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Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy


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Online communities are all the rage in today's talk of Web 2.0, social media, new media, and other buzzwords. However, despite the hype, communities should not be dismissed as a fad. Online community engagement is a critical part of any company's strategy. This presentation examines best practices and tips for engaging with online communities and will help you understand how to incorporate community efforts into broader company initiatives.

Published in: Technology

Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy

  1. Dawn Foster Fast Wonder Consulting 05/22/09 1
  2. What is this thing we call community? In Person Community Activities 05/22/09 2
  3. What is this thing we call community? Social Media / Social Networking 05/22/09 3
  4. What is this thing we call community? Corporate / Customer Communities 05/22/09 4
  5. What is this thing we call community? Virtual Communities 05/22/09 5
  6. Why Do People Participate? Social Status & Fun Recognition Passion Gift Culture Financial Work Career Develop Learning Advancement Skills ● Motivation is complex (multiple influences) ● If people aren't motivated, they won't participate ● Promotion must take motivation into account 05/22/09 6
  7. Why Companies Participate in Communities ● People: gives people a place to engage with your company ● Product Innovation: get product feedback ● Collaboration: work together to solve issues or come up with new ideas ● Evangelism: help you grow evangelists for your products from outside of your company ● Brand Loyalty: engagement can drive a tremendous amount of loyalty for your products 05/22/09 7
  8. Guiding Principles: It's All About the People ● Focus on the individuals: Participate as a person, not a corporate entity ● Be Sincere: Sincerity = believability & credibility ● Not all about you: Community is about conversation, which is by definition two-way ● Be a Part of the Community: Don't try to control it ● Everyone’s a Peer: You are not the expert; knowledge comes from everywhere 05/22/09 8
  9. Building Your Online Community Strategy? Clear Purpose / Goals are Key ● Do you need to build new or can you join an existing community? ● What do you hope to accomplish and what are your goals for the community? ● What is your overall strategy and how does the community fit with it? ● What are your plans for achieving your goals and how will you measure it? ● Do you have the resources (people & $) to maintain it long-term? Answer these questions before you start 05/22/09 9
  10. Community Ownership “You may own the software, but the community owns itself.” --Clay Shirky ● The community quot;ownsquot; the community ● A company who starts a community: – owns the infrastructure – facilitates the discussions – moderates and keeps people in check ● If the company doesn't play nice with the community, the community will take discussions elsewhere ● Like hosting a party 05/22/09 10
  11. Play Nice quot;I'm the Lorax who speaks for the trees which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please. NOW...thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground, there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go 'round. Translation: Play Nice: Be polite and And my poor Bar-bar-loots are all getting the crummies respectful in your because they have gas, and no interactions with other food in their tummies!quot; members 05/22/09 11
  12. Where and How NOT to Participate ● Do not participate on competitor's sites (considered slimy & bad manners) ● Do not participate in communities solely to pimp your products. ● Do not mention your products in every post. Talk about the industry first & your products second 05/22/09 12
  13. How to Participate ... Listen First: Understand the Norms ● Each site has it's own norms – Language and terminology – Acceptable behavior ● Participate gently at first – Pick one site to start – Spend more time listening – Take the time to understand how people participate – Participate with an individual account first – Engage in additional sites as you get comfortable – Begin participating for your organization 05/22/09 13
  14. People are Watching You “My eyes see. His eyes see. I see him. And he sees me. And so we say, Translation: “Hooray for eyes! People see everything Hooray, hooray, hooray... you do in the community. ... for eyes!” Be a good example of the “right” behavior. 05/22/09 14
  15. Twitter ● Short messages (140 characters) – Talk about interesting things, engage in conversations, and interact with others – Be careful how often you promote your work (blog posts, community discussions, etc.) – Not all about you ● Following: – You follow people to receive their messages – People follow you to receive your messages – Only as interesting as the people you follow. 05/22/09 15
  16. Twitter Best Practices ● Know what people are saying about you ● Respond frequently and sincerely ● Follow back where appropriate ● Have a personality ● Variety is important What to Avoid ● Don't be a link spam account ● Don't go overboard with messages ● Don't be self-promotional ● Don't use direct messages to promote anything ● Don't proactively follow too many people 05/22/09 16
  17. Facebook ● Personal Profiles (private) – For real people – Not for your company ● Pages (public) – Used for products / companies / organizations – Fans, not friends (anyone can view a page) ● Groups – Often used to collaborate or organize – People become members of the group ● Applications 05/22/09 17
  18. Should You Have a Corporate Blog? ● Can you commit to at least one post per week? ● Do you have people who have interesting things to say and with good writing skills? ● Can someone manage the process and make sure that the blog never gets neglected? ● Tips for making it easier – Group blogs with many authors (not just execs) – Short posts are great – Manage the process and have a content roadmap 05/22/09 18
  19. Blogging Best Practices ● Be a thought leader in your industry ● Talk about ideas, passions, industry trends ● Be conversational. Personal posts are interesting ● Manage your content roadmap for variety ● Make it fun! ● Avoid: – Do not focus on product updates – Do not regurgitate press releases – Do not sound like a corporate drone 05/22/09 19
  20. Make it Fun Why do you sit there like that? I know it is wet. And the sun is not sunny. But we can have lots of good fun that is funny! I know some good games we could play. I know some new tricks. I will show them to you. Translation: Your mother will not mind at all if I do. Have fun! Lighten it up occasionally! 05/22/09 20
  21. Monitoring ● Social media is about conversations – you need to know what people are saying ● Know what people say about you, your industry, your competitors: critical element of community management, blogging, and social media ● Information can be used as ideas for blog posts, marketing messages, competitive analysis, etc. ● Become more responsive to feedback by proactively monitoring conversations 05/22/09 21
  22. Community Managers Help Ensure Success “Jobs of the future, #1: Online What Skills do we need? Community Organizer – Patience ... If you were great at this, I'd imagine you'd never ever have trouble finding good work.” – Networking --Seth Godin – Communication What do we do? – Facilitation – Ongoing Facilitation – Technical Skills – Monitoring Conversations – Marketing – Content Creation / Mgmt – Self-Motivation – Evangelism – Workaholic Tendencies – Community Evolution – Organization 05/22/09 22
  23. Incorporate into Existing Efforts ● Look at your overall corporate business strategy ● Find the places where community fits in ● Articulate a clear purpose for the community ● Use social media to further grow your community ● Use the right tools and technology to achieve your goals 05/22/09 23
  24. Be Flexible Never budge! That's my rule. Never budge in the least! Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east! Translation: I'll stay here, not budging! I can and I will Be flexible. Improvements and ideas If it makes you and me and the come from unexpected whole world stand still. places. 05/22/09 24
  25. Q&A Companies and Communities Book ● Signing copies after my presentation ● Additional Resources: ● Monitoring with Yahoo Pipes Training About Dawn: ● Online Community Consultant ● ● ● @geekygirldawn on Twitter 05/22/09 25
  26. Backup Materials 05/22/09 26
  27. What Makes a Community Work? ● Open, inclusive and transparent ● A company who listens (to good and bad) ● Actively engaged in the community ● Encouraging new members ● Making it easy for people to participate ● Integration into other relevant areas of the site ● Responding to criticism (never deleting negative comments) 05/22/09 27
  28. Companies with Communities to Avoid ● Community is lip service, not a serious endeavor ● Pushing marketing messages takes precedence over 2-way collaboration ● Community software / configuration / policies that get in the way of collaboration ● Neglected communities where no one in the company monitors or responds 05/22/09 28
  29. No Community is Perfect ● Things will go wrong – Your community software will have bugs – Someone will get defensive or irate – Companies have PR nightmares (remember Pentium floating pt issue?) ● In great communities, the company responds effectively – Addresses the issue and works to resolve it quickly – Keeps the focus on summarizing and fixing, instead of blaming and justifying – Maintains open communication channels 05/22/09 29
  30. Reputation Systems ● The Good ● The Practical – People like points & – Transparency recognition – Members award points – Encourages – Adjust over time participation – Highlight and reward key members ● The Bad – They will game it! – Does this make it worthless? 05/22/09 30
  31. Participate Where it Makes Sense ● Your own community ● Related communities where your audience is already participating ● Blogging (personal and corporate) ● Audio & video (YouTube/Vimeo/BlipTv) ● Twitter ● Facebook ● Many others 05/22/09 31
  32. Community Structures and Adoption ● Emergent – Pros: Easy to implement, User buy-in, Unanticipated structure – Cons: Writer's block, Off-topic ● Highly Structured – Pros: Control, Clear expectations – Cons: Restrictive, Inflexible, Community resistance, Structure that doesn't work for community ● Adaptive – Pros: User buy-in, Some control, Evolve in unanticipated positive directions – Cons: Less Control, User traction required 05/22/09 32
  33. Traditional Promotion (Customers) ● Use your existing promotional vehicles to reach your customers ● Tell them about your community efforts ● Share your strategy & purpose with them ● Incentivize them to join & participate ● With any new community, run a limited beta for customers. Get their feedback and let them help promote it to others 05/22/09 33
  34. Social Media Engagement ● Augment traditional community efforts with social media ● Blog about your community efforts on company & personal blogs (make sure your blogs are listed) ● Use Audio / Video to share information relevant to your community. Host it on popular sites (YouTube, etc.) and embed it in your community ● Talk about what you are doing on Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites 05/22/09 34
  35. On Domain or Off Domain: Strategic Decision ● – More focus on your products – Clarity about who facilitates the community – Authority source for product info (features, etc.) ● Off-Domain (, etc.) – Focus on a segment or industry – Accept discussions about competitors – Possibly better perception of neutrality – Slightly less authority about your products 05/22/09 35
  36. Flickr: Community Done Well ● Clear and simple guidelines (ex. Don’t be creepy. You know the guy. Don't be that guy.) ● Easy to use and intuitive to participate (comments, favorites, tags, notes) ● Transparency about people (profile, favorites, groups, etc.) ● Private, public ● Little things: Comments you've made 05/22/09 36
  37. Dealing with the Difficult ● Negative Comments: Do not delete negative feedback. Respond constructively ● Spammers: Put aggressive measures in place to deal with spam ● Pain in the ***s: Put them to work if possible 05/22/09 37
  38. Don't Feed the Trolls “oh-oh!” Sally said. Don't you talk to that cat. That cat is a bad one, That Cat in the Hat. He plays lots of bad tricks. Translation: Don't you let him come near. You know what he did Don't encourage the The last time he was here.” trolls. They want attention. Resist the urge to give it to them! 05/22/09 38
  39. Promotion ● Use existing promotional vehicles to reach your customers ● With any new community, run a limited beta for customers. Get their feedback and let them help promote it to others ● Augment traditional community efforts with social media: corporate & personal blogs, audio, video, Twitter, Facebook, etc. ● Incentivize people to join & participate 05/22/09 39
  40. Promotional No-No’s ● Do not use your community to sell anything – Use your community to get people excited about your products – If you get people excited, they will figure out how to buy it. ● Do not promote your community on competitor's sites (slimy) ● Do not use social media (twitter, facebook, blogs, etc.) with the sole purpose of pimping – Talk about your ideas, thoughts, and products with a personal spin (what YOU are doing) 05/22/09 40