Features aren’t a selling point of your online community

by Martin Reed on 30 June 2011 in Snippets

Visitors don’t care about the features your online community has to offer. They care about the benefits – particularly emotional benefits.

VisaJourney.com is a fantastic online community for those emigrating to the United States. On their registration page, they have the following box:

Why register?
Here’s some great reasons to sign up!
Send personal messages
Use the messenger to send personal messages to other members!
Add events
Got an event coming up? As a member you can advertise it on our community calendar!

This is a wasted opportunity. Here’s a better suggestion:

Why register?

Avoid the expense of immigration lawyers with free immigration advice.
Seek support – we all know what you’re going through and we want to help.
Be with your loved ones sooner – we’ll help you get the complicated paperwork right the first time

No doubt you can come up with a better alternative than my suggestion, but you get the idea. Sell the benefits, not the features. You can do this right now. It will take you less than ten minutes.

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{ 9 comments }

Sue July 1, 2011 at 7:17 am

I agree that the message should be personal, and display to the reader the benefits or being part of a community; such as the support and building relationships that said communities offer. So I’m going to go and check what our message says now as I haven’t updated it for a while. So thanks for the prod.

However speaking from experience the community you’ve highlighted wouldn’t want to include a line such, “we’ll help you get the complicated paperwork right the first time.” If you knew the history of said community, and the topic of UPL, you would understand ;)

Martin Reed - Community Manager July 1, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I am actually a very active member of that community; it helped me no end in my own immigration journey from the UK to the US. Their guides and experienced members certainly helped me get the complicated paperwork right the first time and hence my use of that line. I’d love to hear more about the history of the community as I have to admit I have no idea what you’re getting at – but you’ve piqued my curiosity!

Sue July 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I totally agree it’s a great community with members who are great at helping each other out. I know it well. Will email you ;)

Alex July 6, 2011 at 8:20 am

It’s quite obvious that impersonal information brings a lot of negative effect. Who is fascinated by something which doesn’t appeal to their lives? I don’t think that the creators of the most wonderful online communities simply ignore the human factor and try to achieve the goals thay have. Well-written!

Matt Hempsell July 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

The suggested text is must better it seaks to the user and tells them why they might find the site a good place to visit. the original text is very robotic and is just a list of features.
Unfortunately you see this on websites all over the internet.

MisaTange July 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Definitely well-written. I seriously wonder why 90% of communities use the more… robotic text, even more since some of the said communities are being handled by a human. Emotions, people, emotions, not the features!

…But I seriously have no idea what to put in the box. I administrate a text RPG forum and I don’t really offer any actual service other than having fun, though I’m thinking of opening up an advertising section when it grows enough. Any suggestions? :/

Martin Reed - Community Manager July 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Put yourself in the shoes of your visitors. If you were a visitor, why would you want to join your community? If you can’t answer that, you need to take urgent action!

David Josh July 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm

@ Martin Reed, very well said my friend, i’m glad your primary focus is the readers always, a lot of communities give a lot of emphasis on the technology, design and features offered and never think from the readers perspective that we want it simple and user friendly !

Tommy T May 10, 2012 at 4:27 am

Ouch. Glad I read back to your older articles that I’ve missed in my e-absence.

I fear I may have just made a grave mistake in designing my home page. I’ll definitely take a look at what’s written, and think of ways to re-word to to highlight the benefits rather than simply the features.

Here’s screenshots of my slideshow highlighting what the site has to offer:

Chat:
http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/548380_294539640632799_280748395345257_613763_1489043807_n.jpg

Forums:
http://a8.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/531353_294539667299463_280748395345257_613764_1685248656_n.jpg

Quizzes:
http://a4.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/538835_294539690632794_280748395345257_613766_807132983_n.jpg

Profiles:
http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/581288_294539720632791_280748395345257_613767_176214894_n.jpg

As you can see, the text does indeed names a few of the features – but not the benefits and why they should use the features.

I’ll definitely stop what I’m doing now and go back to the drawing board on the slideshow and think long & hard about how to re-word them!

Another fantastic article that made me think. Spot on.

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