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Online Community Development: From Loyals to Fanatics

Online communities are most successful when loyal members transform into fanatics. Unfortunately for website managers, this is no easy task. There are many theories on how to collect loyal users and feed them the content they are looking for, but there are only a few best practices that consistently work.

Blog World Expo 2012

At BlogWorld New Media Expo, online community expert Dino Dugan shared his insights on which best practices deliver results.

Emotions are key: Being vulnerable, genuine, helps build community

  • Make community members feel welcome by facilitating, answering, connecting, and thanking.
  • Create a special language that makes users feel included.
  • Helping is the new selling : Give away what you know. Helping will make users feel supported.
  • Recognize value. Showing that you understand that users are looking for quality will make them want to come back. In essence, create content that inspires and lives up to user expectations.
  • If they’re doing something for free, that means it’s not about money … it’s about passion.
  • Strive to be somebody’s favorite. Be specific in your blog. General content doesn’t cut it.

Be sure to have a CTA (call to action)

  • Experts say that eyeballs are over-rated, and that page views should not be a goal.  Convert viewers into fanatics by prompting them to respond.
  • Building community comes down to intention: What is the intention behind your community?
  • Fill in the blanks: because of this Blog, <specific audience> will <specific benefit>
  • Then observe “after visiting this blog I want readers to do (this), and then second to do (this).”

Be different. Change it up!

  • Using awards and rankings are another way to generate unique content & draw viewers.
  • Do the blog headline exercise: write 50 DIFFERENT headlines that answer questions for your audience.
  • Publish at least 1 non-standard post a week: interviews, videos, podcasts, presentations, and surveys
  • Avoid “Superbowl” mentality (one ad that goes to many). Use many highly targeted ads to segmented audiences.

Look at your community in the long-term

  • Consider your blog in years, not months. Be specific to be someone’s fave.
  • Create a cohesive business model: social -> blog -> speaking -> clients.
  • Be consistent. Keep to a schedule.

Thanks for sharing insights BlogWorld friends: @jaybaer, ‏@CLRochelle, @nateriggs, @cspenn, @dino_dogan, @angiegassett, @jasonkeath, @justinlevy, @heidicohen and ‏@pcgdigital !

Build your blog, brick by brick | Blog World Expo

Did you know that 33% of Americans follow brands on Facebook and Twitter?

Blog World Expo 2012That number has doubled in the past 2 years. It’s clear that a company’s online presence is more important than ever. Brands that transcend social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter see a strong following on blogs. This happens because blogs offer more thoughtful and carefully curated content. Building a successful blog isn’t an easy task, and followers will only join if there’s a benefit for them. There are, however, ways for bloggers to improve their sites. The key is is look from inside out. At the Blog World & New Media Expo, a talked called “Building an Authority Brand” touched upon the must-do’s for serious bloggers.  We’ve recapped some of the hot topics at this exclusive event:

It pays to understand the blogger culture

  • Bloggers feel they aren’t treated as professionally as media. Be aware of this, and be respectful.
  • Not all women bloggers are mommy bloggers. It’s almost a derogatory term these days.
  • Don’t think campaign. Focus on relationships when reaching out to fellow bloggers. Having mutual respect for bloggers will enhance your community. So, give a little, and you will benefit in return.
  • Bloggers deserve respect, especially when pitching. There’s no lack of ideas about what to write so keep that in mind when pitching.

Interactivity is key

  • When you find a great blog, comment on the posts you like. Comments are “blogger crack.” If they comment back on one of your posts, thank them, and keep the commenting going.
  • When you get a “no” to the right idea, it’s a no to your approach. You don’t yet get what they need. Switch up the approach to enhance activity on your page.
  • Keep a spreadsheet of bloggers with details about their blogs and any follow-up activity. Note things like: Where did they come from? Why are they on your list? This might help you reach out to and understand prospective followers.

There are plenty of budding blogs and blogger tools to learn from

Thanks for the insight, @CENTURY21, @tamadear, and @rzazueta!

Community Developer Tips From South by Southwest Interactive

There’s no magic recipe to making an online community succeed, but there are plenty of ways to kick-start, fix, or grow your city’s startup technology scene no matter what the geography. How do culture, philosophy, mentorship, education, government, universities, and events play a role in which communities thrive and which fail?

At the 2012 South by Southwest Interactive Festival, “How to Build Entrepreneurship Communities” helped shed light on the key ingredients needed to establish a successful community. Thanks to insight from folks like President and CEO of Venture for America Andrew Yang and Managing Director of Foundry Group Brad Feld key parts of the talk are available here!

How do you build a community? Give more than you take!

  • There is a big difference between one who can be successful and someone who can help others be a success
  • Communities scale via content and community
    • People are either sharing knowledge or bringing people together
  • Creating entrepreneurship communities is not about the “I” and “me” of the leaders

Entrepreneurship is about ideas, energy, hustle, and passion

  • Make sure your ecosystem has a platform to get the word out
  • Great entrepreneurship communities usually start with entrepreneurs trying to solve their own problems
  • Most community leaders didn’t dream about becoming organizers: They wanted to make things happen
  • You’ve succeeded when you start having people come to events who don’t know who you are
  • Don’t let entrepreneurship community leaders start building walls to preserve self interest & exclude others
  • Call out the haters, then call a meeting and demand they get involved

When change comes, find the right person to fill your shoes

  • Sustainability is a big part and challenge in keeping the community strong
  • It’s a lot of work to run a community so it’s important to take your time and be thorough
  • To find your successor: Look for the person who keeps coming back when you say you don’t need help
  • Embrace the help of volunteers if you can
  • Make sure to keep the community sustainable: Limit responsibilities for the leaders and make events repeatable

Special thanks for the content contributions from @MaxGdj, @mpd, @girlmobile, @timjeby, @marcnager, @paigecraig, @nickseguin, @alenarg, and @markpeterdavis !

Perspectives on decentralized organizations at South by Southwest Interactive Festival

As technology has increasingly created a number of self-organizing online or real communities, companies are also experimenting with cultural changes such as  decentralization.

This trend was discussed in depth at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, led by Amgen, Inc. Executive Director James Taylor, Burning Man Human Resources Manager Kat Steinmetz, and Second Life Founder Phillip Rosedale.  These professionals discussed the burning question of “Decentralized Organizations: Do They Really Work?” Highlights …

Thought leader and author of The Future of Work Thomas Malone shared insights into why things are changing

  • “For the first time we can have big business economy of scale and small business human culture.”
  • “We’re in the early stage of change in business, similar to change we saw in democracy/government”
  • “Old structure for corporations are based on efficiency. Today’s is about innovation; new focus is intelligence”
  • “Benefits of decentralized decision-making are exactly the same as drivers for business success-innovation and flexibility”

Exploring and using non-traditional techniques to structure their organization

  • It’s not just about cool tech startups (example Zappos model), huge productivity boost
  • Burning Man has no CEO. Instead 6 execs who decide by consensus. Slows decision-making, but speeds up implementation
  • We need to rethink the efficiency metric, place more emphasis on collective intelligence
  •  The point is to build community, not to be efficient

The future forecast for organizations is uncertain

  • In a few years maybe no one will work for technology companies. Employment is going to change so substantially.
  • Anonymous surveys, voting systems for both customers and internal employees, organic management, and peer-based recognition systems are becoming more commonly used

Thanks for your insight, @bombaycowgirl, @ACoulton, and @CofoMan!

Social Media: Creativity vs. Discipline | South by Southwest Interactive

One standout panel at South by Southwest Interactive 2012 brought together divergent voices in the evolving social media marketing realm.

“As social media marketing moves from experimental to institutional, brands no longer question social media marketing as a line item. That said, the strategies and deployment of social campaigns continues to introduce big questions about ROI versus spending and effective measurement has been a trendy topic without clear answers for years” — Epic Battle: Creativity vs. Discipline in Social

The questions brands, agencies, and social networks need to answer in 2012 proved to be the most engaging of the myriad SXSW sessions I attended, featuring: Mekanism CEO Jason Harris, 140 Proof CTO John Manoogian III, the Barbarian Group’s Kristin Maverick, and former Formspring Head of Marketing & Communications Sarahjane Sachetti.

Tips for the up-and-coming start-up all-star

  • We get paid to be smart and NOT just create splash pages for the sake of being on a platform
  • Lean Startup has become required reading for our Digital/Innovations team
  • There’s a difference between being an early adopter and having a strategy: Be first AND do it well
  • Try many things, take risks and fail fast
  • How edgy a campaign can be is dependent on a brand’s ability to handle the resulting storms
  • Startup marketing budget realities and ensuing discipline can bring you closer to the customer: Use tons of testing and email
  • Startups have to be smart; they can’t withstand tarnish from fails like an established brand can
  • Must be disciplined in where and how you roll out campaigns to reach the right people and have impact

Testing and planning are still crucial for any brand

  • Testing media and partner to create a better story.
  • User feedback is  important but not the only component
  • Planning sometimes looks more impressive and stands out a lot more than those who just jumped in
  • Test & learn from small projects before launching larger campaigns with wary clients

Using social to boost social media marketing

  • When brands let go a bit, amazing creativity can ensue
  • It’s smart to wait and launch something that stands out from the competition on the Pinterest/platform-of-the-moment
  • Joining Pinterest early will not convert to sales, but being the first could be great PR
  • Thought leadership, and not being present, can be a risk.
  • Social enables being nimble, testing variations. Try test campaigns

Hear out your client

  • Essentially, the client is buying a metrics report at the end: Here’s who we hit
  • Clients know their business better than you do, need to collaborate and build together
  • Clients know more than you – invite them to the creative process, find out what work they like, build campaigns together

Why should I consider using multiple agencies?

  • When working with multiple agencies, clients must own messaging consistency. Need to define who owns what
  • Multiple agencies can work well for big brands, find the partners who have needed specialties
  • When multiple agencies are involved, it’s the client’s responsibility to shepherd and drive focus
  • Separating PR and advertising doesn’t work: Bring them together for full impact
  • Position third-party analytics companies’ findings into client reports. They also tend to be more honest

There are no standards for online campaign metrics

  • Metrics are more than just clicks: Sales, word-of-mouth also ranks high
  • The Barbarian Group includes PR folks, can deliver more than just clicks and sales, wider reach
  • Email marketing still works!
  • Why build a microsite? Join in where your audience exists: The basis for community a la BabyCenter, LinkedIn Groups
  • Build brand platforms and build campaigns on top of it vs making a ton of microsites

Special thanks to the many thought leaders at this talk: @TimMcDougall13, @triggerisobar, @beccax, @DanPinch, @AaronCacali, @paliosaratoga, @ACDunbeck, @spatafio, @harrisja, @kmaverick, @sf_sj, @jrh_creative

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