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      12 Must Have Features in Your Online Community

      Mar 28, 2014

      6 minutes read

      Your customers love a community and you have planned to build one for your organization. Most likely, by now you have:

      • Chosen the target audience
      • Decided the community type
      • Shortlisted the platform
      • Identified the resources to build the community
      • Decided the business goals

      Almost everything is ready for kickoff.

      However, have you zeroed down on the coolest features? There are so many communities in the virtual world clamoring for your audience’s attention. Features like discussion forums, articles, and basic Q/A capability are included in all the community plans. You need to go beyond the basics!

      Features

      Rich User Profiles with Social Integration

      With communities, people want incredible value, comfort while interacting with other members, and high level of customization. They want profiles that will display them as industry experts and build personal brands. A great way to achieve these is a rich user profiles integrated with social media. An improvement over the rich user profiles is something known as a SSO or single sign on. With just a single instance for logging in you save user’s time, effort and by tracking the community habits offer better user experience.

      A sample rich user profile should include these details:

      rich user profile

      • Full Name
      • Social Profile
      • Photograph
      • Company Name
      • Designation
      • Email
      • Phone Number
      • Birth Date
      • Gender
      • Interest areas

      Responsive Design

      responsive design

      A great-to-add feature would be enabling your customers to read, search, and contribute to your community from any device they are able to access. Mobile and tablet users access social networking sites and online communities 26% of the time. On a typical day, people use their mobiles during the commute, desktops/laptops during the workday, and tablets/mobiles at night. With such cross device usage, you have to make sure your community works perfectly on each platform to deliver a smooth and engaging user experience.

      Mobile Apps

      mobile apps

      72% of consumers have a more favorable view of the company if they provide a customer service mobile app. With an app for your online support community, you can help your customers access your support community for support and advice, 24/7. To enrich user experience figure out apps that your target audience needs and wants.

      Gamification

      gamification

      Gamification taps into basic human psychology to motivate users to contribute, share, and be active. When your users come to the community, they need motivation to participate. Additionally, gamification satisfies the “what’s in for me” urge by rewarding participation, boosting user visibility, and driving conversations with rewards/freebies/badges/status upgrades and more.

      Content Resources

      Your users come back repeatedly when they see the value your content is providing. Traditionally content is thought of as only articles, how to videos and some Q/A. For a truly engaging community, you should look at content in the form of:

      content
      • Post Tags/Labels
      • Customer Engagement Videos
      • Customer Interviews
      • Social Media Feeds
      • Community Newsletter
      • Case Studies
      • White Papers
      • eBooks
      • User Activity Streams/Tickr
      • Community Blog
      • Similar Discussions
      • Media Libraries

      User Groups

      user groups

      Segment customers or members to improve collaboration and provide a better customer experience. You need to provide the ability to create private, semi-private and public forums that the users can create according to their convenience. These are virtual hangouts for people to share new ideas, best practices, start discussions, and locate experts in their niche.

      Water-cooler

      water cooler

      Think of it as a virtual water cooler. It functions exactly like the water cooler you have in your office. Strong relationships are key. Off-topic discussions, discussions around a wide range of non-business subjects provide an opportunity to users to relax and get to know their peers.

      Full text search

      full text search

      Your target audience is busy. With full text search, facilitate right information from their computers or mobile devices. It gives them a wide array of results to dive in deeper and get best answers.

      Email Notifications

      email notifications

      People are notified by e-mail (not through the platform!) when their discussion has received a response. They visit, read the response and reply. The individuals that replied are notified and visit to reply and so the cycle continues. Visiting the platform soon becomes a habit.Notifications also speed up the community. Most people instantly click on the notification to see the response. In that visit, they make their own response. The quicker pace equals more posts and an active community.

      Event Calendar

      events

      Events are a great way to get traction to your community and increase engagement and attendance at in-person and virtual events – from a webinar series to multi-day conferences. Make sure you have included one that allows participants to add events and customize “who can attend”. Additionally, in advanced cases you can also manage event registration, conference-related communication, and session submissions.

      Private IMs and Member Directory

      private IM

      Peer to peer engagement is a building block for higher-level frequent activity in a group. One way to expedite peer-to-peer engagement is by enabling private IMs. Enable community members to follow the activity streams of other members and build personal networks.Another need-to-have feature is a member directory. It enables customers or members to find each other while controlling access to sensitive customer information. With a robust and often-updated member directory, it becomes easier for the members to form groups, discussion lists, and email lists and makes way for deeper and more focused conversations with the relevant users.

      Security

      Security concept: Lock on digital screen

      Security should start right from the sign on capabilities to the content the users can access, people they can connect with, events they can attend, modules they can access, edit or even manage. Within security, you should have robust and well-defined privacy options, safety guidelines that are prominent and easy to understand, options to block notifications and more.

      Advanced Custom Reports

      reports

      Allow capabilities to track which topics are driving conversations, most popular, most shared, and most commented. You should also track which type of notification receive instant response and drive follow-up action. Other things to track are how people like to access content, which gamification options are working and more. Analytics gives employees and management a top-down view of trends, usage, and specific customer data.

      Finally

      Communities are the buzzword right now. People want communities that provide value, gives them a forum to connect with likeminded individuals. Features make this happen. Think about it like this, you love the new smartphone because it lets you do so many things with its cool features. There is little change in the hardware or the software, but you still love it. Doesn’t a community function in the same way?

      About Grazitti’s Community Services

      At Grazitti, we have expertise in multiple community platforms, community planning, building, executing and managing to set up robust communities from scratch. We have built communities for Marketo, Lancope, Alteryx, M2M and more. To know more about building your business community, Contact Us Now!