Online Communities are networking hubs and in essence need to fulfill the basic needs of social networking, as it would be in the real world. Here are 5 features that are key to a community’s success. And although the list of features desired is endless but the bunch here is generally critical for almost all types of communities.
Online, people get to know each other through their profiles. Therefore, it is important to allow a user to create rich profiles – where they can let the world know what they are all about. Pictures, avatars, free forms – all need to be available to the user.
2. Private Messaging
Communities are networking hubs first and everything else second. And since not all conversations can be public, it’s good to provide private messaging feature.
3. News Feed/Notification
Make it easy for members to see what happened while they were away. Provide alerts and notifications for conversations of interest to users. Notifications also allow members to engage and continue the discussion.
4. Reward Points & Recognition
Studies reveal that communities that have some kind of reward feature wrapped in have 70% greater chance of being successful. Visitor usage statistics, leaderboards etc. all serve as engagement boosters.
Users come to communities to meet and converse with like-minded people – you just need to ensure that they meet their type of people as soon as possible. Categorizing discussions into Groups and providing robust search functionality go a long in way in converting curious seekers to committed members.
Provide the basics and continue adding interesting features to keep your users engaged. Do remember that you don’t need the entire swanky set of features your CMS has to offer, instead pick the ones most useful to your audience and keep the conversations rolling.