User forums. Message boards. They're all part of the public's fascination with websites that facilitate and encourage visitor interaction.

Sites that feature online community resources benefit from user-generated content, repeat visitors and higher search engine visibility.

Although online communities aren't right for every business website, we think it's a good idea to at least consider whether an online community or user-generated content mechanism could play a role in your company's online marketing strategy. If the answer is "yes", Walker Sands will drive the creation of the proper web design and site architecture, and work with you to ensure a strong community launch.

Tips for Creating Online Communities

If you intend to create an online community for your business website, here are a few tips from the experts at our Chicago web design team:

  • Offer value. Simply presenting site visitors with an online community option won't deliver the results you hope to achieve. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are in a league of their own when it comes to general online community activities. So to entice participants, you'll need to create value by focusing your community on a niche or subsection of the overall online user base.
  • Convert subscribers. Many businesses already have a pool of potential online community participants. Mailing lists and online subscription databases are fertile ground for member recruitment. Although converting subscribers into community members isn't as easy as sending out a blanket email, Walker Sands can help your businesses devise a strategy to transition passive subscribers into active online community participants.
  • Seed before launch. Since no one wants to join an empty online community, you'll need to seed your community with members prior to the official launch. By targeting invitations to people who have already engaged with your site content through comments and other mechanisms, you may be able to generate enough activity to make your community attractive to new members from the outset.
  • Invite participation through action. Mechanisms that feed members into the site shouldn't simply invite people to join the community. For maximum impact, they should invite visitors to engage in specific activities within the community (e.g. topical discussions, polls, etc.). The idea is to encourage participation by giving prospective members something to do once they cross the threshold into the community.

Walker Sands is a leading Chicago online marketing firm. Contact our team to learn how we can help you create user-generated content by adding an online community to your website.