Essential tips for building an online community

Websites today tend to strive for returning visitors and to build a pleasant community of users. People who are happy revisiting the website once a week, once or day or even more than once a day. It’s all well saying that good content and a nice design will attract people but will it entice them to return again and again. There are a number of posts that simply list suggestions such as: set up an RSS feed, network with people through social media and comment at blogs and forums. Now these are more marketing tips rather than community building tips. So how does one build a community?

Rewards and Achievements

When someone visits your website they tend to be rather selfish, (subconsciously, of course). They look around and try to determine what the purpose of the website is and how they can benefit from the content. If the user gains something from the experience then they are more likely to return.

If you regularly visit design blogs then you will notice that giveaways are a common occurrence throughout the community. A few people who enter, may revisit the website to have a look around but it is almost assured that your traffic will resume to its original state once the competition has ended.

Now the trick in giving things away or rewarding users is to never stop giving and rewarding. Competitions are great but once they end, they end. If you had a competition to win $2000, you would no doubt get a lot of traffic your way (so long as your marketing is up to par) but once you’ve given the $2000, traffic is likely to resume as normal. If you gave the $2000 away every time a user commented or posted in the forums, then almost everybody would keep returning. Now because you have removed the idea of losing, you are giving the user a win win situation. Thus, you can reduce the amount given away to $200, or $20, or even $2.

You will find that you don’t even need to give something of monetary value away to entice users to return. For example, look at Xbox live, people complete challenges to achieve a certain badge to impress their friends. So long as there is always something to achieve, there will always be competition and so users will replay the game again and again. Another example closer to home is the badges used in the Envato Marketplace forums. Now I don’t use the forums but I’ve heard that users almost go out of their way to acquire a badge (a tiny little image) for their profile.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 at 18:17 and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

An aspiring web designer who is currently working on transforming tutorials into something magical.

About the author Published by Liam McCabe

3 Responses »

  1. I enjoyed this post, and I agree with the need for regular content. This is especially true for those bloggers only posting once or twice a week. Not unlike a TV show that you look forward to watching every, say, Wednesday, a regularly schdeuled blog has the ability to generate loyal followers.

    I also like your idea about competitions and removing the option of losing from the equation. Would you suggest that even smaller blogs with few readers start these competitions and hope that word would spred? Or is there a better way to promote this stuff?

    I’m interested in your thoughts.

    Thanks again,
    Adaptive Consultancy

  2. Sorry about my late response Tamara.

    There is nothing wrong with competitions, they can get you noticed and lead to positive stuff but at an early stage you do have promote them yourself. Your ability to market will determine how quickly your website takes off. So long as the content, in the case what you’re giving away is relevant and worth the reader’s while then you’re in good stead. But you will have to promote/market like hell (without being spammy!) 🙂