Build Online Communities, Not Web Pages

by Brad Smith on May 8, 2010 · 0 comments

network web Build Online Communities, Not Web PagesThe amazing thing about the rise of the internet is that one can now instantly find information on just about any topic.   There are 2.1 million pages on “raising worms”, 874,000 articles on “tongue piercing” (including videos), and 654,000 pages on “Shetland ponies.”  One has to wonder where all of the worm growers got their information before Google?

However, the web is now much more than a collection of web pages for obscure hobbies and niches.  The modern web is built around communities.  Facebook has over 400 million users as of this writing, making it larger than the population of the United States, and #3 in the world behind China and India.  While Facebook is one of the larger online communities, there are literally millions of smaller communities built around people with shared interests including worm raising, tongue piercing and Shetland ponies.

What does this have to do with online business?  If you want to build a successful online presence, you want to build much more than a web page.  You want to build a living, vibrant online community around your selected business niche – one that has fresh content of all types – audio, video and well thought out articles as well as areas where community members can make their own contributions.

This is the power of Web 2.0 – you create a center for people to share their interests, not just a static page to read.  Also, online communities turn traditional marketing on its head.  In traditional advertising, you blast your message out to a broad audience seeking a small percent of customers interested in your niche.  An online community with focused content draws customers in – they come because they want to hear your message, want to share with others, and want to be part of the community.  Also, since they share an interest in your niche community, they’re already in your target market.

I built my first web product  page in 1995.  It helped my business.  However, my online traffic only grew slowly – perhaps 5-10% per year.  Many years later, I changed my focus from a static web site to a dynamic web 2.0 community.  In that first year, my business doubled.  In the years since, it has grown 40% per year or more every year, and it is still growing.

How do you build an online community?

It’s not as easy as some online marketers will lead you to believe.  It turns out that building a vibrant online community is actually hard work.  You are not going to build the world’s leading “worm raising” site overnight, or even in a few weeks.  Even if you get your “worm raising” site to the top listing in Google using “get rich quick” techniques, it won’t create a lasting customer base without high quality, fresh content.

However, if you pick a niche you are passionate about and consistently build high quality content, and continuously improve your site and community, the people will come.  More importantly, many of them will keep coming back for more – and that is what this site is all about.

Here’s a related post I found that drives home the point of how sites that understand networks and communities are outperforming conventional web sites:

  • Glam: The success of the network « BuzzMachine – I have been arguing for as long as anyone would listen that the future of media is less about products and more about networks. It’s so nice to be proven right. Recently, Samir Arora, CEO of Glam, visited to talk about his success story …

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