Do Users Really Generate Content? Tips and Tools for Building Engaged Online Communities


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Presented at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, Chicago, IL, June 18, 2012

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  • We have a lot to talk about. We really want to get a sense of who you are, so we can tailor our information to your needs, and we want you to feel free to ask questions at any time, no need to wait until the end of our presentations.
  • NSRT helps grantees of the Corporation for National and Community Service, such as AmeriCorps, build capacity with information, online training, and online communities. In addition to being an avid user of online communities in my own personal and professional life, I have been interacting with the community of CNCS grantees for over ten years via listservs, email, and phone, and now we are embarking on an exciting project of building more full featured online communities for the grantees.
  • Let’s hear from someone who works at a fairly large organization. And someone who works at a very small organization. We are online junkies and nerds, so please, please stop us if you don’t understand what we’re saying. We are all here to learn and you may be advocating for several of your audience-mates if you ask us to explain our jargon.
  • Ask audience for some examples. Ladder of engagement
  • On the high end of the UGC spectrum. Lesson is – took a long time and these trickle in, but what they submit is really quality and useful to others. A well-defined community that has been developing over years, knows each other from our listserv. So, this is one possible end point from a ladder of engagement, and Kate is going to go over some of the basics that need to be in place as you build that ladder.
  • There’s a scene in Through the Looking Glass where Alice runs lightning fast alongside the Queen. When she stops to rest after a long while, Alice can hardly believe her eyes, for she is in the same place she started. The Queen asked why Alice thinks this is remarkable. Alice says, “Well, in our country, you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” The Queen responds Alice must be from a very slow country. She says: “Now, here, you see it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”  
  • This data is interesting, but not necessarily actionable.
  • There’s a scene in Through the Looking Glass where Alice runs lightning fast alongside the Queen. When she stops to rest after a long while, Alice can hardly believe her eyes, for she is in the same place she started. The Queen asked why Alice thinks this is remarkable. Alice says, “Well, in our country, you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” The Queen responds Alice must be from a very slow country. She says: “Now, here, you see it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”  
  • There’s a scene in Through the Looking Glass where Alice runs lightning fast alongside the Queen. When she stops to rest after a long while, Alice can hardly believe her eyes, for she is in the same place she started. The Queen asked why Alice thinks this is remarkable. Alice says, “Well, in our country, you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” The Queen responds Alice must be from a very slow country. She says: “Now, here, you see it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”  
  • Personal networking at work (Basic social and communication skills) Social media Start with listening Build trust Amplify your message THIS IS THE ENTRY POINT TO SOCIAL NETWORKING; IF YOU DO ONE THING, MAKE IT BE A GOOGLE ALERT
  • This example shows blog monitoring, it can also be used for monitoring tweets, tags, apps, other feeds. The premium version does curation and analytics as well.
  • Even if you’ve reached the Holy Grail and are getting lots of UGC without doing anything proactive to get it, you’ll still want to highlight and curate it.
  • Parameters: A time-bound ask (one month). Win-win – contributors get professional recognition, links to their blog or their org’s blog Inclusive/Frictionless – contribute from anywhere, just use a hashtag, send a quick email, can re-use past content (explain frictionless – no complicated logins, formatting instructions, etc.)
  • Add Robin Good example
  • This shows the way I’m currently using for our org on a particular topic. It could also be used to curate, for example, a Twitter list you build of your best supporters or members.
  • This example shows news, but it could easily be blog posts or tweets that a known community member has written. They will feel special by being highlighted.
  • NetSquared roundups Zoetica/Beth questions on Facebook TechSoup discussion boards #nptech tag on delicious and Twitter So, tools include Blogs, Online dashboards, Twitter, Email discussion groups (NTEN has), Wikis (WeAreMedia), Flickr, SNS (Facebook). Slideshare, YouTube (add a few slides to show quickly w/Amy’s dashboard, a blog, WeAreMedia? )
  • Within the VISTA Campus there is a separate area for VISTA Leaders. Notice bullet point three – the challenge was to create useful, evergreen materials to help other VISTA Leaders do their job well. Six teams worked on creating content for six different products. There were 3 facilitators/coaches. The materials were drafted in wikis and the end products were nicely designed PDFs.
  • “ What is KaBOOM!” Read KaBOOM! Vision and Mission Basically, we can’t do it alone. Bringing corporate and foundations together to fund needy communities to plan and organize one day community builds that bring together hundreds of volunteers and transforms communities. That takes a lot of time. A lot of staff. A lot of money. We’ve been using the internet to rapidly scale our impact for about 6 years. We’ve developed a number of online tools and programs that help community-minded citizens (and regular joes) helps us build, improve, open, and map playgrounds across North America.
  • So you might be asking…
  • Building, improving, and opening playgrounds is a high barrier. The Map of Play is a consumer-friendly advocacy tool we created to meet people who are fans of our work half way. If you don’t have a year to fundraise and put together a playground build, you can map the state of play in your community by using the Map of Play to add, find, rate, and upload photos of your community’s playgrounds. It’s the Yelp or Youtube for playgrounds. Play deserts.
  • Many of you in the room are, I’m sure, aware of the challenges of trying to crowd-source any type of knowledge base, and all of those same challenges of trying to engage users exist for the Map of Play too. Two years ago, we launched the Park-a-Day Summer Challenge. It was a call to action we put out through mommy blogger channels, facebook, twitter, and We challenged parents to take our challenge to visit a new playground every week (or more if they wanted too). Instead of jumping right in to the ins and outs of the program, I thought I’d share some of the good data that came out of it. If you are like me, you are thinking– wow! That’s awesome. All in all, we calculated roughly 1,300 “engagements” across the KaBOOM! related to the challenge. And since so much of it is on the Map of Play, this great content will have long term benefits to new people visiting the site and looking to engage.
  • Using social media, our newsletter, etc, we put out the call for 2011 challengers. Users responded by signing up for more information on a Salsa form (we also used salsa to send our regular updates) 2. He hosted two orientation conference calls so we had an opportunity to introduce ourselves, explain the challenge and how it worked, and get people talking to each other. 3. After that, we let people go on their way. If they signed up on the KaBOOM! website and joined the discussion group, they officially became part of the challenge. And used our tools, Map, iPhone, and forum, to participate in the challenge.
  • Here is some proof of how one challengers perspective changed from the experience. Playgrounds are all well and good, unless they are locked behind fences. Alex has gone made countless revisions to entries in our Map of Play. He sends us long, loooooong emails detailing misinformation and suggests on how to change the website. He finished his challenge with a 1,500 word essay on the forum that served as a beginner’s guide to the Map of Play and a ‘best practices” guide for the site. In short superstar.
  • In one of our weekly emails, I listed a count of everyone’s activity on the website so far in the challenge. A leaderboard of sorts. 15-minutes after the email went out, Michelle emailed me a spreadsheet laying out, in great detail, how I had counted her activity in correctly and how I missed dozens of playgrounds she added in earlier, buggier versions of the Map of Play website. As a side note, injecting a little competition into our challenge with the leaderboard split our challengers into three groups: The “I feel so guilty I should do more” The “I’m so close to the top of the list! I’m adding XXX more this weekend!” The “I don’t cares.”
  • Dana is a “Mommy blogger” that knew nothing about KaBOOM! before the challenge. After hitting her goal of 50 playgrounds in the summer challenge, she’s started a entirely new blog at where she continues to find and rate the places to play in Calgary.
  • Dear photograph
  • Moral of the story, we are lowering the bar to enter a little more to invite more people in, and we are offering prizes! With actual monetary value, not just swag. Gamification is the use of game design techniques[1], game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used. We are going to spur more engagement on the Tag app and the Map of Play by using game elements, like a Badge as a reward. Points will determine prize winners and get people highlight on the Map of Play homepage. If we do this again next year, I’ll let you know how it works.
  • The Cause and the user meet : We figured where our cause, creating new places for kids to play, can meet people with ordinary lives and ordinary goals. It takes some really special to take on a playground build on their own. We tailored the challenge to appeal to everyone else. High Touch: We got to know the challengers better, and they got to know us. We traded “social capital” to create a mutually beneficial relationship– they received press and social media, we received stellar content. Radar : This program was cheap. Not on time, but in dollars. It was heavy on sweat, low on tears. The investment paid off. We had great content for the entire summer to promote in social media. We had great stories for our board and donors. And the Map of Play now has a great content that will attract new visitors and spur further engagement Customer Service: I can’t stress this enough as a Quality Assurance person. It’s tech, and if you are building your own like KaBOOM! does, it’s going to be buggy. Our iPhone app, Playgrounds, was a mess. Should not have been released and we couldn’t keep up with bugs. People will get mad. Be patient. Be patient. Thank them for their patience, even when they don’t have any. You can transform someone who hates your product into someone who, at least, likes you enough to stick around for version 2.0. Listen to your users. You want to be quick on the draw with a retweet when they drop your hashtag 6PM pacific time and you are in washington dc. You have to read what they write. Comment, but try not to be the first one. This is their community– you just host it. Don’t overly restrict your campaign: We told people (and documented it as such in instructions) to go once a week, but in reality, we didn’t care. We understood people have real lives and real responsibilities and we never used a lack of steadfast, daily commitment to our challenge as a reason to not feature someone. We never passive aggressively welcomed someone back if they took a week or two off. Let the user have some leeway with their commitment. Phone: This goes back to customer service, but re-learn to love that phone. Put your phone number on the webpage. Make sure everyone can see it. It just works when someone can hear your voice, whether it’s a technical issue they are having or they just want to share something they found truly inspiring. I can think of at least 3 times where someone just called to tell me how much fun they were having, and they were all people I had talked to first for a tech support issue. Solutions : More customer service. Know your product or tool you are using. Figure out the work around’s. Know the browsers. Know how they effect the look or feel of your page’s. If it’s unfixable, try to fi it anyway, even if it’s just hitting up Facebook for a support request. If you need a day or two to fix something, let them know the timeline and give the a message when it’s ready.
  • Move some questions down here
  • I really like Amy’s blog because she goes into depth about the meaning of community. Community is not just you having a conversation with your audience. It’s when they start talking to each other, co-creating things together. It takes more than being a defined demographic or having a shared interest for a group of people to be a community. If brands were nervous about turning over control of their message to users, they are even more nervous about turning over control to communities. However, many social causes can benefit from cultivating true community.
  • Do Users Really Generate Content? Tips and Tools for Building Engaged Online Communities

    1. 1. Convened by National Conference on Volunteering and Service Do Users Really Generate Content? Tips and Tools forBuilding Engaged Online Communities
    2. 2. Today’s Agenda• Who we are• Who are you?• What is UGC?• Building Relationships in a changing (digital) world (Kate)• Curating and Highlighting UGC (Laura)• KaBOOM! Case Study (Jason)• Questions / Discussion
    3. 3. Who We Are• Laura Norvig National Service Resources & Training• Kate Olsen Network for Good• Jason Kooper KaBoom!
    4. 4. Who Are You?• What is your end goal for UGC?• What is the size of your org and your staffing capacity for community engagement?• What platforms do you currently use? (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, “White label” or custom, other)• What do you want to learn today?
    5. 5. What is User Generated Content? • A Facebook “Like”? • A comment from an anonymous website visitor? • A Facebook comment? • A Facebook post? • A tweet from a member of your community? • A comment on your blog? • An external blog post that mentions your org/topic? • A YouTube video related to your cause? • A YouTube video created at your request? • A guest blog post written for your blog? • A shared document?
    6. 6. Typical example of UGC
    7. 7. Building relationships in a changing (digital) worldKate OlsenDirector of
    8. 8. How Our WorldIs Changing
    9. 9. Old: In marketers we trust. New: In each other we trust.
    10. 10. Percent of consumers who say theybelieve marketers’ claims* 6%Percent of consumers who say they trustrecommendations from acquaintances*** Forrester, 2009** Nielsen, 2009 90%
    11. 11. The Funnel has Flipped Credit: Crystal Version, Flickr Image from: Optimize & Prophesize (
    12. 12. Old: Marketers target everyone. New: MicroMARKETING Drew Olanoff, Micromarketer
    13. 13. Old: Mass communication New: ‘Masses of communicators’* *From Greg Verdino, MicroMARKETING
    14. 14. It’s noisyout there!The ConversationPrism by BrianSolis of PR 2.0 Brian Solis of PR 2.0
    15. 15. Old: Marketing Monologues New: Conversation Social Sampling Scores Big for Kleenex as a Million People Share Packs
    16. 16. Old: Try to Command & Control New: Engage, Participate Malaria Griot Program Web 1.0: Launch and walk away
    17. 17. What ThisMeans For Us
    18. 18. The new (digital) world order What else is out there? •Are new supporters finding you through P2P sites? •What’s your plan to keep them in your community? What tools make sense? •Where do your supporters congregate? •Are you ready to hand over the megaphone? •Do you have a micro-content strategy? •What resources are available (staff, time etc…) Have you mastered the basics? •Well-branded, easy-to-use website Email Website Events •Ability to process secure donations •Email campaign tool (federal anti-spam laws) •Website analytics tool (like Google Analytics) •Listening tool (monitor online conversations) •Great follow-up for online supporters •Smooth integration of online & offline efforts •Regular reporting on all of your efforts What do they care about? •Why me? •What for? •Why now? •Who says?
    19. 19. What WeMustDo
    20. 20. Don’t Teeter on the Tip of the SocialWeb Iceberg! Courtesy of Frank Rodríguez
    21. 21. Join a Conversation
    22. 22. And Start a Relationship
    23. 23. Let your masses be your message This is about bonds, trust and authenticity. Not Wires. • Let your supporters spread your message • Fill your site and social media outposts with their content and conversation • Highlight the great work they are doing furthering your mission See how much easier that is!
    24. 24. Listen!
    25. 25. Source: a presentation by Charlene Li, author, Groundswell
    26. 26. Set goals for your site & social media… Engagement & Reach Earned Media •Offline media mentions •Page Impressions, Visits, Unique Visitors •Online media mentions •Time Spent, Pages per visitor •Emails opened, click-throughs •Videos viewed, audio plays Search Visibility •Higher search results •Greater search results “share” Word of Mouth •3rd party results •Number of Mentions, Posts, Comments •Recommendations Research •Mentions-per-user •Send This To A Friend •Customer/stakeholder feedback •Inbound links •Product sampling …monitor & adjust Source: Qui Diaz, Livingston Communications:
    27. 27. Curating and Highlighting UGC Laura Norvig Online Community Manager National Service Resources and Training
    28. 28. Why Listen?• Find out who is talking about your organization and cause• Research topics and trends related to your niche• Discover who is sharing your content• Engage with your community
    29. 29. Listening Tools• Google alerts• Tweetdeck / Twitter searches• Tags (blogs, Twitter, delicious)• Aggregated dashboards (like Netvibes)• Many new social media listening tools like SocialMention –
    30. 30. Netvibes – dashboard listening tool
    31. 31. Curation: What is it?• “Content curation is organizing, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best with your network.” –Beth Kanter• Curating User Generated Content is a way to draw attention to the best of your UGC, and honor your community members’ contributions.
    32. 32. Curation: Why do it?• Grow your audience• Become a leader• Build relationships• Build trust through the human touch (i.e., hand curated content, not automatic RSS feeds)
    33. 33. Curation Tools•• Storify• Pinterest
    34. 34. Curating UGC
    35. 35. Curating Non-UGC
    36. 36. behind the scenes– pulling from many sources • .
    37. 37. behind the scenes – curation proces
    38. 38. page automatically created
    39. 39. on your own website
    40. 40. Storify• Highlight tweets on a certain theme, from a tweet chat, or with links to your community’s pics/videos• Flexible, easy platform allows you to intersperse words, tweets, links, pics, and videos.
    41. 41. See great examples of using Storify
    42. 42. NPTech Tag Community Collecting UGC: Inclusive model
    43. 43. Collecting UGC:Exclusive model
    44. 44. KaBOOM! Case Study: The Park-a-DaySummer Challenge By Jason Cooper, Quality Assurance Coordinator for KaBOOM!(202) 464-6189 | | @jrcooper
    45. 45. KaBOOM!Our Vision: A Great Place to Play WithinWalking Distance of Every ChildOur mission is to create great playspacesthrough the participation and leadership ofcommunities.Why go online?We can’t do it alone.
    46. 46. “Did you just use theword ‘map’ as averb?”
    47. 47. Yes, I did! Meet the Map of Play!
    48. 48. Map of Play: Park-a-Day SummerChallengeJune 1st to September 1st• Over 100 people signed up for the challenge• Only 21 became official challengers• 81 new entries were created• 327 photos were added• 84 ratings• 180 posts were made to the Park-a-Day forum• Visits to the Park-a-Day Challenge section of our community stayed 143% longer• Most of the challengers received coverage from their local community’s media outlets (TV and Print)• Tweets, ReTweets, Facebook likes– countless!
    49. 49. The Pitch – What we asked them todo1. Create a profile on kaboom.org2. Join us on one of our two “orientation” conference calls to meet fellow challengers and learn from challenge vets.3. Go to a park or playground at least once a week.4. Add that park or playground to the Map of Play. 1. Add a description of the playground 2. Rate the playground 3. Add photos 4. Fill in details about the equipment available5. Join the Park-a-Day discussion group on Participate in discussions at your leisure, including our weekly prompts posted by KaBOOM! staff.7. Tweet about it! Blog about it! Facebook about it!8. Rinse, repeat.
    50. 50. The Pitch – What we will do for them1. Coverage on the KaBOOM! Blog, Play Today.2. Coverage on KaBOOM! social networks, highlighting your blog, Twitter handle, etc.3. We’ll compile each challengers Top 5 playgrounds from the summer, and pitch the story to local and national news outlets using KaBOOM! media contacts.4. Challengers will gain an entirely new perspective on what goes into creating and maintaining quality parks and playgrounds.5. Challengers will gain an entirely new perspective on how their kids can learn and develop, simply by playing.6. KaBOOM! also promises you and your family will have FUN!
    51. 51. How it worked• We put out the call on social media and our newsletter for new challengers and users responded by signing up for more information on a form for our CRM, Salsa.• 2 orientation calls with KaBOOM!, fellow challengers, and challenge veterans• The Map of Play and our iPhone app, Playgrounds!• KaBOOM! Community Forum–• An “always available” policy for support. Challengers had our direct contact information (in one case my personal phone number) to handle support requests or just to shoot the breeze.• Play Today, and KaBOOM! social media, served as the gateway for the broader play community to learn and get involved with our challengers.
    52. 52. Tired of bullets? ME TOO!
    53. 53. When I started this project, I was looking to find outmore about the playgrounds around us in Troy, in orderto make a case that there were plenty of playgroundselsewhere, but none downtown. This was to support ourcase for a downtown Troy playground. But that wasntquite what I found.There actually are a fair number of toddler playspacesdowntown—the problem is that the nice ones are notopen to the public. -Alex from Troy, NY
    54. 54. -Michelle from Troy, NY
    55. 55. -Dana and Gordie, Calgary, Alberta
    56. 56. My kids have definitely started to use their imaginations a bit more at theplayground. I notice them striking up conversations with other kids they dontknow and starting games. Playing "store" and some version of KarateKid/Power Rangers Samurai seem to be their favorites.Instead of hanging from the monkey bars, they seem to be climbing on top ofthem, which makes me cringe. My reaction is to say...get down from there,thats not how you use them and you are going to fall, but it really isnt anydifferent than climbing on the things designed for climbing. My 9 year old was outside from 9 to 4 everyday. My 6 year old played lots of games outside, but also experienced one day that was heavier on classroom time. On our drive home, she said "Mommy, can we stop at a playground?" I was like "What? You just spent 7 hours at camp!" And she complained theyd been inside too much that day. I was amazed she knew herself well enough to know she needed to hang out outside. So we got home and she played outside in our homemade sandboxes for over an hour while I got dinner ready.
    57. 57. 2012 Challenge– Begins July 2nd All new app, Tag!, on iPhone and Android Easier to use, uses GPS to locate where the picture is so it’s easier to get it on the map. PRIZES! Streamlined website: Summer Challenge will have it’s own forum within the Map of Play website. Gamification!
    58. 58. Tips for making a campaign like thiswork• Find where your cause and your user meet.• “High touch” campaign.• Fly under the radar.• Be the best customer service agent you can be.• Don’t restrict.• Learn to re-love your phone.• Give solutions.
    59. 59. Questions and Answers
    60. 60. Discussion Topics•What type of community are youcultivating?•Is it your job to run this thing? Is thisyour sole job? If not, how do youmanage your time/fit it in?•What successes/failures have you had“getting” user generated content?•What did you learn today that you willtake back to work and act on?
    61. 61. Further Resources• Content and Community at Boston University• Think Tank Round-up: Curating Content -• How great nonprofits are rocking Storify -• Amy Sample Ward’s blog• Tara Hunt’s The Whuffie Factor• Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention blog
    62. 62. Contact Us• Kate Olsen • • @Kate4Good• Jason Cooper • • @jrcooper• Laura Norvig • • @LNorvig
    63. 63. • Please fill out the session evaluation form• Thank You!