Interactivity is the essence of “web 2.0” technologies; a dialog taking place between the site owner and the site visitors, and among the site visitors. If appropriate, you might want to explore possibilities for interactivity on your website.
There are as many possibilities for interactivity as you can imagine, but I will address just a few common ones for our discussion.
If you have a blog, allowing comments from visitors on your posts is a very simple way to add interactivity to your website, and you can continue to write your blog, whether you get a lot of comments or not.
The most direct for business purposes, having a customer service chat box available is an easy way to solicit direct interaction with your site visitors, generally for sales purposes. However, you need to be online (or have a customer service rep online) most of the time for this to be useful or utilized by your visitors.
If your business can generate a lot of discussion of related topics among your target customers, having a forum is an easy way for your site to facilitate conversations among visitors and add substantial value to your web property. Having your visitors generate the bulk of the content is great from your end, though showing up to comment and answer questions on your own forum is a good idea and will cement your reputation as an expert. The down-side of forums is needing to have a moderator, otherwise they can become a spam magnet.
If you are thinking about adding interactive elements to your site, there are some things you should explore first:
How much traffic does your site get?
Make sure that any interactive elements you add to your site are appropriate to the traffic you are getting. Having an empty forum is worse than having no forum at all. You should either choose to add elements that will be sustainable by your current traffic, or focus first on increasing your website traffic.
How will you let people know about your interactive features?
Obviously, you will update your website as appropriate to direct visitors to your new features, but how do you plan to inform your audience who might not otherwise visit your site? Do you have some sort of mailing list? Do you have online platforms outside of your main website (presence on other sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)? Do you have some way to get the word out via offline channels?
What resources do you have available to develop and support your desired features?
You will need some budget and/or expertise in order to set up many of these items on your site. In addition, you need to consider your time, or your staff’s time to manage, moderate, and otherwise monitor those features. If you won’t have the resources to support the interactive element you are considering, it most likely won’t be a good idea for you to launch it in the first place.
Web Action Steps
- Get a handle on your web traffic. Figure out how many visits you are getting each month and make sure that matches your expectations for participation with your interactive site elements. (Keep in mind that not every visitor will participate.)
- Make the business case for whatever you are adding to your site. How, specifically, will having this on your site improve your operations or increase your marketing and sales?
- Allocate resources. Determine how much time/money will be needed to set up the technology, and how much will be required monthly on an ongoing basis.
- Create criteria to judge ROI after a predetermined amount of time (at least 6 months – 1 year later). What sort of results will justify continuing to support the feature? What will determine that it is time to discontinue the feature? You should do this at the beginning, and set a reminder on your calendar to review the results and make a determination.
- Research the options. There are many blog, forum, chat, etc, packages and services available. How your website is currently set up, what exact functionality you desire, and what resources you have available will all be factors in choosing the right one.
Interactive features can make your website stand out above the crowd and increase customer loyalty, but only if implemented thoughtfully and supported as part of your ongoing business operations. This is not a “set it and forget it” type of thing.
If you need help figuring out what interactive features would be appropriate for your site and assistance implementing them, please contact me today about your unique business needs.