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How to create an online community using blogs and comments

by Tim Rimington | May 19, 2011

Creating a sense of community using blogs and comments on your web site or online store should be a high priority. Sometimes you need to give customers a little more than just “great products”; you need to give them other reasons to return.

People like to feel “part of”, part of a group, part of a community where they can share common interests with other members of the “community”. So how do you create a community in an online world?

Many will remember that before the days of the internet there were rudimentary “bulletin boards” that were hosted by enthusiasts who provided a digital space for like-minded people to share their thoughts and ideas (using 14.4kb/s dial-up modems - and they were considered rather fast!). Instead of attending a real-world “conference” or “swap meet” (which were popular among computer “geeks” and electronics enthusiasts), these people would post comments on computer bulletin boards. Some of those bulletin boards were enormous and helped drive bulletin board members to computer stores or electronics outlets to make recommended purchases of products suggested by other members. I know this because I was part of one of those early online communities and I also worked behind a shop counter where I would regularly meet other members of the “bulletin board” community who came to shop in my store. I met a lot of characters back in those days!

27 years on and not a lot has changed in principle. People still frequent their favourite “bulletin boards” (now known as forums, where exchanges of information are mostly instant and live), and those same people are influenced by comments from other members. When researching products, those in the know troll online forums looking for genuine discussions about a product to gain a “real world” insight in the product’s background, its reliability and to learn the product's pros and cons from the perspective of other buyers. Certain forum members are considered amateur “experts” in their field and their opinions really count.

Blogging is a good place to begin when building a community

If your customers don’t have access to an online forum within your own web site or store you can still build a community atmosphere amongst your customers. Blogging is a simple way to share information with your readers but when you open up your blog posts to community comments, you instantly create a “forum” where readers exchange ideas and different points of view based upon the original article up for discussion. The same applies to comments within your online store. If your customers are passionate enough about what you sell, they’re more likely to leave comments for others to read.

But the best way to establish consumer confidence in your products is to start discussions about them in outside forums relevant to your product/s. You then provide links back to your product or web site from your own forum comments. Your blogs can behave in similar ways – but take that first step! Write a blog, start a discussion and work towards nurturing your customers and your growing online community, and don’t forget to Tweet about it too!

Were you a part of those early online communities known as "bulletin boards"? Use our comments form below and tell us about it!

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