Posted: Wed 18th Nov 2015
When online visitors feel part of a community, they're likely to keep coming back and that's good for business as you strengthen relationships with existing and potential customers. Here are five ways to build a community on your website.
This post is part of Go and Grow Online, the Enterprise Nation campaign that encourages more businesses to get online and supports existing online traders to grow.
Be your community
One of the best blogs to have built a solid community around its cause is Tilly and the Buttons. Tilly started the blog from a passion to sew her own clothes and share her experience with others. She was a member of the community for which she set out to build the blog. This helps as she understands what her community wants. The same goes for Enterprise Nation. We are a small business, writing for small businesses. We understand your world because we're in it too!
Keep things ad-free (for a while)
To generate a sense of trust on your site and within the community, keep your site free of ads at the outset. A commercial feel can be introduced as the community builds but it could be off-putting if visitors are faced with irrelevant ads before they've properly had chance to get to know you. A blogger who has achieved this with great success is Kat Williams who started RocknRollbride.com as a blog to chart her own journey in looking for suppliers for her rock n roll wedding. Visitors started to arrive and before Kat knew it, lots of visitors returning each day. Over the past four years, she's astutely commercialised the blog through introducing relevant adverts from suppliers, introducing a shop, and going from blog to print by producing a magazine.
As traffic and community builds, consider alternative revenue streams such as consulting in your area of expertise, keeping hold of the day job (as both Kat and Tilly did) and running offline events.
Let the community speak!
Enable your community to talk to each other with a comments function and/or forum plug-in. When introducing a forum, take care to moderate at the start so your community understands the ground rules. A successful forum will develop into one where the community self-moderates. Look at Mumsnet as an example of this.
One sure fire way to strengthen an online community is to get together offline. Use tools such as Eventbrite and Meetup to invite the community to meet-ups and/or events with speakers or meet in a more structured way online using tools such as GoToWebinar and GoToMeeting and Skype which also offer you, the community host, an opportunity to share expertise with an audience.
Community members want to feel special. A great way to achieve this is through rewards. A newsletter to the community using tools such as Constant Contact, Sign-Up.to or Mailchimp offers a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly opportunity to extend rewards to the community such as discounts on relevant products and services, exclusive invitations and/or profile opportunities. The community will reward you in return with sales and loyalty!
Taking these steps will result in a strong and profitable community forming around you and your brand.
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