Wrote this article in regards to a PR project involving pethouseclub.com. These were some of my thoughts surrounding ePR.
In order to develop a social networking website it is necessary to follow modern website models. An increasingly blurry area of social networking is the balance between free and premium content. It is seen generally on the internet that any knowledge or produce should be distributed freely. This has been partly caused by the General Public License and Opensource movements which have propelled internet technologies forward for the good. The problem this article addresses is simply:
How to build an online community and make a profit?
It is no easy question to answer. Traditional systems for paid registration no longer work in the current technological climate. There are many websites out there holding vast amounts of information and users would much rather research than pay out. Therefore I see the task to be building an online community and then later reap payments from the website, which shall be discussed later. The benefit of free registration is community growth (if the website project fits a market) and if so possible accelerated growth.
To run a modern website worthy of web 2.0 it is to be assumed that users will be providing some of the website content or will be able to comment on content. Either way the website will need to work in an open system, members having the ability to contact each other and website authors engaged with the online community. This balance is very important and only the best websites achieve this.
First I will address the issue of building an online community.
At the end of last year the internet changed a little bit. Suddenly large social networking website started to link in with each other. The majority of blogs did not have a closed personal community but linked together with many other websites. These social networking sites may have specialised areas such as dealing with pictures, status updates, storing comments, managing rss feeds etc. The list is endless, but what is important is the success of the websites who followed this regime. It was said last year that larger blogs had killed all smaller blogs on the internet, social networking sites have saved us from demise.
If we focus purely on pethouseclub.com then this website has such potential to infiltrate the social world and build its own strong community. I propose the following networking tactics to build an online community:
– Register to Intense Debate to increase blog comments
– Register to Twitter to communicate with the large tweeting community
– Link the website to YouTube in order to handle videos
– Allow all podcasts to be accessed via iTunes
– Introduce a forum (later on)
– Have members the ability to input details in their personal profile, including their own websites
– Use WordPress software to manage blogging side of website
Full profiles of all these websites have been included later on in this handout. Quite simply the blog will have access to a potential (numbers of all sites here) users already on start up if this plan is followed. This isn’t counting the fruits all these sites will bare purely on their functions. More information on these websites can be found later on in the handout to discover why they might be useful for pethouseclub.com.
I recommend WordPress whole heartily as the necessary blogging software to run on the website. For the following simple reasons:
– The common wordpress layout is the standard blog design on the web. People will be familiar with it.
– WordPress is secure and updated frequently
– It is simple to connect to the above websites using WordPress’ built in facilities
– WordPress includes RSS sheets to bring users back to the website
– Trackbacks and pings will keep the website updated about referred articles
– Articles can be placed into categories, tagged and searched for using key words
The only potential issue is keeping the design consistent between the blog and the rest of the website. However, this is just a matter of web design which anyone with the necessary knowledge will be able to sort out.
Finally I must explain the ‘later on’ notion of the forum. In my experience it seems that introducing a forum immediately with the website can be detrimental to community growth. Users will view a blank forum, decide there is no point registering and then leave the website. This doesn’t mean a forum won’t work, it just means it would be better to introduce a forum once there has been growth within the pethouseclub.com community.
Finally onto the profit making venture of this website.
I’ll admit outright that I have never built a website intending to make a profit. Just that the majority of my experiences with online projects have been enthusiast based. Essentially the task is…
Providing a balance between free and premium content
As the website will have a community then pethouseclub.com will need to work within specialised areas to make money. As I written earlier I believe paid registration will put users off from registering. An unaffordable outcome since this will stump website development and viewings. It is therefore unfortunate but access to the blog and forum must be kept free. There are only a handful of website who have managed to pull off a paid registration system because they offer something unique or already have a large active community. As far as I know all blogs on the internet are free and this is wholly due to their success. Forums seem to be diminishing on the internet and they generally work on a similar basis. To make matters worse asking payment for podcasts may also be difficult due their digital nature. Once somebody has downloaded your podcast it is simply to offer it for free download on other website. The same rules also apply to podcasts as well, it is better to build a user base before demanding charge otherwise people will not subscribe.
Money making ideas:
– It seems sensible to offer the majority of podcasts for free but then demand payment for special recordings. Special recordings could be with a well known figure in your particular subject area or special extended episodes
– Start a store selling merchandise which could be linked in with eBay for convenience
– Allow users to have premium accounts which allows access to more website features
I believe developing other making options would be in the best interest of this website and a small list of ideas can be found.