The internet is built on the premise that information is fluid and we are all interconnected in one way or another. Online communities are thriving because of this idea that we are social beings and as such, we need the human connection to survive. For many brands, building a community website not only provides them with a viable marketing vehicle but also allows them to reach out to their customers and understand how they can tweak their products and services.
As a business owner building community websites, you might be tempted to think of the ROI for such an endeavour. However, it’s important to note that at the heart of these types of websites is the desire to build relationships and interact with like-minded individuals. Thinking of your customer first and foremost when creating a community website can help propel your project to success. With that said, here are...
5 Features of a Successful Online Community Website
1. A strong plan
A successful free community website was built with an objective driving it. What is your purpose for building the community? Are you looking to recruit members or maintain customer loyalty? Do you want to use a community web page for market research? Is your community website intended for providing exclusive member benefits? Choose a goal to work towards and create content and site features that will help accomplish that goal.
2. Relevant content
With a community website builder such as Strikingly, you don’t have to worry about having to write or read code to build your own online community. This way, you can focus on creating relevant content to attract members. Writing quality content enables you to build your brand as a reliable information source in your niche.
Encouraging your members to contribute helpful information can also help with your content building and marketing strategy. User-generated content is even better for websites because it is created by real people for human consumption. However, with the proliferation of internet trolls and fake news, do be cautious about running due diligence on contributors as well as the accuracy of content that they are sharing.
3. Community input
Building a website out of community website templates is a great way to start but as your network grows, your website will also evolve. Listening to your members’ feedback and adding new features to your site that will improve the user experience. Add a message board or a section in your forum where members can offer ideas on how to make your community better.
The more the members of the community can voice out they opinions and share information with each other, the better. They say that team work makes the dream work, and by having a safe space in your community website to share ideas, the stronger the community will be.
4. Reputation management strategy
When you create a community website, you naturally have to attract individuals to join your network. However, for your site to succeed, you need to motivate members to interact and trust one another. A strong reputation strategy which recognizes members for their efforts at maintaining a strong network is highly recommended. Find out what matters to your members, the kind of environment they would thrive to make them stay in your online community. Include these things in your rules and regulations as well as in the activities governing your network. Incentivize high quality content contributors to encourage them to continue participating with great content.
Use a social media website builder to continue building your brand and reputation. Nowadays your online presence should be as wide as possible, and that includes updating your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. With Strikingly’s social media integration feature, you can keep your community posted regularly. Don’t forget to include email marketing as well, as some still actually prefer email as the primary mode of online communication.
5. Personalized platform
Strikingly gives you enough freedom to customize your online community websites and make them stand out. The ability to choose custom design elements enables you to build a community website that your members will feel comfortable in. For one, choosing beautiful templates will motivate you to build the best community websites.
Aside from engaging community website design, get your members to keep coming back to your website through curated content that is relevant to them. Build an online newsletter campaign and constantly update your members with new content as it comes in. By constantly letting the community know about the current events and future activities, the more engaged the members will be and the stronger the bond people will have within the community. Remember that community is all about shared interests, and having a personalized platform reinforces that idea.
How to Build a Community Website
- Create an account with Strikingly
Image taken from Strikingly’s website
Community building websites all have one core backbone: a reliable web builder. With Strikingly, you will be able to launch your website quickly and build a loyal following. You don’t even need to have any prior experience whatsoever in coding to build your own community website. All you have to do is input your name, email, and password to set up an account. You can also choose to sign up with your Facebook account to make the process even easier.
With Strikingly’s drag and drop technology, you have complete creative freedom in designing your community website. Make it your own and and let your web design speak all about your branding.
- Display events that are happening in the community
Image taken from Strikingly’s website
Outreaches, yoga classes, or meetings — all these types of activities create a strong coming together for people from all walks of life. They provide avenues for everyone to participate, volunteer, and be involved in the organizations efforts. The team at Strikingly knows how important events are to the community. That’s why using Strikingly’s process section will allow you to input the details of your community’s events seamlessly. Just click “Add New Section”, choose “Process”, and get right to adding your itinerary for the community.
- Build a simple store
Image taken from Strikingly’s website
Once you have gathered all your community’s information in your website, why not create new avenues for income for your community? The money can be used for the group’s activities and strengthen the community spirit. It can also be used to support other people and organizations for a good cause. With Strikingly’s simple store feature, site visitors and potential customers can checkout items hassle-free. To set your own store, go to your website editor, choose Store, and under Products tab you can start to add merchandise to your website. Don’t forget to state the shipping fees or taxes that will be included in your shop. Having a store is also a way to create local jobs and sustain the lives of people who do their best to serve the community.
Examples of the Best Community Websites
- Cornell University Class of 2016
Image taken from Cornell University Class of 2016’s website
This website is all about bringing together Cornell students from all around the campus to serve the surrounding communities. They deliver care card to elderly homes, read to local kindergarten students, and conduct campus-wide blood drives. Not to mention, this website also lets Cornell students reach out to each other and truly build a home away from home. The website’s design is pretty simple as well, yet straight to the point. The first thing you’ll notice is a picture of their school logo and consequently images of events that took place in the community.
- Providence Church
Image taken from Providence Church’s website
Perhaps nothing more screams of community than a church. The church is a place for people with the same religion to gather and deepen their faith. Providence church’s community website is a good example of creating a personalized platform for their constituents. The website also welcomes potential new church goers by providing details as to where the gatherings are. It also provides information about their religion, encouraging website visitors to come and take a look.
- The Photographic Voice
Image taken from The Photographic Voice’s website
This community website is the perfect place for budding and experienced photographers to express their works of art. The founders offer photography workshops for the people who want to express themselves through the use of pictures. By displaying curated photos in their website’s image gallery, potential clients will be able to see examples of the art that they can create. What’s great about this website is that they also made it easy for site visitors to contact them through other avenues by linking their social media accounts on the web page.
The most successful community websites employ techniques that center around providing value to members of the communities. While there are many community websites out there to draw inspiration from, it’s still best to try for yourself and design your own website. While you’re at it, don’t hesitate to ask the experts how to craft your very own community website. After all, there’s no harm in trying.