As I have said before, the biggest challenge for any online community is in attracting and retaining new members. Without members, you have no community. You need to work exceptionally hard to convince each and every visitor that your community is right for them. You need to convince them to register, you need to convince them to post, and you need to convince them to stay.
Repeat visitors are your life blood
If you are noticing that the majority of your users are first time-visitors, then you may be doing something wrong. A successful community will have a large number of repeat visitors – people that know about your site and wish to return on a regular basis. If people are visiting and not returning, you need to turn things around if you want your community to succeed.
Always consider repeat visitors the foundation of your community. Once you have a good number of repeat visitors, you have something to build on – you can continue to work on attracting new members, now confident that you have a community people want to return to time and time again.
Your site may be receiving hundreds of first-time visitors right now, so you may not be worrying about your appalling repeat visitor statistics. What would happen if the source of that traffic disappeared overnight, though? What would happen if your site dropped in the Google search rankings? What would happen if that large site that links to you stops doing so? Repeat visitors can get you through times like these – without them your community risks dying overnight.
How to retain your members
The key to retaining your members is pretty basic – satisfy their wants and needs, and keep them happy.
Ensure you site is accessible and easy to use. Stand out from the crowd. Listen to feedback, and act on it. Create content for your visitors to consume, and instil a real sense of community amongst your members.
If your members are happy and satisfied, they will return. If your members feel valued, they will return. If visitors are confused by your site, they won’t be back. If visitors see no new content on your site, they won’t be back.
Put yourself in the shoes of your visitors. Would you want to return to your site? Always think from the perspective of your members – if they are happy, you will be too.