April 17, 2008

Don't sell the website, sell it's uniqueness - Nithya Dayal, Co-Founder of Muziboo

Today, we have a guest article by Nithya Dayal, Co-founder of an online music community named Muziboo. Muziboo is a great example of community building and how effective is Word of Mouth marketing[WOM] in business.

In this article, Nithya focuses on "Mantras of building an Online Community" , something which has been an integral part of the Web 2.0 space.

Web 2.0 [ Of the people, for the people and by the people]:
It is not fashionable anymore to say that Web 2.0 is not as much about technology, as it is about people. When this is an accepted truism to such a degree, it is worth spending some time to analyze the dynamics of such a model [from my experience with Muziboo]

Before you build a website [hence a service] on the assumption and wish that users will come forward to generate content, you need to understand what it takes to drive those users to contribute content.

Mantras of building an Online Community:
Keep in mind the following mantras , while trying to build an active community on­line:

Is your service unique?
During your whole thought process ­ while planning to start, build and maintain a new website­ , if ever this question sounded clichéd within yourself, you are sure to come up with a non-­starter for a service. Unless there is something unique in what you offer, how fair is it to expect people to spend their time in your platform to generate content, when either, they are already comfortable doing the same elsewhere (or) they do not see a new source of satisfaction in your service. This satisfaction as your uniqueness could be in any form for the user – expression, recognition, entertainment, social and business networking and so on and so forth.

Initiating a Culture and Driving the Culture
Once you have decided on what should differentiate your service from similar others, you as the owner should become one of the patrons and initiate that ‘culture’ among users, which will in ­turn give the desired uniqueness to the service. As the first few hundred users go a long way in giving a face and feel to your service, it is vital to have given due thought about your uniqueness at a very early stage of conception of the service. Also, one has to be around constantly, driving it in the positive direction. Majority of users need hand holding while you wait for them to acquire the taste of what you have to offer. This is the only way to bring in the kind of culture [that showcases the uniqueness] that you want to offer. Because if you leave it to the users to bring in uniqueness all by themselves or give them a good idea and not follow ­up with efforts to involve them in building the same, the only guaranteed result is the establishment of a culture characterized by stagnation and inertia among the users. Do not forget that this need for hand holding is not a reflection of the users intelligence – if you can come up with something too exciting that it needs no hand holding, then good for you – read Flickr blog to understand that Mr & Mrs Butterfield had to work hard to establish the uniqueness of Flickr, which is not just a photo sharing site but a thriving community.

Here it is important to note that this ‘uniqueness’ refers to a dynamic aspect of the site, which has the potential for something exciting or which has a proven record of enthusing users to contribute. It rarely or seldom refers to the uniqueness in technology that the site has adopted. And, more often than not, only while enjoying the ‘uniqueness’ will the users be spending the maximum chunk of their time when logged in – even if it is a little peripheral to the main service that you offer.

Unfortunately some websites after getting a whole lot funding, start operating on the premise that marketing the whole service will encourage people to register and generate content. It is not enough to ‘sell the website’, you have to ‘sell the uniqueness’ of the website after establishing one in the first place.

Post ­sign-up
User assimilation is a slow painstaking process. The new user should immediately be made comfortable with an interactive interface. With an interactive interface, one should make easy the process of a user getting acquainted with other members of the community.

Recognizing Users
Most online community members like recognition, [rightly so] either for the content contributed or for participation. Couple of ways to do that would be featured articles and featured users.

Empowering users ­ Democracy
Empowerment is a great form of recognition and by doing the needful on that count, as an owner, you manage to stay away from ruffling yourself with too many responsibilities. By empowerment, I refer to the minimal barriers that you put out for content acceptance. All generated content need not go through great levels of moderation or quality checks before being published. The motivation to contribute from the users end is highly dampened if they get spiked. Also if you shackle users with too many do's and dont's , you will have a lot of fire fighting to be done everyday as the service scales up. Democratize as much as possible. Let most things be decided on user votes and ratings.

Having a balance – So Much Democracy
In the nascent stages, many users come forward with their ideas – both functional and business. Some will always be more relevant than the others, the ‘others’ being the ones that do not align with your vision of the service. It is for the service owner to handle this embarrassment without stepping on toes. You do not want to paint yourself in a corner while asking for ideas, because when not implementing those bonafide suggestions, you are likely to come across ‘rude’ or ‘technically in­competent’ ­ both equally hurtful for your image.

Promoting Offline meets
Promoting local offline meets is also a way to create stronger bonds among the community members. Posting updates about such events on the site can enthuse users from other cities to initiate such activities.

It Ain't Easy [because if it is, then it ain't fun]
Does this need elaboration??....Neah; remember the community is very intelligent and can help make/break your business.

I hope you also enjoyed reading the article, just as I did.Thanks Nithya for sharing your thoughts with us smile Muziboo has been quite instrumental in all the aspects as a startup and has been covered a number of times in the press, you can find the articles here, here and here.

Other Guest Articles on Thoughtsprevail:
Ten steps to improve your E-commerce business
Financial Management for a Startup Firm

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At Apr 24, 2008, 10:01:00 AM , Anonymous Ajay said...

ya u r right it the unique content attraact visitors towards your website not the desgin and any other thing

At Apr 26, 2008, 11:48:00 AM , Blogger Himanshu Sheth said...

@Ajay: Thanks very much for the comment.Muziboo has been quite instrumental in being unique and hence,it would have been the best example for uniqueness :)

-Himanshu Sheth


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