22 Tips for Building Communities
4. Allow users to interact with authors and each other.
The Web site brings together young readers in an interactive forum, “Random Buzz,” that features topic boards, graphics, polls, user-generated reviews and other activities. The site also contains links to author Web sites, MySpace pages and blogs. “With all of the major entertainment brands out there, teens these days expect there’s going to be a community element, and books are no different,” Leonard points out.
5. Build activities around specific releases.
“The Squad,” a new series about cheerleaders with special powers, has activities tailored to build interest and expand the brand. Fans can contribute their answers to questions such as “What would your secret power/weapon be?” or upload images of what they think a particular character should look like. “It’s getting them to think beyond the books and engaging them further,” Leonard says.
6. Encourage frequent use.
On “Random Buzz,” members can earn points for participating in discussions and polls, and by competing with other fans to be an “expert” on a certain book or series. The points can be redeemed for promotional products and tickets to events. The site also features downloadable graphics and multimedia content available only to members.
Maintaining high interest means the site can never be neglected for any length of time. “We have to keep the content fresh, or it gets stale really fast and nobody wants to come back,” Leonard notes.
A partner company, Affinitive (BeAffinitive.com), develops ideas and maintains the site. “They can develop more enhanced functionality, such as multimedia. It’s kind of hard to do that in house,” says Leonard.
7. Make readers feel like insiders.
Just launched is a feature that makes advanced-reading-copy sections of books available six months ahead of release. Members can register their opinions in the forum, read plot summaries and discuss personal messages from the author. The idea, as with so much else on the site, is to create the sort of buzz among teens that spills over into their everyday lives, bringing in new readers.