City University’s annual XCity Magazine which is distributed to City Alumni, this year enhanced their online community through interactive features on the website. This included awards that meant the reader became a part of the magazine as they got involved through voting and online conversation. They were very successful in doing this and building on a readership that has been growing for decades.
However, what happens when you try and build an online community without any previous readership established?
This is the challenge a group of us faced recently when we set out to start a new East London area magazine called EastBound.
In this case, before we could even make our site interactive we had to establish an audience and then from this a community. When starting an online community from scratch there has to be a reason for your target reader to visit your site.
Sure- polls, competitions, comments, guest blogs and lively discussion is the ideal but before you can get that going you need people visiting your site in the first place.
What EastBound taught us:
– Establish a need. There needs to be a reason that a user is going to visit the website or blog. In EastBound’s case aswell as having features that would interest our reader we put up event listings that they would need. By making the website a place to refer to for directions and what is going on each night in East London we drew in users.
– Entertain and sustain. Keep the user’s interested with features, interviews etc that they want to read so they spend longer on your site.
– Visuals are important– users aren’t going to stick around and interact if the site is dull to look at regardless of how good the content is. Use pictures, logos and colour to create a distinctive style that they can then on associate (positively) with it.
– Encourage interaction and interact yourself– once you have established an audience make them into a community through polls, surveys, posts that encourage comment and comps. To start the ball rolling, start making conversation yourself. Make sure that you reply to any tweets or comments.
– Use twitter, facebook and other social platform media to reach out to new users and keep contact with current members of the community. Asking questions about topical issues guarantees a response.
In simple terms- make it as easy as possible to be interactive.