Communities offer a wide range of functionality from Community groups within an organization that can interact amongst the group members themselves, to a larger scale communities which includes forums, blogs, and community member interaction.

By creating a community, you have the ability to not only reach your target audience and encourage the interaction listed above, but establish yourself as a leader and a thoughtful innovator of customer service and relations.

Building a community for your customers, members or employees can be a benefit to your organization.  Communities are a great way to:

  • Facilitate open, two way dialogue with your audience
  • Obtain direct and immediate feedback about your product or services
  • Extend product reach and open new market opportunites
  • Deliver information to customers and partners quickly and efficiently

Determining which is best for you and your organization goes a long way in determining the best type of community set up and software. There is a wide range of paid and free community software packages available. Deciding which one is best for your organization can be overwhelming if you don’t have a good sense and idea of your community goals.

Establish these goals first, what do you want your community to do, who do you want to reach with your community, and what type of interaction do you want your community members to have?  These are all important aspects of being able to set up the correct community for your organization to further your web presence and customer interaction.

A few open source communities that I’ve recently interacted with and have found to be terrific are:

While Ning offered a great community structure previously, the changes that they are undergoing currently will provide an even better community structure in the future. Check out the proposed changes at: http://about.ning.com/announcement/

DotNetNuke (www.dotnetnuke) also offers a great open source structure that provides you with the ability to add and purchase modules according to your needs and customize as needed with a developer.  The support by the DotNetNuke module developers is also excellent and they can assist with alterations if necessary depending on your needs and the module.  I’ve found them to be more than willing to assist.

Communities allow you to reach your audience and interact in a larger and much more open way. Adding this ability onto your website and/or establishing a separate community site is a terrific way to engage your audience and members and provide them with a vehicle for quick and easy interaction.