We have been working on some exciting websites this year, and a few of them have a members-only social component. While your audience always has access to a bright, shiny informational website, giving members of the audience access to a private area behind that site is a level to website functionality for which demand is growing.
Organizations want to connect in meaningful ways with their members, members want to connect with their organizations, and both want members to connect with other members.
The options of engagement are varied and customizable:
- Determine the level of detail in profiles
- Create groups for specific members
- Manage the level of security each member has
- Host discussions and forums
- Post files, photos, videos and more
- Allow members to post
- Manage events
- Moderate activity
- Capture a robust database
The benefits of socializing can be great and your brand can be elevated with a new transparency. Your organization can share information and files easily and securely, while members can share and interact with other members about important topics and field work. There are many levels of activity that you can control, and moderation is the key.
Many clients become excited at the possibilities a social site creates, but as the planning unfolds and the wireframes are reviewed, they generally take a harder and more conservative look at what this site could do, both good and bad. Most concerns hover around moderation or lack there of. All organizations and businesses want to manage their products and make sure there is minimal area for damage to occur. And for good reason… No one wants a rogue member to start talking trash about the host, posting inappropriate, misleading, or unapproved material for the rest of the membership. Nightmare scenarios generally will shut down thoughts about a facebook-like experience.
We’ve learned through this process that it’s okay to start small, it’s okay to be limited and grow, and it’s one of our jobs is to lead the thought process.
We walk through each offering with our clients and consider:
- Is it core to the goals of the site?
- Is it in the best interest of the experience?
- Is it easily moderated?
- Are there permissions that can be applied and released?
Evaluating the options not only helps determine what is really needed but also what is in organization’s best interests. We then ask our clients to trust in their members. In social environments, there is always a small chance that a member to stray from the rules of engagement, but having a good game plan from the start, an investment in administrator moderation, and being up front with the members about the terms and conditions of use goes a long way to creating an exciting new bridge to a deeper customer engagement.