Razor Impact : Designing Web Products For Creative Professionals

Why many communities fail to grow

By Adrian Claridge

There is an insanely brief window for engagement whenever a new person stops into the community. They’re usually looking to solve a problem or be entertained in some form. Once they find what they’re looking for…they’re gone. Unless you can grab their attention within this small window.

The window I’m talking about can last between 4 seconds and 90 seconds…yeah, not very long.

We have to be able to peak their curiosity to dig deeper into the community, right off the bat. We can’t afford to hide our cards in hopes of stringing them along, this almost never works. You’ve got to put your best stuff right up front so they can’t miss it.

Here’s two things we can do that’ll immediately engage new visitors, and hopefully keep them coming back.

1. Simplify the main navigation area of your community. This seems like an obvious thing, but I still see plenty of communities with pages that are just overwhelming. Cutting down the clutter can be quite challenging to a point where it’s actually uncomfortable. But in order to capture someones interest, you’ve got to display only the best of what the community has to offer. Don’t worry, they’ll find the rest on their own.

2. Write amazing headlines for your content. The first tip really goes hand in hand with this one, it makes noticing your great headlines much easier. Learning how to write amazing headlines is one of the most useful skills when building a community (among a slew of other benefits). But don’t get me wrong, headlines aren’t the be-all end-all. The content still has to be stellar. But a poor headline won’t pull anyone in, regardless of how amazing the content is.

There is obviously much more to growing a healthy online community, but these two things are often overlooked and they really are low cost—high reward tactics. If you already pump out great content, doing these two things on top of that will help immensely.

Start today by cutting out clutter from the main hub of your community. It doesn’t have to be all at once, but slowly pick away at it in manageable chunks.

Here is a great article from a master headline writer over at copyblogger. I’ll also be sharing my own thoughts on writing great headlines specifically for community content, coming up soon.

Hope this helps, and thank you for reading.

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