If you’re one of the fortunate companies out there that have products where customers show off what they’re doing with them, you’re one step away from pure online community content gold. The trick is to getting those customers to publicly share those experiences and tell your company’s story for you. It’s one thing for you to tell your customers you have awesome products, but it’s much more credible and believable when it comes from their peers.
I blogged earlier about enabling your community members by providing them with all the right tools to increase participation. For the most part, the tools I mentioned made it easier for members to create rich compelling content and the ability to share it with the community wherever they may be. That content may be attributed to your brand, or completely have nothing to do with it. So let’s take one step further. What if we embedded publishing and sharing tools directly into your products and in one click or swipe of the finger, publish it to your online community?
Granted, this won’t work for every community, but for the ones that have the model setup, you’ve struck community content gold. Think of how powerful this could be. You’ll never have to worry about fresh content again. Ok, that was a bold statement, but if you think about it, community managers at the very least would worry less about content creation, and can refocus their efforts more on content moderation, community growth, lead generation, customer service, and customer acquisition and retention. Basically, one less thing on the community manager’s plate.
Which communities would benefit from embedding community publishing tools into their products? For now, I’d break it down into two categories; 1) Internet enabled electronics and 2) desktop software, but especially software as a service (SaaS).
Intuit’s TurboTax software has had this “community everywhere” approach for some time. They are kicking ass at it if I do say so myself. While you prepare your taxes, you can learn, share and ask questions from a widget embedded right into the experience and publish those posts straight to the TurboTax Live Community.
I’m looking for other examples of companies that have embedded community sharing tools into their products. So if you know of any, I’d like to hear about them.
Showing off your loyalty towards a brand takes quite a bit of dedication. With the [not-so] recent introductions of location-based services (LBS) apps like foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR, Facebook and Yelp, we’re all guilty of “checking-in” to our favorite venues and broadcasting that action to our community of followers.
The drive at first was purely the novelty of the service. Nothing like it existed. But to keep members interested, the services needed to evolve and evolve quickly. Introducing gaming elements like Leaderboards, Mayorships, Dukes, Duchesses, badges and points systems was a no-brainer. The competitiveness, rewards and deals drove growth of the services. But I find myself less and less compelled to continue checking-in and maintain the status levels I’ve achieved at each frequented location. I have to admit, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve capitalized on a reward or deal. Which makes me ask the question; has the market been saturated with heavy-handed check-in members to the point where status levels are no longer obtainable? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve held the same 10 Mayorships on foursquare for as long as I can remember and that number rarely ever changes +/-1.
Will I continue to check-in? Sure. But it’s definitely not for the reasons when I first set out using the services. It’s now about what’s next. When I was younger, I worked at a local grocery store. At the beginning of my shift, I would have to punch my time card using this monstrous industrial looking clock. And that’s what LBS feels like to me at this point in time. I’m punching a clock out of necessity and not for the fun-ness factor. It’s kind of like watching HBO’s original series Entourage. The stories and acting get harder to watch season after season, but you stick in there because you have to see how Vince’s career ends.
What do LBS shops have up their sleeves? What’s the next evolution of the service? Which LBS apps do you use? Where do you see the industry going?
I caught a webcast this morning with Pearson’s [only] community manager Kim England, “Always Learning at Pearson – Getting Internal Communities off to the Right Start.” Kim did a bang-up job presenting and shared some great insight into Neo’s success. Neo is the internally-branded online community for Pearson employees with the appropriate tag line “Working as One.”
The most notable highlights of the webcast are below:
- Hundreds of disparate intranets
- Silo’ed information and knowledge
- Inability to find subject matter experts
- Inconsistent best practices
- Tyranny of email
- Active members – 32,183 monthly logins
- Wiki documents – 60,000
- Threads – 25,000
- Social bookmarks – 10,000
- Videos – 10,000
- 5,881 groups
- 25% secret
- 36% private
- 26% open
- 13% members only
How is your internal community benchmarking against Pearson?
- Recruit evangelists – (Beta launched to 700 early adopters). No content was seeded when the initial invite went out to the early adopters. This was surprising to hear and normally goes against best practices. If members don’t have content to interact with, how do they know what to do, what to say, what’s expected of them? Despite going against the norm, the community grew to 5,000 members before the hard launch.
Tip: Make sure you have a few difficult (complainers, debaters, naysayers) members and manage those conflicts early to set the tone.
- Leadership buy-in (the top-down approach) as well as leadership involvement from a content-generation perspective.
Tip: Have executive set their status update to recognize employees. Start an executive blog for thought leadership and company transparency. Use video to circulate company news in an alternative format.
- Support and encourage, but don’t control. This comes in the form of clear community guidelines on how to behave in the community, again, created at the executive level.
- Allow the social site to thrive. Let members create personal interest groups, i.e. cycling, foodies, movie-goers. It brings people together and eventually spawns work-related discussions. This gets members to become familiar with the community tools and the platform as a whole too.
- Use as team for best practice, measure success. Collaborate on projects, leverage for conferences and events.Crowd-source on community improvements.
- Migrate intranets and other CMS as soon as possible. Pearson has migrated 129 intranets with another 39 to go.
Tip: Don’t map over the existing intranet structure. Be more flat and use categories and tags to organize the content.
A big move for Pearson is to bridge Neo with their external communities and using analytics to focus engagement and training. Neo is localized in four languages and looking to expand so that all members can participate in their native languages.
As your online community matures, trying to find new an inventive ways to keep members engaged with fresh content is an ongoing challenge for community managers. Here are 5 content strategies to keep things fresh and active:
- Choose Your Own Adventure – You may remember this concept from your childhood. It was very popular during the 80’s and into the ‘90’s. It also goes by “Pick Your Own Ending.” It’s quick to consume and has a high visual impact. In essence, you take your members on a comic book -style journey starring a hero who shares the same characteristics as your community members. At the end of each segment, your members determine the path the hero should take by a voting mechanism. In some instances, the hero may need some sort of ingenious device to escape a tight spot. The community could propose designs and the winning proposal could be featured in the next installment.
- Seasonal content asks – Seed discussions based on the time of year. Ask for pictures of the local foliage or winter activities. Every calendar month is littered with holidays. Find out how they spend St. Patrick’s Day or what their favorite Super Bowl dish may be. As a community manager, you can warm up to your members in a casual and personal way.
- “On the street” reporting – Grab your camera and turn yourself into a content generating machine. Pop in to a product manager’s office for an impromptu interview. Capture some shots of your customer conference or industry events. Get some of your members on camera to give a little testimonial or endorsement. Some words of advice; keep each video segment between 1-2 minutes. It’s not long where you lose your audience, and it’s not too short where you would lose value.
- Scavenger Hunt – This is essentially a game where the organizer (the community manager) prepares a list of items for participants to seek out and gather. The first participant to return with all items on the list wins. Read my full write up, How to Run a Successful Online Community Scavenger Hunt for complete details.
- eNewsletters and Corporate blogs – Ok, this could’ve been two separate strategies, but decided to lump them together since they’re both corporate communications. But hey, if someone in your organization is already cranking out his content, why not use community as their home? It’s fresh. It’s relevant.
What content strategies are you employing? Leave a note; I’d like to hear from you.
It’s kind of a joke title, more hypothetical than anything else. But I started to realize how much my gym is similar to an online community. My fellow gym members all have common goals. We’re passionate about being healthy or getting into shape. We use it as another networking opportunity or social outlet. We even look to it for support, either for spotters, positive coaching or tips. In fact, the dedication it takes to keep going back is reminiscent of online community power users.
You can easily match up the roles in this metaphor too.
Gym Community >> Online Community Equivalent
Front Desk >> Login
Personal Trainer >> Subject Matter Expert
Housekeeping >> Moderator
Classes >> Groups
Next time you’re at your gym, take a look around. You’ll see signs posted containing the club guidelines.
- Cell phone use in designated areas only
- Re-rack your weights
- Wipe down machine after each use
- No smoking, drugs or alcohol of any kind
- Keep voices and personal audio devices at reasonable levels
- Be courteous to and considerate of others
- Wear proper workout attire
These are pretty standard across all gyms. Being a community manager myself, I would love to have a crack at writing the community guidelines for this hypothetical online gym. Here’s my spin:
- All shirts must have sleeves
- Hair dryers are for the hair on your head, not on your body.
- No grunting or sexual sounding noises when lifting. If you do make said noises, you shouldn’t be lifting it.
- Even though you’ve reached an age where you don’t care what’s sagging on your body, guaranteed other members do care. Please wear a towel at all times when in the locker rooms.
- Girls are there to work out, not to be hit on. Don’t be that guy.
Would you attend my online gym? What other guidelines would you add? Are there other gym roles that have a online community equivalent?