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.

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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 site can help propel your project to success. With that said, here are the 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.

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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.

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.

5. Personalized platform

Strikingly gives you enough freedom to customize your online community website and make it stand out. The ability to choose custom design elements enables you to create a website that your members will feel comfortable in.

Aside from engaging design elements, 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.