How to Build Online Communities With Joomla?
What is an Online Community?
For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to make the following definition:
A group that communicates online to fulfill a need
The naturally poses the question for you, the site creator, “what needs are you trying to fulfill with your site?”
I am sure that there might be more, but I am going to define 3 basic needs that could be fulfilled through an online community.
You’ll often see that recognition is sometimes quoted as a reason why people participate in an online community, but for now I would argue that is a subset of the broader need of emotional.
Very often, you’ll find that more than one need is at play, but to illustrate these three, here are some example sites where I think a single need is being addressed.
A support site for families with daughters that have a rare genetic disorder called Aicardi syndrome. One of our staff’s daughter has the disorder.
A free encyclopedia built collaboratively using Wiki software. Also emotional as the community is in the people that build the site, not in those that read it.
Community forum for Joomla website help.
Forum devoted to Internet marketing, search engine placement and optimization, plus affiliate programs advice and support.
An online course to create membership sites. Note, this is in economical rather than informational because the driving need of members is to generate revenue from their sites.
Popular blog about motherhood. The community is in the conversation in the blog comments between mothers.
- World of Warcraft
An example of an online community that isn’t a website. At over 6 million subscribers, Blizzard is appealing to some key emotional needs!
Its certainly debatable which category I have placed some of these, they are for example only. The key part is that your website is going to have people that visit, and people that participate. You need to figure out the lever needed to shift people from the first group into the latter. Let’s examine some important steps in that process… but first… an important note…..
I am going to start talking about marketing.
This might turn some people off, it may even annoy some people when I talk about non-profit sites for genetic disorders and marketing in the same sentence. Marketing is evil isn’t it?
No, its not. You need to be a marketer and here is why.
The web is a insanely crowded place and if you have a site, you need to get people to come to it. You might have an ad-free site, packed with critical information that you want to share. But there is not point going to all the effort if you can’t connect to the people you want to read it. On the web, everyone is in the marketing business.
I am going to borrow some definitions from Seth Godin. In his book Permission marketing he explains that your website needs to:
- Turn strangers into friends…
- Turn friends into customers…
- Turn customers into salespeople…
For our purposes:
- Strangers are site visitors, lurkers and readers
- Friends are members, participants and content contributors
- Salespeople are Sneezers, those that will spread the word about your site
Its possible to break down each of the steps above to a key part in the life cycle of a visitor.
|Turn strangers into friends||Turning friends into customers||Turning customers into salespeople|
|This is about getting the traffic to your site. It includes strategies such as SEO and advertising||This is about conversion. having a defined plan of how you convert (get to register) a site visitor.||Coined as viral marketing, this involves inspiring and empowering members to spread the word. Think moveon.org and grass roots fund raising|
How do I get People to Come to my online Community?
Publishing your site is only a small step in the path to getting traffic. Unless you do
something else, your site will just sit there, and no one will know it exists. Unfortunately, unlike the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams, â€œIf you build it, they will come,â€
is not true on the Web.
We can split the different ways to get traffic into several main categories:
- Organic. What was traditionally known as SEO, the idea of having your website visible in various search engines when people search for
- Referral. Quite simply, the idea of having links from other sites to yours. These can be natural through attracting links to your high-quality content, or can be paid links or other techniques.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC). This involves bidding for placement on search results. In Googleâ€™s case this is called AdSense.
- Email. Building an email subscription list is a key part of your plan so that you can present them with information that might draw them back to your site.
If you want your website to be successful, it is absolutely critical that you have a balanced plan that addresses these four components. Just focusing on one will put you at a disadvantage to competitors that have a more balanced approach. Itâ€™s exactly the same principle that your financial consultant might tell you: have a diversified portfolio.
Some of these strategies cost time, and some cost money. Even if you are running a local library website, you should convince whoever needs to be convinced that your website needs a marketing budget.
SEO used to be about trying to game the system. This worked three years ago, but
now search engines are much more sophisticated. Attempts to stuff metatags or put
lots of hidden text on a page are more than likely going to get you penalized. This next
point is very important to understanding SEO: A search engine tries to find high-quality
content based on a keyword search.
To be most successful at organic SEO, you need to meet this need. Create a site
with lots of high-quality content and make it easy for both search engine spiders and
human Web visitors to find and read.