How to Build a Successful Community Site in Eight Steps

1. Set Your Goal

What is the purpose of an online community? What is your end-goal and when do you want to achieve it? Being clear about the purpose of your work is important since a lot of time and effort will be devoted towards reaching it.  What helps during initial stages is some heavy brainstorming, research, and evaluation of  sites similar to your concept, already present on the market.about_mission_vision

2. Define Your Audience 

Targeting is crucial.  Your site could be for entrepreneurs, cyclists, local clubbers, or anyone you want.  What’s important is the understanding of what the targeting audience values and wants most; what are the defining characteristics, and motivations for taking part in your particular online community.wall fm

3. Choose a Platform/ Software

The philosophy of building and developing a successful website has changed in recent times. Nowadays more people have at least basic knowledge about coding, while open source is shaping the future. Platforms like Wall.Fm allow building complete functional sites  from scratch in just a few quick hours. The whole process is becoming easier, cheaper, and faster. You can create and manage an online community literally sitting at the beach and listening to favorite music.wall fm

4. Optimize Your Platform

The first thing to do after creating a website is to optimize it for your audience. Refine the most used features, test, correct, and measure performance. Always keep track of what features your community is using most, as that will tell you what areas need further improvement, and what should go altogether. Depending on the feedback, change design, enhance integration with social media platforms, add the most common questions in your FAQ, etc.wall fm

5. Find and Invite New Members to Your Community

Surf around the web, take part in discussions on blogs, forums, groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other community sites where your target audience may hang out. Use your offline and online networks. Frequently post on your social networking profile pages, updating information relevant to your new community site.wall fm

6. Build Relationships with Members

Set the communication tone for the site. For instance, use shorter sentences, and construct them in the way to make interactions feel less formal/less funny/more personal/less personal (depending on your audience, and concept). Introduce members to each other to create the sense of community. Build relationships with opinion-makers.  Reward the most active members, share control and power with them to increase their involvement. Keep your community interested by frequently creating catchy, compelling, and sophisticated content.wall fm

7. Measure

You will find measuring and monitoring your success an addictive and exciting activity. Use Google Analytics (or any other similar tools), and see what practices are working best for your members: which posts received most views and responses, which picture or video was clicked a lot, or which online event was most attended. This will help you immensely with analysis and later decision making. Measurement is especially important if you are planning to monetize your community.shutterstock_129875117

8. Monetize (optional)

So, you’ve invested time, money, and efforts into setting up and maintaining an online community, so it’s reasonable to expect some return on investment. Many Internet communities do just that and make great money. There are dozens of way to do so, and here are just a few most common ideas:

  • Charge for Membership

With this option you might get fewer members, but those who get through will all be ready to pay.

  • Advertise

Partner with companies whose target audience is represented by your community, and charge them for advertising.

  • Affiliate Sales

Get a percentage from sales of goods and services promoted on your platform.

  • Events 

Organize events (like Moz or Mashable do) for your community, and charge an entry fee. You can even invite speakers or opinion-makers in the field.

  • Merchandise

Sell branded t-shirts, caps, accessories, cards, etc.  This also helps to build a sense of community, especially early on. Loyal members are always happy to buy stuff and help their favorite project along the way.

Good luck with your communities! Lots of love, Wall.fm.

 

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Phasing out free plan, ticket support for Starter plan

Dear Wall.fm customers,

We are phasing out the free plan at Wall.fm. We’ve been hosting free sites for more than 6 years. It’s been a long journey and we think it’s time to draw the line. We want to streamline our operations and offer everyone the best service we can provide.

On April 1 all free sites will be upgraded to Starter plan and the invoices issued. What should you do?

Should you not want to upgrade, there’s a free migration tool available. Wall.fm runs on free open source software, so it means you can retain your community site no matter what. We are not in the business of locking you up. Learn more at our support forum.

Participants of the Wall.fm Quality Group and other special projects still stay free, as agreed.

Individual support

On April 1 we will also introduce individual ticket support for all Starter plan customers (including new ones), the same that Pro and Ultimate customers enjoy. Starting that day, you’ll only need to press “Support” button in your account dashboard or site administration area to submit a private ticket to our team. We are processing them Monday to Friday, within 24 hours.

Thanks for creating with us!
Wall.fm team

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New release: Mobile browser version + new theme

Dear Wall.fm customers,

Our newest software release is out! We’ve been working hard to bring the new enhancements for your online community site, so I’ll show you what it’s all about:

New Theme: München

Per our tradition, we highlight every major release with a brand new theme. This time it’s a shoutout to the fine town of München:

München

Mobile Browser Version

That’s right, Wall.fm is now mobile-friendly. Yay! First of all, this is neither a responsive theme, nor a hack to “mobilize” content. This is a completely reimagined product for phone screens (that’s one of the main reason why it took so long to develop it), and it’s optimized for performance in major mobile browsers available today:

In this release we are starting with basic features and several native plugins that show the direction for what Wall.fm mobile browsing experience is going to be. You can also expect other plugins to have their mobile executions ready soon.

We are glad to have this out as a little Christmas gift for you. Let’s make 2014 an even more engaging year for your community!

Thank you for creating with us!
Emil
Wall.fm team

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Google Plus as Online Marketing Tool

In our previous blog post we talked about promoting online communities and received some feedback asking us to shed more light on Google Plus.  After all, Google Plus is the second biggest (after Facebook) and most misunderstood social networking platform, which was launched by Google in June 2011.

Google + and Page Rank

According to Search Engine Journal (Social Media Weekly 2013), the team behind Google Plus sees their product as the future core of Google user experience. People are becoming more and more aware of the vital impact brought by social networks and mobile devices, hence Google is doing its best to continuously enhance social tools in its possession.

Google+ posts are indexed almost immediately, while network’s profiles and content pages have a page rank because Google Search Engine treats them as regular websites. Accordingly, web pages with higher page rank appear higher in search.

Google+ and Google Authorship

To improve search quality Google created a system that allows the content of expert authors to rank higher in search results than that created by less credible authors. To make it happen Google needed a platform to somehow identity said trusted authors. Google+ became just that, giving authors the ability to verify identity, manage their profiles and establish authority.

Google + as Recommendations Engine

Google+ is not just a social network with borrowed parts of Facebook and Twitter. It serves as a recommendations engine to Google, the world’s most popular search platform. Google has added a personal search component to its traditional formula: +1 buttons now appear anywhere online, signaling the user that people in their circles liked certain content, and at the same time serving as a ‘good content’ indicator to Google itself. Notably, more and more search results show recommendations from Google+ friends.

Google+ and YouTube

Starting recently YouTube (rather controversially) mandated all users to sign up for Google+ (both belonging to Google obviously), before even commenting on a video. This links an account on YouTube, the second biggest search engine today, to an actual identity, which even further elevated their potential value in search presence.

Google+ is a significant player in the social media marketing world, therefore ignoring it is an enormous loss of valuable opportunities. Given the present trends and recent history it seems that avoiding G+ is not an option. Notwithstanding personal preferences, anyone with full integrated Google presence will inevitably have an upper hand when it comes to online marketing and acquiring traffic.

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Shutting down invitation codes

Hi everybody,

It’s a quick note that we are laying off the ability to create free sites by invitation code. Earlier we introduced this feature to let paid customers share invite codes with anyone to create a free site on Wall.fm.

Almost a year passed, and there hasn’t been much of this invitation activity. We think it’s a good evidence that people are ready to pay great prices for real value. Here at Wall.fm, customers tend to sign up for free trials (and later upgrade, if necessary), rather than hunt for invites.

Speaking about customers, we continue to improve the platform for you, so stay tuned for some big news in January.

Happy holidays!

Emil, Wall.fm team

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Five Steps to Begin Promoting Online Community

So, what do you do after creating an educational community, a niche social network, or a commercial website offering unique goods or services? Obviously, it’s time to start looking for audience, while considering how the target audience might be looking for your platform. These days it’s no longer enough to ask “How can I reach my customers.” An equally important question is “How should my customers reach me?” It is the age of interactive marketing after all.

1. SEO
The first thing anyone does looking for something on the internet is use a search engine. Whether it’s Google, Yahoo, Yandex, Bing, etc., all of them are trying to provide the most relevant information to the user. This is your first serious cue to make a significant impact with the help of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO terrifies many beginning webmasters, since the impression is that it constantly changes the way it works. The truth is – while some changes do appear regularly in algorithms, the essentials almost always stay the same. What search engines do is show the best content people are looking for. Hence, content is one of the most important ‘tools’ at your disposal. What you need to do to make people come back for more is create interesting and unique content, as well as update it often and consistently.

2. Online Reviews
This step is the online version of “word of mouth.” Your target audience will want to know what other people think of your website. This is quite essential, since no one likes getting a cat in the bag. Thus, after coming up with some great content and presentable looks for your website, it’s time to introduce yourself to the local listings, influential bloggers, and opinion makers in your industry. Get noticed, listed, and then wait for reviews and recommendations, followed by an influx of new visitors.

3. Facebook
Everybody is on Facebook, often checking the site several times a day. It’s the largest online social network, remember? But it is also a powerful marketing tool for customer-relationship management. You can use Facebook’s native paid advertising, as well as free opportunities. For instance, just check Downtown Abbey’s Facebook page, and look at how effectively, friendly and beneficially they engage with the fans.

4. Twitter
Twitter is crowded with many curious users craving for news, looking for updates, checking links, and sharing their experiences, pictures and videos. It is a brilliant free tool to find your target audience, drive them to your community, or keep in touch with the new and regular visitors by utilizing the invitation principle of “take a look, have a coffee, and make a purchase.”

5. YouTube
By now everyone is aware that there is 1 billion unique monthly visitors on YouTube who watch 6 billion hours of videos every month. In US alone, YouTube reaches more adults in the coveted 18-34 age bracket than any American cable network. Think about it. Quite obviously you ought to have a channel if you want to succeed; besides, it’s free!

Start with a simple and short videos explaining what your website offers, the problems it solves, the community it targets, and the services it provides. Get it up and running, supplemented with right keywords and a link back to your site. Add the video to your homepage, share it on Facebook, and tweet to your followers. Visuals and videos can work magic, because that’s what the net is all about at the age of shortening attention spans.

Don’t forget to follow Wall.Fm blog for more great tips.

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