Have you been thinking about ways to create stronger relationships with your customers and generate a positive brand experience? You can accomplish all of that and more by creating an online community website.

What is a community website?

A community website is where people gather to have conversations, exchange information, learn, and laugh. Technically, social media sites are community websites. For example, there’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

While social media sites are community websites, you don’t have to build a project that the whole world will want to use. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. When you build an online community, you’ll find the most success by creating a private, well-moderated community.

Discord servers are a perfect example of private online communities. While anyone can sign up for an account, you have to be invited to join a particular server. Although Discord is a great way to have live chats, the best online communities are made with WordPress.

Before we get into why you should use WordPress to build your community, let’s look at why you’d want to build one in the first place.

What are the benefits of building a community website?

When you create an online community for your business, you’ll get the following benefits:

  • Generate more loyalty and sales. A private, branded community provides an exceptional opportunity to generate stronger customer loyalty. A private community creates a sense of belonging for website visitors, and people enjoy conversing with those of like mind.

As people participate in your online community, they’ll be more likely to make return visits to your website. When you link products directly inside of your community, you’ll see more sales as well.

It’s not uncommon for people to bond over a shared interest in a brand or product. When you create a community website for your fans and customers to connect, you control the community, which gives you the advantage.

  • Generate a higher lifetime customer value.  Compared to social media channels, you’ll see a higher lifetime customer value when you run an online community. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are really only good for generating leads. They’re not for making sales or having in-depth interactions with your customers.

It’s still important to maintain your social media pages, but a private community will serve you and your customers better in the long term.

  • Find your brand ambassadors. Ever wonder how companies get brand ambassadors who continually rave about their products or services? These people aren’t paid – they’re just extremely passionate about the businesses they like.

If you want to find your brand ambassadors, start a community website. They’ll make a beeline to join your community, and they’ll probably volunteer to moderate the discussion forum conversations.

When your brand ambassadors join your community website, they’ll strengthen their loyalty and passion each time they participate. As moderators for your community, they’ll do everything you don’t have time to do: ban the trolls, respond to detractors, and high-five your true fans.

  • Control the customer experience. While you can’t control what people say – nor would you want to – you can shape and mold the customer experience in your private community.

It’s the perfect opportunity to build stronger relationships with your existing and potential customers, and you can also create a positive experience with your detractors and complainers.

  • A source of honest feedback. Customers and potential customers who join your online community will likely discuss your brand freely on your forum. You can expect to generate a ton of feedback from these conversations.

If you don’t have the time or interest in monitoring the conversations for important feedback, you can hire someone to do it for you.

  • Your customers will enjoy your community. When your existing and potential customers make it part of their day to participate in your community, you know they’re enjoying themselves. Ultimately, the more your customers enjoy your community, the more they’ll enjoy your brand.

3 Tips for building a community website

If you’re serious about building a community website, here are three tips to get started.

1. Come up with an angle for your community

What do you want people to do when they join your community? Is it for discussing your products and services, or your niche in general? Maybe it’s both?

Determine the angle for your community first, and you’ll have an easier time writing your mission statement and helping your developer create the right components.

2. Decide on free or paid memberships (or both)

Communities do better when they’re free to join, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer additional membership levels for a small fee. For example, you can create three membership tiers beyond free and provide more value for each level.

However, if you choose to do this, make sure you provide amazing value for your free memberships since not everyone will upgrade to a paid tier.

3. Build your community with WordPress

WordPress will outperform most community-based software. Unless you have an extremely large budget for hiring a development team to create a custom community from scratch, WordPress is the best choice.

To get a WordPress community website, you’ll need a basic WordPress installation and a community website plugin.

3 WordPress community website plugins

There are hundreds of plugins that will turn your WordPress installation into a community, and here are the top 3.

1. Ultimate Membership Pro

This is by far one of the best membership plugins for WordPress. Ultimate Membership Pro offers users a free account or paid membership levels with access to restricted content.

For paid tiers, you can drip content on a regular schedule. For example, you can drop a new video on the 1st of the month. Subscriptions are sold through WooCommerce, and users can pay through Stripe, Authorize.net, PayPal, and several other gateways.

Best of all, Ultimate Membership Pro integrates with some of the most popular email marketing systems like MailChimp, Constant Contact, GetResponse, Campaign Monitor, and AWeber.

2. UserPro

This plugin comes with a searchable member directory, and users can create a custom profile. Content can be restricted based on a user’s membership tier, making UserPro the best solution for offering paid content.

UserPro content can be synced with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

3. BuddyBoss

BuddyPress is a free plugin that turns any WordPress website into a membership community. However, it requires a lot of technical knowledge and fiddling around to get it up and running. BuddyBoss makes the process easier.

With BuddyBoss, you don’t just get a plugin – you get an entire theme specifically designed to function as a membership website. It’s much easier to implement and has plenty of features, including free and paid memberships and the ability to sell online courses.

Do you need a WordPress membership website?

If you want to build a membership website, our team of WordPress professional developers can help. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll be happy to discuss your project.

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