Creating a Community on Your Site Engages Your Audience
To draw visitors to your web site consider encouraging the growth a community. A community brings people together with common needs and goals – and they can be some of the best sales people for your product or service. A good starting point for a community is a wiki.
A wiki is a collaboration tool. Anyone can provide input into a topic. Most people have heard of Wikipedia – the most well known publicly available wiki. Many companies also have their own wikis for both internal and external web sites.
With a little imagine you can find creative, useful ways to use wikis on a company website. A couple of examples could include:
Free support from your customer base: If you have a product that you need to provide support for, consider including online support via a wiki. Have a separate wiki designed around a specific support topic – like technical support. Customers who have implemented your product may have questions and also may be able to provide answers to other customer’s questions. Likewise, you could have a wiki covering business use questions.
Now a customer support wiki should not be your sole approach for support. But it is a nice complementary solution to other support models. In this case it would be good to monitor the discussion in the wiki, in case something incorrect is stated.
Another example is for a company to test new product releases or enhancements. Offer the release as a trial for customers and provide a wiki to give information and receive feedback from testers.
Some products that offer Wiki functionality:
All wikis are not created equal. You need to check out the functionality of each one. You may also prefer to purchase one that isn’t free as it would have a stronger support model. As with all product selections think through your needs carefully and then select the option that is best for you.
The best wikis for a web site are the kinds that are uncensored. This means anyone can contribute and say anything they want, including negative comments about your company, product or services. So an uncensored wiki can be a double edged sword. On the one hand it encourages people to talk without worry of someone approving what they say; on the other hand it allows people to say bad things about you.
You can take the negative and put it to good use though. Take all the feedback positively and figure out what’s really being said. Maybe some is suggesting improvements you could make. In other cases – you can respond to the feedback maybe suggesting other approaches or products. At least in this case you see what’s being said and you have an opportunity to respond – you don’t always have that.
Wikis are a great start to developing a community for your website. You don’t find many sites today that don’t maintain a community of some sort – it’s almost a necessity in this Web 2.0 world. Think of creative ways you could use a wiki and then look at the different product options available – free or not. And always remember to keep the customer in mind when designing your solution – after all, aren’t they what a community is all about?