It can be really easy to get carried away on new developments for your community website, and often it is tempting to include more and more features for your community. Often features are introduced and are rarely used by the community which can be an unnecessary expense and waste of time for the administrator who installed the extra functions.
Whilst it is a good idea to ask members if they would like to see a specific feature, if you mention one in particular many will often say they would love to see it but then when it is introduced, rarely use it.
This is where it pays to always keep an eye on the competition. Finding competitors is not particularly hard to do. A search on Google for similar keywords to the ones you are targetting (you are targeting keywords, right?!?) will no doubt bring you plenty of results. When you have found a few competitor websites, take a look around. Consider the following:
- What seems to be the most popular sections of the site? Why?
- If there is an ideas / suggestions forum, what are people asking for?
- What do users seem to be least happy about (eg over-zealous moderators, a software bug etc)
- Admin announcements – what are your competitors planning on introducing in the future?
- What features do you personally like about the site? Does your site have these features?
Considering these three core areas will really help you to develop your own community. By no means am I saying you should go out and copy whatever a competitor is doing – if you do this you will not be offering anything unique to your own community.
What I am saying is that it always pays to check back at your competitors’ sites from time to time to see how their community is ticking along. What can often give one community the edge over another is how responsive they are to change – by keeping on top of your competitors you can ensure you are one step ahead of the game.