People are increasingly reliant on their mobile devices to fulfill a variety of needs, ranging from performing simple math calculations to searching for potential romantic partners. With so much time and attention dedicated to our devices, a growing number of brands are using mobile applications to solve everyday problems.
The potential in the mobile app development space is clear: 32,000 and 70,000 apps are released every month on iOS and Android app stores, respectively. Users want apps, and enterprising brands will deliver.
Unfortunately, building an outstanding app isn’t as simple as it may seem. Consideration spans are dwindling; if you don’t convince users that you’re worth paying attention to, your product will quickly be deleted.
Capturing the attention of connection-hungry users
One of the best methods of keeping users interested in your product is making access to a brand community a selling point. When you connect people to each other, you leverage interpersonal bonds that are sticky and difficult to replicate. And as more contributing members become part of the community, its worth amplifies.
You can find communities practically everywhere, both online and offline. Mobile apps are an increasingly popular place to look for others with shared passions and interests. But they’re a dime a dozen, and those that aren’t in use will be promptly uninstalled. So how can you build a successful community platform that compounds in value? Let’s find out.
What strong app communities have in common
There are social groups big and small built around just about everything you could think of, but not all of them are created to last. Strong community apps—those that involve peer-to-peer connection, deliver meaningful value, and grow organically—share a few common characteristics that help define their success.
A coherent experience
Usability is key for any digital product, and mobile apps are no different. Your community app navigation should be designed intuitively and with ease of use in mind. Members should be able to find their inboxes, forum discussions, profiles, and anything else they need within a few clicks.
Beyond design, though, good community mobile app experiences are stable. Error-free functionality should be a given, as is quick onboarding and efficient response. Building a coherent experience means creating a user-centric approach that keeps them from looking for alternatives.
A focus on their members
Speaking of a user-centric approach, strong communities put a focus on their members. Your most passionate members—when properly incentivized—can become active brand advocates that funnel value back into your community.
To get to a point where members vouch for you, however, you need to invest in them. Strong communities gather feedback early and often, and they make use of their audience by crowdsourcing ideas from their most involved members. Doing so allows them to be more in tune with their audience, making adjustments to their strategy as needs and expectations change.
Best features to build into your community app
A branded online community can potentially drive sales, reduce marketing costs, and improve customer loyalty. But at its root are connection and peer-to-peer interaction. The biggest mistake you could make is focusing only on the bottom line.
While money is an inextricable part of business, so is forming connections with your patrons. That’s why your app should include these community-building features:
1 - Peer-to-peer messaging
Being able to connect and talk with other people is probably the most foundational feature of a community app. Integrate peer-to-peer messaging features for both private and group use.
In-app messaging today shouldn’t stop at text, either. Your users will appreciate being able to send multiple types of content to each other—images, audio, files, and more. A feature-rich chat SDK can help you connect users and create an engaging messaging experience in a matter of weeks.
2 - Profile personalization
Your customers want to be recognized as individuals—and 58% will look upon you more favorably if your mobile app remembers who they are and their past behavior. Profile personalization will help you to provide that experience.
Community platforms should be relevant on individual levels. By making it easy for members to locate groups they might be interested in and receive notifications on discussion threads they’ve participated in, the chances of engagement are much higher.
A few personalization features to include are user profiles, push notifications, and personal timelines. Notification personalization settings, in particular, are important because they will keep users up-to-date on everything relevant happening within your community but also allow them to opt-out without leaving if they’d prefer not to engage.
3 - Content sharing
Useful and authentic user-generated content (UGC) is one of the biggest opportunities for a brand community. It’s more likely to be trusted by community members and can be a catalyst in your platform’s growth.
When building a community app, make sure to include content sharing features for a variety of formats including text, image, audio, video, and custom. Incentivize sharing and engaging with content on the platform and make it easy for users to locate relevant posts on their activity feed or through push notifications.
4 - Live events and activities
The engagement levels of live events are unmatched—you’d be remiss not to make them a part of your online community! Being able to reach and interact with your audience in real-time builds stronger bonds and drives brand loyalty.
Live video streaming is perhaps the most common and effective way to run immersive events that meet participants where they are. When paired with engagement features such as live chat, these events can take your online community to a deeper level of familiarity in a relatively short amount of time.
It’s important to remember that not all virtual events have to be hosted by your brand. As your community matures and superusers emerge, activities held online in real-time can be hosted by micro-communities of just a handful of people. These are just as valuable as brand-wide events—if not more so—because it starts from a certain level of familiarity and encourages the development of deeper bonds.
5 - Moderation
One of the most crucial features to build into any community is moderation. Because digital groups bring together people from all walks of life, it’s possible for some friction to occur. Proactively eliminating any disrespectful language or inappropriate behavior ensures your space feels comfortable and safe.
People tend to interact more in spaces where they feel they can be themselves. You can make your community app a safer place by monitoring user activity both passively and actively. Use moderation tools to impose permissions for specific roles. Managers and moderators can then take an active role in viewing what community members publish and taking steps as needed.
6 - Gamification
Gamification has been a major topic in the mobile app development space for years, and for good reasons. It’s an extremely effective way to encourage user engagement on a community platform and reward the best contributing members.
You can gamify your app by setting up a points system, giving out rewards, and holding regular challenges to incentivize community engagement. Users might earn points by posting in discussion forums or receive a badge the first time they join a group with other members. These game-playing mechanics create a sense of fulfillment in a user’s mind, making them more likely to enthusiastically interact with each other.
Additional features such as special badges can also highlight influential members and encourage them to stay active. Rewarding these superusers keeps them loyal and turns them into brand advocates invested in the overall success of your online community.
Forge a strong app foundation with the best community features
When a user’s loyalty is on the line, making a great first impression is of utmost importance. Community apps have to build a strong foundation by including the features necessary for a great user experience. That way, members are more likely to continue logging in because the value they have to gain is clear from the very first time the app is used.
As more community software emerges to connect people to each other, the stakes are high and consideration spans are low. However, you can build a successful interactive platform by including the features users look for and continually showing them that you value what they have to say.
No community app can take off without engagement features. Start building the kind of brand that inspires conversation today!