6 Online Business Strategy Showcases Part 2 - Build Your Community

- Wednesday, March 25, 2009
In the last post, we looked at some great examples of eCommerce shops running on BC. Luckily for you, there's more to work than just building online stores with products, catalogs and checkouts. This time, we're looking at sites whose main focus is building an online community.

Part 2 - Build Your Community

"To build an online community, you'd need to nurture a social site with a discussion forum and post regular news on a blog to keep visitors coming back. Make a space for photo-uploads to show what's going on in your community, post podcasts of speeches or presentations for your visitors to download in a members-only area. Make sure members know about your site and that they contribute as well!" - taken from the BC Blog, last October.

Community Sites on BC

Why would you build a community site? Traditionally, not-for-profits like churches charities and government organisations used these to get their message out. However we're now seeing savvy marketers use online community sites to drive traffic to a product/service or a cause. The community (in the form of a blog, forums and anything else user posted) generates credibility and fresh content that attracts and builds an organic following. Let's have a look at a few:

Youngstown Metro Church - a modern online community...

This non-profit site by The Media District takes church community building to the next level by empowering visitors to contribute through the forums, prayer wall (comments) and a mini-site called metro-connect that's a dedicated portal for registering as a church volunteer or a family group. The site is centered around the blog on the front page which is used by the staff to post news and share thoughts. There's also a media page where you can download podcast sermons as Literature items. The whole gamut of BC features being used here to achieve an immersive user experience.

Best Buddies Australia - a simple charity site...

Best Buddies Australia Thumbnail
A more conventional not-for-profit site to help those with intellectual disabilities socialize and find employment, Best Buddies was built by Bos Web Systems. They've used secure zones to create the 'Buddy Up' login area for members and they've used eCommerce to allow donations and merchandise sales to raise money for the community.

Evolution Through Vacation - community sites as a marketing strategy...

Evolution Through Vacation
So far we've showcased a church and a charity, now comes the community site that's part of a marketing strategy to drive more sales - this type of site has been gaining traction for several years and is now reaching the mainstream. Check out Evolution Through Vacation by Osmond Design. Using BC Blogs to publish content, E-Commerce to sell their 'e->v' guide and email marketing to send a regular newsletter, this site also has a neat modal photo uploader for users to submit their own photos. Photos are sharedusing a Flickr flash slideshow (presumably the site owner vets and moves photos from their own site onto Flickr).

Selling The Online Community Site To Your Clients

These are some fantanstic examples to follow when building an Online Community. The main focus here is for users to be able to interact in some way - contribute their own content, register to become a members, communicate with other site users or the site owner and these are the topics you should be talking to your prospects about. Media and marketing are about having a conversation and presenting your prospects with a community site proposal will illustrate a clear need to upgrade from their 3-4 year old ecommerce-only or brochureware site.

In the next post of the series, we'll be looking at how BC Partners are using Blogs and Email Marketing to amplify their voice- and be heard.

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