What does your online community consist of? If you have a forum and nothing else, you may struggle – particularly if your site is brand new. Competition amongst online communities is fierce, and the vast majority of new sites will fail. You can give yourself a far better chance of success by adding depth and substance to your online community.
What do you do differently?
There is nothing wrong with a community site consisting solely of a forum – after all, a community is merely a medium in which people can communicate. If your site is new though, your site needs to offer something unique in order to attract new members. You need to create content, develop a personality for your community and make it look different.
Established sites already have a huge bundle of content which will attract new members and retain older ones. How can you compete against these sites?
Online communities can be much more than just forums
My largest online community, Just Chat, is more than a forum. It has live chat rooms, an email postcards facility and an email penpals section. This helps make my site more unique, and makes it more engaging for new visitors and existing members. You want to add as much value as possible to your online community in order to make it appealing. Don’t add sections to your site just for the sake of adding them – make sure that you only add content and additional functionality that your visitors and members will find useful.
Adding an article section to your community, or publishing articles within your forum is an approach I highly recommend. Not only are you creating content for your visitors and members, you are also creating content that the search engines will crawl and index. Once in a while you may find that an article you wrote ends up ranking highly for a specific search term, which brings you a sudden surge of traffic – just make sure your site is ready and optimised to ensure the highest conversion rate of visitors to members as possible.
Traffic isn’t the most important factor
You can receive thousands of visitors per day but have hardly any members. Visitors to your site will not register unless you have high quality, compelling content. As your community becomes more established your visitors will create this for you (at least, they should). Until then, you are on your own.
Don’t think that because you aren’t attracting a high number of visitors on a daily basis you have no chance of success. Work on optimising your community – make it unique, and never stop adding value. Write articles and post content yourself. The more your community offers to visitors, the higher your conversion rate will be and the more your members will give back.
Does your online community offer anything in addition to forums? Do you publish articles or create content yourself? Has this helped your community be more successful? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.