Knowing Why You Are Building a Community

Photo by William White on Unsplash
Photo by William White on Unsplash

Andy Gonzalez just posted a great article on Social Media Today:

While I disagree intensely with the title – the article is right on target.  And it brings up a very   important aspect of planning your community website: Why are you doing it?

I think I mentioned before that a successful community website requires a community to begin with.  If you are already part of a club or running a non-profit, then a community website has a lot to offer. You can communicate easier and cheaper to your members.

No return on investment?  Don’t be silly.

  • Posting your events online is a lot cheaper than sending mailers to all your members.
  • Having a “suggestion box” online can help you capture some great feedback and build your brand while making your members feel appreciated.
  • Forums provide a way for people to interact with each other – regardless of what kind of crazy shift they have at work.

There are returns for building a community… but you need to be realistic about what you are expecting.

Will people suddenly flock to your website and buy stuff just because you throw up a website?  Will they like and tweet your blog posts just because you wrote them?

Probably not.

Unless it’s your mom.  But she’s already part of your community.  The website doesn’t create the community – the community creates the website.

So before you commit to building, set some specific goals.  And try to be realistic.  What is it that your community is struggling with that your website can help fix?

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of time/Scheduling
  • Disorganized record-keeping
  • Shy members struggling in the shadow of the outgoing ones and eventually disappearing?

A community website can help these kinds of problems.  And if you do THAT well, then maybe you can sell some cool mugs or t-shirts with your community logo on them too.

About the author


Karen Freeman-Smith lives near Portland, OR with her partner, two grown children (in and out of the basement), and a cat named Shiva. Karen maintains two personal websites as well as several topical websites about: Programming, Web Development, Foreign Languages, International Students, Fiction Writing, and Typing.
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