Her session covered some of the aspects to think about when planning, building and maintaining an online community within a niche, based on her experience building a community on top of her existing ’stylish living’ blog. The following post is an overview of her session.
There are a number of questions to ask yourself when building a blog, such as:
- Why am I building my community?
- What will be on my community site?
- How will I build my community site?
The most important question to ask yourself is why you want to build a community site. “Everyone talks about a community site,” Kim says, “but it is a means, not a goal.” She adds that the reason she is developing an online community over her blog “is for growth. As a blogger it is harder to grow your traffic” now that there is more competition among bloggers, as well as with the massively increasing interest in social networking websites like Facebook.
Go beyond the blog, she says. Having a community allows you to structure content and filter information. A blog is just text, while a community is interactive. She compares a blog to a toilet paper roll, in that your blog posts are rolled out and eventually vanish. There is something missing in the blog structure: a content-rich community is stronger and also opens doors, allowing you to deliver content in a way in which revenue can be generated.
Community sites allow those in a niche to have a “fighting chance” and provide value to advertisers, but you must go beyond banner ads and develops ways of delivering advertising in a way that provides value to the community and to advertisers. It is key that advertising fits within the culture of the brand.
Some features to consider when building a community include member profiles (with features to encourage interaction, such as a feed on what has been happening in the community, who you’re friends are, etc), comment ratings (thumbs up, thumbs down, 5 stars, etc), a “like” button on user generated content (a la Facebook) and contextual push information (like the ’suggestions area’ on the Facebook interface).
A community should be self-engaging (such as in the way that the Craigslist community is self-moderated), which will allow you to operate your community with less employees, lower cost and will allow the community to be what your members want it to be.
When you ask yourself what should be on your community site, play on your strength, analyze what is popular and expand on what works. Concentrate on differentiation, enhanced content and tools for readers.
When considering how you’ll build your community site, consider BuddyPress, which is a free, open-source WordPress-based online community software solution. Make sure that you have good programmers and a good budget. You need a strong infrastructure to be successful.
Finally, think about what’s coming in the future. Innovations and behaviour changes are always taking place – you need to experiment to see what works and to keep up with the trends.