For many brands, the ultimate goal with their website strategy is to build a community of loyal fans. This would allow them to speak direct to a captive audience and gain fast feedback on new products or changes in brand direction. However, building such a community is not easy and the list of failed attempts far exceeds the list of successful ones.

So how do you ensure your attempt is amongst the successful ones? 

Firstly, give users a reason to be on your site. People are drawn to interesting articles, breaking news, useful downloads and resources. Set up a blog and start posting; it will require a commitment of your time but blogging is proven to drive traffic to a website.

Secondly, invite input. Whether through blog comments or polls, it’s important to give people a chance to let you know what they think. It’s equally important to respond to all feedback so users feel their opinions are valued and taken on board.

Thirdly, use social media channels to engage directly with users. Social media makes it easier than ever to connect directly with individual customers, so responses can be tailored specifically and made immediately. It is also a very public format; this can work for you or against you, it all depends on how you engage with your followers.

Once you have a dialogue going across your social media channels, you can then take steps to move the conversation back to your website. This may simply be a forum or bulletin board, or it could be a sophisticated social network that allows members to post downloads and even host their own ‘mini-website’. Whatever method you choose it must offer an experience and level of service that warrants users’ engagement. The important factor is that you are now hosting the activity and therefore bringing the users’ focus back to your brand.