, and responsiveness.