Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Cinderella Effect -- What makes a virtual community attractive

A prevalent misconception about online community is that as long as you provide an attractive, well-appointed environment, people will flock to your website and populate the forums. The "next best thing" invariably captivates attention and increases participation as people explore the possibilities. The magic of technology can dress up the surroundings and promise wonderful new features for the members. However, when the digital clock strikes 2400 we find that a tired interface equipped with the latest gadgets is not enough to keep people engaged. Its apparent that the ever increasing number of wired individuals are looking for spaces to pique their interest and provide meaningful relationships. Building forums based on such strategies as marketing new products, hawking the latest trend or seeking time-limited input are not effective for the long term in the sophisticated cyber milieu. What ultimately attracts people to online community is the presence of other people who are willing to take part in the exchange of ideas. The challenge then, is to forge venues and infrastructure that supports long term participation while inspiring loyalty.

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