It is extremely important when building a community website to ensure you engage with your members. This means welcoming them to your community, answering any questions they have promptly and correctly and making them feel valued.
You should always ensure your users feel valued within the forum environment. Welcoming new members is particularly important – but don’t stop there.
I have seen many forums where a new member introduces themselves, and the simple response from the admin or mods of the forum is something along the lines of, ‘Hi … Welcome to our forum’.
This should be taken further – if the user has posted information about themselves in their profile or if they have made posts on your forum about a specific subject you should incorporate this into your welcome message to make it more personalised and encourage further interaction.
For example a better welcome message would be something like, ‘Hi Amy, welcome to the forum! I see you have an interest in Dalmatians… do you have any experience in keeping them.’
Similarly, if you have a blog and users are commenting on your posts, take time to read them and respond to any questions that may be asked. If you don’t, users will wonder what the point is in making a comment in the first place – not the best way to start a successful community!
If you do not value each and every member in your community, they will find one that does. This is not restricted to saying hello to new members on a forum or blog. This includes answering every single email promptly and accurately.
At Just Chat, we began to get a reputation for not responding to emails. This was due to the large number I was receiving, combined with the fact that the community was by this time well established. I found that this meant there was less motivation for me to respond to each and every email.
This was a mistake – users soon felt less valued and started to think that their thoughts / questions / opinions were not valued. To combat this, we installed a ticketing system from HelpDesk Pilot. As I am the only person who responds to emailed messages, I could plump for the free version.
Using this ensures I respond to each and every message I am sent by a user as each response is labelled as ‘Open’ until I respond and ‘Close’ the message. There is now far more motivation to ensure each message is responded to as I do not like to see unanswered messages pile up. I know that if I delete a message in the ticketing system, then the user will know I simply couldn’t be bothered to respond (as each message is issued with a tracking ID) compared to if I just delete the email in Outlook as a user may assume the message was not received.
I have come across many promising forums and blogs where no additional effort is made after the initial welcome post. Building online communities is hard work, and each and every member needs to feel valued and respected if they are to return and make themselves at home on your website.