What is your online community’s added value?

by Martin Reed on 15 February 2008 in Articles

The value of your online community

Making a success of a brand new online community is hard work, not least because you are highly likely to be competing against a number of other sites that are already established. The challenge you face is how to attract people to your site when there are others out there that already cater to the needs and wants of your target audience.

Your online community needs added value

Your online community needs to be different. The best way of being different is to add value to your site that your competitors are unable to match. This ensures your community is different in a positive way; after all, you could make your site different by making it impossible to navigate but this would hardly be a good strategy!

By thinking how you can make your community different in a positive way, you will be thinking of ways to add value to your website. By adding value, you are making your site more attractive to new visitors, which will make them far more likely to register and become members. If your site’s added value is truly useful and of interest, it will also help retain your current members.

Ideas for adding value to your online community

I previously wrote an article about how you can use articles to attract forum traffic. Articles are a fantastic way of adding value to your site, and what makes them even more attractive is the fact that hardly any forum websites adopt this strategy. This means that by publishing quality articles related to the subject of your community on a regular basis, you are immediately different from your competition.

Being responsive to your members is another way you can add value to your community. You may choose to offer members additional features that other communities do not offer – just be careful not to overdo it and end up making your site confusing and difficult to use! Do some research as to what additional features you could offer your community. Ask your members if there is anything they want to see or be able to do.

You can also add value to your site through your community’s personality. By developing a personality, your site instantly gains character which makes it stand out from the crowd. Developing a community personality is not particularly difficult – you simply take the lead by posting in the style of the personality you want your community to adopt, and soon your members will follow. Just make sure you pick the right personality from the start as it can be extremely difficult to change the character of your community once a personality has been established.

What is your community’s added value?

What does your online community offer that your competition doesn’t? What have you done to add value to your community? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.

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Yogesh February 15, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Martin you are absolutely right, one has to offer some thing unique and appealing to people, else they wouldn’t bother to come back to your community, especially with so many large and successful forums around.

Smiley February 16, 2008 at 8:10 pm

“it can be extremely difficult to change the character of your community once a personality has been established.”

Very true. I’ve been trying to set a better example lately, luckily the site’s still young enough for me to adopt a better personality, still gaining new regulars etc.

My old style of banter was fine for a tiny site when we only had half a dozen regulars or something lol, but now we’re getting new visitors all the time I don’t really want them entering the chat to see animal porn or overly-gay banter for example !!

As for value, I really don’t know what there is to offer. I’ve customized the forums as much as possible, they certainly don’t look like your ordinary run of the mill phpBB boards, that’s for sure.

Also I really, really play on the ‘friendly chat’ title, and actually successfully discouraged the use of ‘asl’

I think you’ve noticed my “new user advice” section on how to chat;

This is the kind of thing I try to do, playing on the title of the site. Basically playing on the fact everyone thinks chat rooms are full of perverts.. to be successful, simply be overly-public about being against them, that’s the angle I’ve gone for.

Smiley February 16, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Which reminds me, one thing I’m still missing is profiles. I’ve searched high and low and can’t find just a simple, small profiles script. They’re all huge full-blown dating scripts which I don’t care for.

Did you have yours custom made?

RooYo February 17, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Very true. I’ve been trying to set a better example lately, luckily the site’s still young enough for me to adopt a better personality, still gaining new regulars etc.

Hirsutism February 18, 2008 at 3:56 am

Thanks for giving us guidance on adding value to our community. This post has turned out very helpful for me. I did not know about articles previously but now I shall use them in my community.

Online Furniture Store February 19, 2008 at 6:29 am

Those are good ideas to add value, because value and uniqueness are what will make people keep returning.

Eva White February 19, 2008 at 8:05 am

I have just newly started a blog, and I will always keep all the above points in mind while building my online community.

Chat February 19, 2008 at 8:16 am

I think my communities added value is some features that are different from many other sites. My only problem is getting users to discover these features buried deep within my site.

Nicole Price February 19, 2008 at 11:16 am

You always offer invaluable advice Martin. Even though the tips may sound obvious or common sense, very few people actually implement them, and those that do surely see the benefits.

Dennis Fister February 19, 2008 at 8:32 pm

For developers, customizations and additions are definitely a good way to go. I’ve got a PhpBB board that I’ve mod’ed quite a bit and it draws lots of people. It’s the little things that are going to make people choose your community over another one that is very similar.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 20, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Yogesh – Exactly. The fact there are so many large, established forums out there means you have to offer something extra to stand out from the crowd.

Smiley – Yes, you are in the fortunate position of having a young community so you are still able to influence its personality. The epals script I use is an off-the-shelf dating script – I just removed most of the dating features!

RooYoo – Glad to hear it! Keep up the hard work, and good luck!

Hirsutism – Good luck with the articles. I am confident that you will find them useful – just make sure they are of a good quality and relevant to your audience. Let me know how you get on.

Reena – You’re right. Additional value will encourage visitors to return and help create loyalty.

Eva – Congratulations on your new blog. Keep me updated with its progress, and good luck!

Cody – You have features buried deep within your site? Why?!? Get those features out in the open – show them to your visitors, make them obvious and encourage people to use them. If the features are hidden away, they might as well not be there.

Nicole – Aww, thanks! You’re making me blush ;)

Dennis – Customisation and additional features can add real value to a website; just as long as those customisations and features are useful and relevant to your site and its audience!

Easton Ellsworth February 20, 2008 at 10:23 pm

I have a feeling this blog is gonna make it big, Martin. It has all the marks. Feel free to blush again man!

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 22, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Easton – Thanks so much for your comment; I hope this blog makes it big, too! Let me know when your book comes out – I would love to pick up a copy.

remove tattoos February 23, 2008 at 11:20 am

This post has turned out very helpful for me. The tips may sound obvious or common sense, very few people actually implement them. Thanks for this nice post.

Smiley February 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm

May I ask where you got the script and how much it cost?

I can have one custom made for £200 I was told by rentacoder.com

I just want one where members can post a profile and send each other a message. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Perhaps a personal guestbook/comments feature and a friends list but not essential.

Nicole Price February 26, 2008 at 9:51 am

You are most welcome, Martin.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 27, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Remove – I am glad you enjoyed the article, thanks for your comment.

Smiley – I used software from eMeeting for our epals section.

Smiley February 27, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Thanks, will take a gander.

Ohhh – A1 chat rooms use it. Wonder why I never came across it. I’ve been googling “profile script” for months! LOL

Smiley February 27, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Looks too big for what I’m after. Has in-built chat rooms and everything! D’oh

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 28, 2008 at 2:09 am

Smiley – It took me a long period of searching to find that one, and I stripped off most of the features such as chat and the integrated proprietary message boards. Way back in the past I used MojoPersonals, but it took a hell of a lot of customising.

Smiley February 28, 2008 at 4:02 am

Interesting script though that eMeeting, looks like A1 runs completely off that script. To say they’re one of the oldest, biggest chat sites………. it said users in chat (0). (Probably due to the fact that people don’t like to register just to chat!)
I think it’s best used in the way you’ve used it. Optional profile that adds to the site, rather than BEING the site its self.

I’ve been looking at; http://www.boonex.com/products/dolphin/ for quite a while. Looks interesting.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Smiley – Yes, I believe a1chat-rooms.com runs completely from that script. They definitely moved their emphasis away from chat rooms and more into a social network a good few years ago.

I have looked at Dolphin too, and would advise you to do your research. I have heard good and bad things, with the bad being talk of inefficient, bloated and sometimes buggy code and poor support. On the flip side, it is of course free and open source.

dan May 10, 2008 at 12:06 am

Another great article with an idea that’s surprisingly often not mentioned – we do the forums not for ourselves, but for the visitors (of course we DO it for ourselves, too, but that has to be secondary…). When I’m involved in a forum startup, since some time I always proceed only when we’re able to answer the question: What’s In It For The People? Ie, why should they donate us their time and typing energy, what is it that they get in return? We have to think of our visitors indeed very “selfishly”

re: “it can be extremely difficult to change the character of your community once a personality has been established.” – I see it a bit more complex… From my experience, the character of the community evolves, especially with the community size. THere’s something about increased visitor / member counts that shifts the atmosphere and personality, at least as I’ve witnessed… I’ve seen quite a few times members disappointed because the personality changed – perhaps not much, but as people come and go (and mostly come than go), they bring their own “personalities” and it’s only that much that a moderator/admin can influence.. It’s one of the most fascinating elements for me on the forums to observe how their personalities evolve..

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 12, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Dan – Yes, I agree that communities do change and evolve over time – this is a natural progression. However, it is extremely difficult to influence the character and behaviour of your community once it has a firmly established personality. As your community develops, you will become far less of an influencer – that is why it’s important to get these things right early on.

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