What is the best strategy for building a community around your website/blog? Forums have been, for a long time, the primary tool for building a community on a website. The downside here was that you needed considerable traffic (or heavy marketing) to get the forum going â€“ nothing kills a forum more than a lack of participation. Message boards and IRC chat rooms provide a tenuous alternative (as do discussions in the comments section of a blog), and leave something to be desired for, especially on websites that are not popular enough to support their own forums.
Interactivity on most blogs is limited to comment conversations (read Chris’s views on tracking comments). Itâ€™s easy to say that this is sufficient, but is there any real need for a better solution? The questions Iâ€™m trying to ask here are:
- What can we do to improve the stickiness of a blog?
- Which tools are most effective in community building â€“ especially for those blogs that do not (currently) enjoy the sort of attention Performancing or SEOBook does (in other words, 95% of the blogs out there)?
For my part, Iâ€™ll talk about group chat solutions. Hopefully other readers can shed light on what Iâ€™ve missed and on other techniques as well.
Group chat services such as Campfire and Tangler (read TechCrunchâ€™s review on Tangler) are more suited to project based collaboration, event-specific conversations, Q&A sessions (Andy, do you think you could do one on link-building anytime soon?) and personal chats. Like instant messaging, group chat works best when the connections between people are personal – it would be more natural for the moderators of a forum to communicate via Campfire rather than a bunch of strangers who drop by my blog for the first time.
The real benefit of placing a group chat solution on your blog / website is that it can be equated to your blog having a chat-room, which in turn encourages readers to interact and discuss posts as well present their own comments.
Secondly, without allowing chat transcripts to be indexed, there will be little search engine value for such a solution. For a contrast, consider how useful forums are for building search engine rankings. Forums offer a phenomenal gateway into producing tons of fresh, useful content on your website in a short period of time. In return, forum posters get recognition and a chance to build their reputation (yes, some of us do it for the sake of helping others, but that is a small minority).
In the end, a major part of community building comes from giving your blog readers a chance to ask questions and interact with other readers. Group chat achieves that splendidly.
What do you think?