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A Checklist

Here's a quick checklist for your IT department to keep handy when implementing community elements for your web site. (For a print-ready PDF version, click here.)

Technique

Description

Start with a good reputation

Unless current users are pleased with your organization's products or services, generating user interaction on your site may do you more harm than good.

Provide worthwhile content

If you want people to communicate on your site, give them something interesting to talk about—more than just basic info about your products and services. Providing a resource center is also more likely to get your site bookmarked and to generate return visits.

Create user interaction

Start off with a simple discussion board or a live chat room. Add a moderated discussion list with linked threads from your discussion boards to the list and vice versa. Where possible, monitor user interaction to learn "from the horse's mouth" how to improve your site.

Encourage user reviews

Most potential customers are interested in the opinions and suggestions of existing users. Current customers' raves about your products may be just the word-of-mouth advertising you need to help reach prospective buyers or members.

Organize weblogs

Make your community blogs easy to access and use. Feature busy blogs prominently so that potential customers see a hum of activity and want to participate.

Get your users to give you referrals on other sites

Link from the community section of your site to other discussion boards on the Net, and encourage your users to sound off about your product or service.

Think ahead, and test, test, test

Plan ahead to meet the needs and costs of your new technology. (Cheap isn't free, after all.) Test all technologies you will deploy in the community. Verify that your web server or hosting service is adequate and that all activity can be monitored. Make sure everything is working correctly before you go live.

Publicize your community

Community pages are worthless if they don't get activity. Encourage users to use and participate in community pages. And, while some people will stumble on your community site accidentally, it's more helpful if the pages are optimized for listing in search engines.


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