Many community developers hope to introduce live chat features into their community website at some stage. Online chat rooms can be a fantastic addition to a website if they are well moderated and well used. This article will take you through the steps you need to consider before you add a chat room to your website.
Figure out why you want a chat room
Never add a chat room to your website just for the sake of it. You need to decide exactly why you want to add this extra community feature. Do you want to install a chat room to increase the stickiness of your website? Do you want to install a chat room to increase your site’s popularity? Are your members requesting this feature?
Make sure you have a specific reason why you want to add a chat room to your website. If you are able to come up with a valid reason for the new feature, it is far more likely to succeed.
Do you have the traffic to support a chat room?
For a chat room to be useful, it needs to be used. Chat rooms require significantly more traffic than a forum, blog or social network in order to be successful as they depend on visitors using the chat room at the same time. If your site receives 1,000 visitors per day, that is less than 43 visitors per hour which equates to less than one visitor per minute. How long do you expect someone to sit in an empty chat room before they leave?
Of course, it is possible to have a successful chat room on your website even if your traffic levels are not particularly high. You can schedule chats at a certain time each day – that way your visitors are far more likely to see more than their own reflection when they log in. You can also spend time sitting in the chat room yourself – when a new visitor logs in, engage with them and have a conversation. Not only are you giving this visitor a great impression of your community, you are also holding them in the chat room, increasing the chances that another visitor will soon log in.
Do you have the time needed to support a chat room?
Chat rooms require a lot of work – not only in terms of promotion, but also in terms of moderation and ongoing support. You must have rules for your chat room – whilst forums may be able to get away with formalised rules for a certain period, with a chat room it is important for you to have clear rules and prominent safety guidelines from the outset. You need to determine in advance whether your chat room will be moderated, and who will do the moderating.
Arguments and abuse occur far more frequently in busy chat rooms – the fact the conversation is ‘live’ results in many people acting on impulse. The last thing you want is for your previously good natured community to be damaged by an abusive and unwelcoming chat room. You’ll also need to put in place an abuse reporting mechanism and ensure you (or a staff member) are available to investigate complaints of abuse or appeals against bans or ejections.
Chat rooms can add huge value to any website. They are fantastic at attracting, engaging and retaining members – but only if they are well moderated and popular. An empty chat room, like an empty forum, is a poor indicator of your commitment to your community. An abusive chat room can destroy your site’s reputation.
Before adding a chat room to your site, decide why you want one. Then ensure that the chat room is used, and has a positive atmosphere.
Have you introduced a chat room on your website? How successful has it been? Why did you decide to add online chat to your site? Has it benefited your community? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.