How does a community site differ from a 'normal' website?
Well - web sites are basically all about you and what you have to offer. There's no real interaction going on between you and your prospective customer, except maybe an odd email or two, but that's basically it.
A community site is completely different. This is a place where you get to interact with the members who've logged onto your site.
You have the choice as to how you set up your site. It can be set for private members only, registered members only, or for anyone to join and be part of the community.
A community site isn't about you, it's about the people who join the site. They're the ones who breathe life into the community. Also, with a community site there's not so much pressure for the owner because the community add the content and help to run it, which makes it much less work for you.
Another advantage of a community site is that you can have as many people as you like helping you to set up and run it.
At the heart of your site is the Forum and this is the place where people post comments and respond to comments made by other people. You can get a real sense of a person from how they interact with you on the forum. Again, you can set your forum up in the same way as your main site, i.e private, registered, or for everyone.
If you wish you can also use Forum Moderators; these are the members whom you trust and who keep an eye on what's happening in the forum, generally making sure it stays at the high standard you require.
You can also nominate moderators to keep an eye on the site to make sure everything is running smoothly. This set up is in the admin part of your community website.
When people register on your site, the first thing generally asked of them is to fill out a personal profile.
You can have private messaging on your site so that if you want to communicate with someone on a one-to-one basis, you can send them a private message.
Members who've joined your community site can have their say about what content they'd like to see on the site or conversely, what content they don't find particularly helpful. In this way you're sure that your site is meeting the community's needs.
You can allow members to submit an article un-checked or you can set it for admin approval or moderator approval, which just means that it's sent to you first for you to check that it's appropriate for the site.