Want to Create a Successful Online Patient Community? Start With These Four Research-Based Books

If you’re a marketer approaching online health communities from a purely design perspective, you’re making a big mistake.

I know where you’re coming from. I love websites with big, beautiful photos, contemporary color palettes, bold headlines, and lots of white space. 

The problem is, those features often have nothing to do with engaging patients, families, and care-givers in online communities. And, in fact, big beautiful photos and bold headlines can actually kill your community activity.

What makes some online communities a success, while others fail miserably? 

Some of the world’s most active online communities in the world have dull and boring design. (Check out this site that had 600,000 unique visitors last month.) So what makes them work?

Turns out there has been a lot of great research on that topic.

Here are four excellent books you should read to discover the research-based keys to community success.

Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities, by Richard Millington.

Millington provides excellent advice about how to prepare, launch and manage online communities, including important tips on design and the most important functions to measure and improve.

Cultivating Communities of Practice, by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder.

Communities of practice are online communities that connect together people in a similar industry or profession. Although the book focuses on industry, the principles easily translate to communities of medical specialties such as radiologists or all members of a large medical staff.

Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design, by Robert E. Kraut and Paul Resnick. 

Kraut and Resnick are professors at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan, respectively. Their extensive research pays off in this book that covers everything from starting new online communities to regulating behavior.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover.

Online communities quickly become graveyards if members don’t keep coming back. But how do you help them make community involvement a habit? The fascinating answer to that question is answered in this completely engaging book.

Now you can apply your beautiful design concepts! 

Once to understand the basics of online community, you can take your beautiful design concepts and apply them in a way that engages your members and keeps bringing them back. Your communities don’t need to look like this.

Once you study the research, I can promise you that your designs will be very different than what you have in mind today.

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