Online communities should be fun, vibrant and personal - just like the other sites your members know and love. Focus on these 3 aspects to deliver the experience your users deserve.
Despite the fact that there are 644 million websites on the internet, we spend about 50% of our time online at the same 5 sites every day. For many of us, that website is Facebook.
People are passionate and picky when it comes to their platforms. Some of the most extreme (and humorous) examples are the backlashes Facebook faced when rolling out new layouts in the late 2000s. Who could forget how weary everyone was when the now-familiar Timeline steamrolled over their classic Wall profile interface?
Think about how you behave online. What platforms do you use and value the most? Why?
Like your members, you consciously and subconsciously sift through seemingly infinite amounts of content online everyday. If you're wondering why your association's community is empty or stagnating, compare it to the popular platforms that you and your users love. There should not be a double standard between the two. So to gain perspective on your association users preferences, we ask, what does Facebook as a platform do right that your association community is falling short on?
1. Easy on the eyes (and the brain)
Consumer-grade design and usability should be at the top of every community platform's list. Your members are accustomed to sleek, modern design everywhere they turn. If your online community has a design that is engaging, comfortable to consume information on, and filled with imagery, it's going to come across as a more advanced, valuable digital environment. While there are many different strategies to do this the right way, members certainly are not going to be eager to dive into an overwhelmingly black and white, clunky forum.
2. Constant stream of new, interesting content
Engagement should be defined by frequency. If you want to encourage habit-forming behaviors and establish yourself as a go-to source for content, you need to set the expectation that every time your user comes back, there is something new waiting to be discovered. You need to ensure that you have a steady stream of both original and curated content. This doesn't mean that the pressure is on for you to write dozens of blogs a week or obsess over bringing in user-generated content. Steady volume of content can be achieved with automating your curation process in a platform that comes loaded with RSS and automation features. This makes your job easier and your members' experience better.
3. Personalized to users' passions
People feel so at home on Facebook. Why? It is full of all the people they know and content they love. In addition to opting in and following certain people and pages, Facebook's news feed is able to curate content most suited for you based on your browsing behaviors. In addition to a steady stream of content mentioned above, you need to be sure that your community experience is catered to your users' personal interests. In 2016, a platform lacking the ability to customize member feeds with algorithms and user customization is simply not going to survive. Any time your member logs into your association community, their digital fingerprints should be written all over it.
We're always asking ourselves how our members are behaving online. While this is crucial to understand, it helps to take a look in the mirror and consider what our own expectations are for an awesome, engaging online experience.
Motivations and focus of content vary for each and every one of us, but in this day and age, there are just some digital standards and best practices that we have all come to expect. Your association's online community is no exception.