Community Development

Contributed Post: David Stribling, Co-Founder of Lasuni.
Small companies will often build small communities during development. As a small company, your community is your greatest asset. The way you manage, and interact with your community is incredibly important to the growth and success of your brand. Ensuring you cultivate a close-knit community can have many benefits. First, your community creates the best and most effective marketing tool you can have: word of mouth. Engaging your community will keep your customers coming back time and time again. They will feel personally connected to your product and brand. Here are the four factors that I consider vital when managing a community.

1. Honesty The most important thing when communicating with your audience is that you’re always honest. Consumers aren’t stupid. Trying to avoid answering questions or obvious issues won’t build trust. Every company will experience bumps along the way, both large and small. By quickly addressing these issues in an open and honest manner, you will reassure your community that you’re tackling the problem directly.

A perfect example of this done poorly, is the recent PSN (PlayStation Network) outage. On April 20th, some parts of the network weren’t working and Sony stated it was "undergoing maintenence". It wasn’t until April 26th that Sony finally revealed that there had been a "compromise of personal information as a result of an illegal intrusion on [their] systems." The attack occurred between April 17th and 19th, which means their community was in the dark about the theft of their personal information for up to 9 days. In the age of social networks and instant communication, that kind of delay isn’t acceptable. You should aim to let your community know what’s going on as soon as you know. Be sure to tell them what you’re going to do about it.

Contributed post:  Michelle Berg, President & CEO of Elevated HR Solutions. In January, one of my clients came to me asking to support their social media endeavors.  Although social media is something I’ve always liked to do in my spare time (remember IRC chat rooms…yeah…I was addicted back then already), it’s not something I do for clients.  Their response was, “Fine then - hire me a kick ass social media guru.  Or you know – a person who is an expert with online stuff.” Jim Collins of Good to Great says, “The most important decisions business people make are not what decisions, but are who decisions.” That’s because who you have working in your company impacts everything from your personal AND company brand, to your operational efficiency to overall profitability. So where does a company start when it comes to hiring someone to help out with social media?  It’s certainly not a role that everyone understands like accounting or sales.  But relax – it’s not that difficult to hire a rock star.  Here are some quick steps to help you out:

1. Don't search for a “guru” or an “expert”

There really is no such thing considering social media really hasn’t been around long enough to garner such titles.  You wouldn’t go outward and say you are hiring an Accounting Expert or a Sales Guru. You hire an Accountant with personality or a Sales Executive that is driven.  Typical titles in the social media world are as follows: Community Manager, Manager of Interactive Communications, Social Media Specialist, Social Media Advisor, etc.  I typically advise Community Manager because of how encompassing it is.  But at the end of the day, it does come down to business preference.  They can be rock stars and/or kick-assed but you don’t need to place that in their title.

2. Define the role

Sure seems like a no-brainer, but in my experience, this is overlooked all too often.  Title aside, you need to know what it is that they are going to do.  If you don’t know – then it’s almost impossible to manage them and more importantly to ensure you can measure their results and make sure they are doing what you need them to be doing.

Going viral is the Holy Grail of social media marketing. It represents the ultimate achievement of a marketing campaign launched through the Internet: popularity that skyrockets into legendary status. However, unlike the irreverent quest for the Holy Grail depicted in a certain cult-classic film, reaching that goal isn't merely an exercise in light-hearted entertainment. It takes a good helping of know-how, some marketing finesse, and a lot of buzz. Buzz is a marketing term that was once a mere footnote in campaign strategies, but with the advent of social media, has become the "make or break" element of any successful marketing plan. Buzz is the force that can carry a message across the globe, reaching beyond target demographic groups and regions. It's easy to see why marketers are scrambling to create buzz for their brands and products, but there are pitfalls to watch out for. Like a cinematic twist, buzz has an evil twin that it's all too commonly mistaken for called hype. So how can you tell the difference, and what's really so bad about hype, anyway? Hype is an ad campaign whose momentum is self-generated, getting aggressively promoted and boasted about by its own source. It is the brand itself telling customers that it's entertaining and exciting, hoping for a trickle-down effect through the audience and their networks to achieve popularity. It should go without saying that this type of marketing rarely, if ever, reaches viral status. That's why buzz is so important to strive for. Buzz is consumer-generated, which means it relies on content capturing attention and encouraging authentic sharing. It might seem like a gamble, but it's one that can easily be rigged in your favor. After all, studies have shown that up to 89% of adult Internet users in the U.S. share content amongst their contacts, and 63% of those users do so at least once a week. Incredibly, 25% of those users are sharing on a daily basis. While it may seem counterintuitive to avoid hype, blatant branding within content had little impact on whether the content was shared or became viral.

[caption id="attachment_450" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via"][/caption] When I first heard about the Pepsi Refresh Project, I was blown away. The entire project is fun, social and innovative. Pepsi even scores corporate responsibility points for giving back to the community through donations. With three separate Facebook pages for Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi, nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, and an entire website dedicated to voting and discussion, Pepsi has defined the meaning of a kick-ass brand. Though they have large budgets it doesn't mean you can't do it too. So, without thousands of dollars, how can your brand kick-ass like Pepsi? Companies are turning to social marketing and engagement to convert their mediocre brands into kick-ass brands. Are these brands the best at operations? Not necessarily. Do they have more resources? Not exactly. Do they have fewer costs? They sure don't. These brands aren't industry leaders or the absolute best at something specific. But their personality, creativity and engagement have set them ahead of the rest to position them as a kick-ass brand. Here are five ways to take your brand from mediocre to kick-ass status.

1. Be Real

Lately, many people have been throwing around the word "authentic". It's really just a fancy way of saying that you need to be real and genuine when it comes to engagement. It means throwing out the corporate language you've been used to. Conversations on social media platforms should never feel forced or fake. That's why it is important to have someone with a real passion for your industry and product managing your branded accounts.