Building an Online Community with Sticky Features
Developing a sense of community among your website visitors is the best way to get repeat visits….and sales. Appealing to the deepest needs – to belong – we can implement many features on our websites that build on those needs and will keep customers coming back for more.
Solid “sticky” features capture loyalty. “Sticky” features are content and items you can add to your website that help foster that sense of belonging. They make the experience of your website and buying your products and services pleasant.
Some of the below may not be appropriate to your line of business and some may be out of your reach right now. And don’t become overwhelmed thinking you should add all of these features at once! Select the ones that you feel are most effective for your niche market…ones that will help you best sell products. After all, that’s why you have a website!
- Community Homepage – A community section should have its own Home Page with a Welcome Message and it’s own, community-related content. A community could be customers who use your product, or are interested in your industry. For example, if you deal in parts for antique cars, open a community for everything to do with them (and not just your products or services).
- Message Boards or Forums – Allow your visitors to read and post messages. This can be monitored by your webmaster or an “outside” editor. Allowing people to express their views is a proven “sticky” feature. In addition, users start supporting each other with product usage experience and how-to’s! Don’t be worried about complaints — it’s better to hear them and deal with them in the open, then just hope they don’t exist. Addressing each complaint openly and respectfully builds a sense of loyalty and confidence in your company.
- Live Help – Enable visitors to make live, two-way contact with your customer service department.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) – describe your site, its purposes, answer questions about your products or services
- Feedback Form – Include an online form for visitors to express their opinions, complain, ask questions or make suggestions.
- Auto-Responders – Allow visitors to request pre-written information by sending their email address and receiving a reply using an autoresponder.
- Help – How-to instructions for products, or how to contact departments within your organization – make sure that the requests are taken care of, though, and that your people know what is expected of them when dealing with email requests!
- Member Profiles – Especially useful for clubs and organizations! Allow members to set up profiles describing themselves, their interests or business, upload photos and check out other members.
- Members Only Section – With special information or resources available only to visitors who have created a profile, are a member of your organization or a customer of your business. Let them set up a user name and password and include private message boards, ebooks, articles etc. Don’t make a Members Only area without good and substantial members-only content! (See Community sites above.)
- News and Articles – Make yourself an Authority in your niche market by publishing news and articles. Show your concern for your clients – and their business! – by offering free advice and tools!
- About Us – Detail your background, credentials, and history.
- Contact Us – Make it easy to find contact information, especially if you are selling products online.
- Search Function – Save visitors time and frustration.
- Links and Directories – Include helpful links, industry associations, resources and other affiliations – visitors will log in to your site to find the links again later.
Use your imagination! Often, you have a wealth of information already in printed form and remember to ask employees what inquiries they are getting from clients; employees often have wonderful ideas and would welcome the opportunity to participate in building your website!