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Can You Avoid Adding Community Features to Your Website?

Jun 28, 2008
Research undertaken by Forrester shows that visitors to media websites are demanding community features. Whilst online communities should not simply be tacked onto existing websites for the sake of adding community features, it should be noted that every website can benefit from community elements if correctly implemented. Online communities need time and dedication of they are too succeed, but avoiding community features altogether could result in your site losing its competitive advantage.

Online community development is not easy, especially if you lack experience in this area. If you simply bolt on a forum but fail to actively promote and encourage interaction, it will fail. Remember that a failing online community can damage the reputation of you and your brand.

Of course, you may get lucky and find that your forum or other community feature is an immediate success as soon as you add it to your site. Such an occurrence would be a miracle, though. Indeed, even if your new community feature became a runaway success it is unlikely that it would be completely free of arguments or abuse without you taking an active interest and involvement in its development.

It takes a lot of effort to develop a successful online community. Blogs are a good starting point for those who do not have previous experience in developing online communities as you retain editorial control and are not relying on significant levels of user-generated content in order to be successful. At the same time, you can still generate a community feeling through the use of the blog commenting system.

If you decide not to add community features simply because you do not have the time or expertise, you will soon find your site falling behind the competition. There are a number of online resources dedicated to sharing knowledge and advice about online community development, and indeed there are even a number of books published on the subject.

A successful online community will see you developing relationships with your visitors and your brand. Not only this, but they make your site stickier. Online communities encourage site loyalty and make your site extremely difficult to imitate. Your site design and layout can easily be copied, but copying the personality and feel of an online community is nigh on impossible.

Communities bring you closer to your audience. You can learn from your audience, just as they can learn from you. Online communities enable you to better understand your visitors and respond to their needs.
Web surfers are no longer looking solely for information. They are after interaction, they want their voice to be heard, and they want to feel valued.

Online communities satisfy these wants and needs. By offering community features you will be securing the long term success of your website.
About the Author
Martin Reed is the developer and owner of a popular UK chat and community website. He also blogs about how to develop successful online communities.
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