As I’ve mentioned before, I am currently working on a personal website project. While I am not ready to share any real specific information about the project, I do want to discuss the basic premise of the project which is to create an online community for a specific niche that I am passionate about. I’ve been doing some research on online communities and thought that it would be a great topic for a blog post. In addition to sharing my thoughts on this topic, I’d really love to hear your feedback and thoughts related to online communities. Anyway, as you can see by the title of this post I’d like to discuss the elements or components that play a key role in creating successful online community websites.
Components of Successful Online Communities
- A Shared Vision
- Active Leader/Management
- Multiple Channels of Communication
- Website Usability and Accessibility
- User/Member Profiles
A Shared Vision
As with any website, an online community needs to have a vision or mission. This vision needs to be shared amongst the sites target audience. What is the purpose of the online community? What are the problems the website is trying to solve for its audience? What are the ultimate goals and objectives of the website? How does or can the online community fulfill the needs of its audience? In order for the website to be successful, the target audience will need to believe in the mission and vision of the community and see the website as a valuable resource.
A strong vision will only get you so far. Another key component is that the online community needs to have an active leader and/or management. An online community is really a tribe of people that share a similar interest. Every tribe that I am aware of has a leader. The tribe leader holds the community together and helps it to progress forward in order to achieve a shared goal or vision. If an online community is missing an active leader or management, the community will fall apart.
Multiple Channels of Communication
Communication is one of the most important aspects of an online community. Afterall, without communication, you don’t really have a functional community. Not all members of a community will have the same preferences when it comes to specific methods of communication. From social media to RSS feeds and email, there are many channels of communication online. In order to appeal to and engage the audience, it is important to include a variety of communication channels such as opt-in email lists, forums, RSS feeds, and social media. This will help to ensure that the audience has a convenient way to stay connected.
Website Usability and Accessibility
While the design of the online community website may not be the most important element, I do believe that design plays a key role in the success of an online community. Having a solid, professional design will improve the brand image and perception that the audience has of the specific community. Additionally, good design means creating a site that focuses on usability and accessibility. Focusing on these key design issues will help to ensure that the website is inviting and that the audience has a good experience when visiting the online community.
When it comes to creating a community, member profiles are important. To build a solid community not only do the members of that community need to trust the leader, they also have to trust each other. User profiles can play a key role in building trust within a community. It’s been my experience that while participating in online communities, I usually learn just as much from the comments of members as I do by reading the main content or posts. I also often find myself reading the comments or postings from members whose names I know and those who’ve added value to the community over time.
What Are Your Thoughts?
These are just five of the elements that I believe play a key role in whether or not an online community will be successful. I know that I have missed several. So, I would love to hear your thoughts.
From your experience or perspective, what are the key elements to creating a successful online community?