12 features of a successful online community
Your online community has the potential to drive sales, build trust, improve loyalty, and reduce service costs. However, the heart of a community is not profit; community is all about relationships and interaction. So instead of starting with a business strategy, we recommend that you start with your customer in mind. No matter how great your features and functionality are, if you don’t build your community from a customer-centric point of view, you’ll be left with a virtual ghost town.
To create a thriving online community, start by exploring these twelve features to harness the enthusiasm of your customers and build strong connections.
1. Activated brand advocates
Successful online communities encourage, honor, and showcase their superusers. When you empower your most passionate community members, they will develop into brand advocates, who often contribute the majority of content while also actively assisting other customers.
Brand advocates are also more likely to recommend that brand to others. Not only does this increase brand awareness, but it also directly impacts revenue because people inherently trust the reviews of other individuals more than a brand’s advertisements. According to Forrester, 70% of US online adults trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family, and 46% trust consumer-written online reviews.
2. Relevant user-generated content
Smart brands understand the value of creating an environment that encourages users to produce useful and authentic content. User-generated content (UGC) increases engagement between community members, which ultimately strengthens a community's bonds and perceived value.
Communities with relevant UGC often have a significant number of members and are continually growing. Because it’s written by real people for real people, UGC is more likely to be trusted and shared, helping the community grow.
3. Mobile responsiveness
Over 50% of people worldwide access the internet from mobile devices or tablets. In the past, websites were designed with only desktop functionality and user experience in mind. However, with the growth of mobile users, it’s become imperative to design websites that are responsive to all design types.
This goes for online communities. For your online community experience to be rewarding to all users, it must be mobile-responsive. The most successful online communities offer a seamless experience for all users.
4. Crowdsourced ideas
Successful online communities use their platform to crowdsource ideas from their most invested customers. Brands can use these collaborative ideations to improve their product or gauge interest for new projects.
If you want to collect ideas for product innovation and feedback from your best customers, enable features in your community that allow customers to submit ideas, vote, and add comments.
Learn more about why feedback is so crucial for online community success here.
5. Tracking user behavior
The most impactful online communities use data for their advantage. With analytics tools you can easily keep an eye on your potential or existing customers’ interests, any shift in their sentiment, or topics they are searching for, allowing you to create relevant content or adapt to changing customer attitudes. Through tracking features, you can also analyze which users are more likely to participate in discussions and answer questions, and thank them with personalized responses from your customer care team.
6. Robust reputation system
Attracting individuals to your community is only one piece of the puzzle. For your community to succeed, you must have a way to motivate users and empower them to get to know and trust one another. This can be done through a robust reputation system.
A reputation system is a structure that recognizes users for their participation in order to build trust. A reputation system works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to recognize users for their participation. You decide (often with input from your members) what activities matter most in the community, and you write those activities into the rules that govern the assignment of ranks. Recognizing high-quality contributors or superusers provides an incentive for them to participate more and helps users identify quality content.
Online communities offer the most value to businesses when they fully integrate with existing systems. This will allow your brand to provide better customer service to community members and collect essential data.
Ensure a seamless experience across all support channels by integrating your online community with existing support processes. Be sure to tie in your CRM system as well, so that unanswered questions are auto-escalated into direct support channels.
Inspire and cultivate your community by giving members a curated feed that shows content that is relevant to them, motivating them to contribute more. Communities that have personalization features are better able to treat community members as individuals.
Personalized experiences are important for community members; 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. Personalization can be great for the bottom line, too, as it can increase the efficiency of marketing spend by up to 30% and sales by up to 8%.
9. Engaging content
Visually appealing communities drive more traffic. Give control to your customers to add photos and videos to their galleries and in their posts. Community members use images and videos to engage with other members and your brand, answer questions, and leave reviews. The traffic that image and video content drives serves to increase community and size.
10. Searchable repository
Successful communities have a wealth of content and are constantly generating more. Because of this, content eventually gets buried or difficult to find. However, this doesn’t mean that this content isn’t valuable. To make sure that even old content lives up to its potential, online communities should feature a searchable repository. A knowledge base or repository allows your customers to easily find tips, answers, and advice shared in your community.
Gamification is the application of game-playing elements to another area of activity. Outside of actual games, online brand communities were one of the first places where gamification emerged. In modern communities, the ideas and practices that drive gamification have matured to align more with a sophisticated member journey concept where the key role of the user experience designer is to match extrinsic rewards with intrinsic motivation.
Gamification encourages customers and employees to enthusiastically share with each other more frequently. Automate gaming mechanics for everyday actions, like awarding badges the first time an online community member posts, replies to a post, or gives kudos on another member’s post.
Want to learn more about gamification? See our blog post, What is gamification in 2020?
12. Performance measurement
It’s essential to be able to measure the health of communities and take action to keep them at their best. Focus attention on metrics that matter most with features that measure these six health factors: traffic, content, members, liveliness, interaction, and responsiveness.
Learn more about which metrics to track and interpret to best get a pulse of your community and customer service performance on our Digital Customer Care Playbook.
Khoros helps create successful online communities
Khoros Communities help brands connect with their customers to grow existing relationships and build new ones. With this industry-leading software, you’ll get a branded, interactive platform where customers can ask questions, share ideas, solve problems, and get their problems solved. You’ll also get access to world-class analytics that can help you evaluate performance and stay on top of changing attitudes and trends.
See how Khoros Communities helped Qlik grow their online community by 70% and Schneider Electric achieve a 90% customer inquiry solution rate. Or if you’re ready to take the next step, get a free demo.