Tag Archives: Online Communities

30 May

Got an online community? Here’s how to work with Facebook and Twitter

Are you in the lucky position of having a very active online community on your own website? A busy comments section, or a chatty forum?

Bravo – in today’s world of Facebook and Twitter fever, it’s often hard to get a dedicated community involved in a discussion on your own site. It’s a powerful thing: the discussion is likely to be focussed and relevant to your user and all the discussions go on under YOUR brand’s name. The user knows where they are, who you are and what you stand for. There are also obvious benefits to your on-site advertising revenue as well!

However, a forum on a specialist website, or post comments, can easily become a walled garden. Your community is active, but may not be growing. Despite the increase in sharing tools (eg ShareThis) members rarely flag up their activity off-site so potential new users may not even know you exist.

If you want to maintain the rich discussion on your site, whilst also promoting it to the outside world, you could try setting up accounts with the big boys – Facebook and Twitter.

Graphic showing comment symbols(Note: several of these ideas may not be relevant if your forum runs on a membership-only basis, or deals with particularly sensitive or private issues.  In these cases I would suggest setting up a friendly, simple introductory page explaining who you are, the purpose of the site and the forum and why members get involved and linking to this as opposed to particular discussions). 

 

 

Keep Branding Consistent

Marketing 101 this, I know, but you’ll be amazed how many companies do not have consistent branding across all of their accounts. Use your regular logo/images and use descriptions (or edited version) from your website so people know the site is genuine. If you are not already on these networks, chances are someone else has set up an unofficial page  – make sure your new account stands out as the official one. (If someone has set up a fan or unofficial site – make contact with them, they may be happy to promote your arrival!)

Be Open

Don’t be tempted to match a members-only environment on your site with one on Facebook or Twitter. You are not trying to replicate your on-site community – this is a tool for promoting the discussion and you want it to be as visible and discoverable as possible. 

Don’t Cross-Post Everything

Graphic showing comment and Facebook symbolsThe benefit of the larger social networks is that they’re SO easy to access via phones, tablets and of course, computers. If you replicate all the discussions on Facebook, you are giving your customers an excuse NOT to visit your site.  

Keep your unique selling point – the fact that all the conversation happens on YOUR site. By selecting occasional content to flag up on FB or Twitter, you are saying “here’s what you’re missing, get involved”.

Be smart with your messages

Don’t just cross post the title. Instead, draw new audiences in to your community with phrases like “Great discussion going on about England’s chances LINK” or “Dave reckons England are doomed – what do you think? LINK“. 

Deep link

Make sure the link in your social media message links directly to the content – none of this “front page, find it yourself” nonsense. The user won’t do this: they’ll get fed up and probably won’t return or click on one of your links again. 

NOTE: If your site runs on a members only basis, deep linking will not be relevant here as the user will immediately be faced with a login screen. Send them to a friendly introductory page instead, or use the link to promote your community on a general level, instead of a specific discussion. 

Short link

Use a tool like Bitly. Not only does this help with analytics (Bitly can tell you the number of clicks the link has received) it also makes the messages look tidier and easier to retweet/forward. 

Monitor

(this goes for all social media usage)

Make sure you have at least one eye on comments and postings referring to your brand. Use a desktop tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and have searches running for the various iterations of your name including abbreviations and nicknames. This means you can respond to any feedback swiftly (and in private if necessary)

Point Back

If someone asks a question that is answered in a forum post, send them the link to a relevant discussion (or introductory page if members-only) and encourage them to get involved. If it is not already covered on your site, either create some content or start the discussion yourself, and point them to that. 

Hashtag

Graphic showing hashtag and comment symbolsYes, on Twitter hashtags are sometimes overused (or used inappropriately), but they can be useful for engaging with a whole new audience.

Keep an eye on trending hashtags and, avoiding spamming, get involved in the debate. Similarly, keep an eye on relevant events or discussions happening and make sure you your brand is in the mix.  if there is a genuine link i.e. “Great to see #internships in the headlines: one of our hot topics this week LINK” or “We’ve been having this very debate recently LINK #internships”

Engage with Other Accounts

There are likely to be a host of organisations similar to your own, or working in the same field, already on these social networks. Find them and connect with them. Chances are they’ll help promote your work by retweets your messages or mentioning you in Facebook posts. All this helps drive users to your site. Also don’t forget to return the favour – start talking about what they are doing too – share and share alike!

 

Twitter and Facebook are still great ways to promote your brand – due to the sheer numbers of users and the diversity of interests. Handled well, you could generate a lot of interest for your on-site discussions.

 

07 Aug

Facebook: groups V fan pages

I am currently working with several companies to develop their online marketing via Twitter, Facebook etc.

A new client currently has a profile, which they actively use, and a Group. However, I wonder if this is the most effective way of marketing their company, besides which, having 2 searchable profiles (group and page) is confusing to the searching user and hard work to maintain.

I am proposing they focus instead on a Fan page.  However, with more than 2500 members of the group, moving away from it is a big decision. Or is it?

I have started investigating the pro’s and con’s of a Page, against a Group, and I am still convinced that, for a business with ongoing activity, a Page is the better option.

  • A Page is Open: once a person “likes” the page, updates will then appear in their News Stream. The only way for Group members to find out what you are doing is for you to invite them to an event or message them. Many people are now event and message weary on Facebook.
  • Cross Promotion: a persons activities within  a Group are not posted onto their wall – so other people are not exposed to the group or it’s activities. A fan page, however, is open and Likes, Comments etc, appear on that persons wall. This leads to free promotion to their friends.
  • Easier to join – like buttons on sites etc automatically add people
  • Clear message – Groups can turn into a free for-all with random people posting random things on the wall. The Group messages are then lost in a sea of irrelevant chat. A Fan page allows the reader to pick JUST the page owner, or page owner and others. The message is more focussed.
  • Remote posting/monitoring – You cannot post to a group remotely (from a 3rd party programme like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, only a Page) For round the clock management and monitoring, a Fan Page is easier to monitor, along with Twitter and other accounts, from one location.
  • Analytics: Fan Pages come with detailed analytics of members, interactions, quality of posts etc so you can monitor how your page is doing. Groups do not have this luxury.

How to make the jump:

  1. First thing is to HIDE the profile – we still need it as a base for the new fan page – but we don’t want more people to join it.
  2. Launch a fan page, Anyone now searching for the product will find the Fan Page NOT the profile – this is what we want.
  3. Promote the fan page on the Group and  the profile page encouraging people to LIKE
  4. Place a button on every page of the website/other social networks, which people can simply click to “like”
  5. Phase out activity on the group but continue to advertise the Fan page
  6. Close the group.

It may seem like a risky move but the effort currently going into promoting through the group, which people are not reading, interacting with or mentioning on their own site, seems wasteful.

27 Jun

6 tips for good blogging (and social networking)

Recently I began writing a blog and looking after the social interaction for a music venue.
Here are a few things I have learnt along the way (NOTE: this is a work in progress and will be updated – feel free to comment with any suggestions below):

* Polls work. People love them. Asking people for their opinion on something gets them excited.

Image representing PollDaddy as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

A recent poll asking simply “Which band are you most looking forward to seeing” not only attracted a lot of visits, but also a lot of click-throughs to the ticket selling page. (I’d put links for all the shows below the link to the poll).

* Talk / reply / comment – responding to people’s comments is a sure fire way to drum up interest in what you are doing. Even a simple acknowledgement of their response it better than nothing

* Horses for Courses: Different bands draw traffic from different social networks. All blog links are placed on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace (which never delivers). The header is also fed onto the venues ticketing website.

Facebook and Twitter do pull in readers, but it entirely depends on the band. Almost 100% of the traffic to a Carl Barat story came from Twitter, whereas the bands Exit Calm and Band of Horses pulled in traffic from Facebook. Older bands seem to generate the majority of traffic from the ticketing website onto the blog, not vice versa.

I always tag the bands in the post  – LIKE them on facebook, befriend them on Twitter – then use an @ to link to their page.

* Buzzwords are great – think, what will people be searching for on a particular day? Events that are going on, celebrities? Without unnecessary shoehorning, a post about the World Cup  or Glastonbury festival can be very effective.

* Double tag: working for a venue, it is quite easy to “double tag” a post – i.e. talk about 2 different bands in one post. A review of last nights show, doubled with a review of this evenings works well.

* Multiple tag: a new format of post I am experimenting with is the “news roundup”. By following all the bands due to play the venue over the next few months, I put together a “Road to Wolves” post with smal tidbits, links etc about those bands. One post in, and it has proved popular.

WHAT NOT TO DO

* false promises: it seem to be clever to write the headline “Meet s0-and-so’s support band” – for an introductory piece about the smaller bands on the bill. With a lot of visits I pressumed people were generally interested in finding out more about the support band. Unfortunately a high bounce rate and a glance at the search words (Meet so-and so”) proved that people wanted to know how to meet the headliners. The post was offering something it could not deliver.

26 Apr

Do they want you, or your contacts? (updated)

We’ve all heard the phrase – it’s not what you know, but who you know.

But: if your job involves promotion/marketing – where do you draw the line between your friends, and your contacts?

In this social-networking world we find we have more contacts than ever before. Many are perhaps real-life friends from school or university, but others may be people you met briefly at a party back in 2007 or, perhaps, you’ve never met them.

For PR professionals, a wide circle of influence is vital: being able to pull celebrities to an event, get column-inches in the right magazines and make sure the song is played on every radio station. Social networks  increase that circle even further, but unless you run a strict friends/work division online, your friends soon become your professional audience.

I am seeing more and more examples of people being expected to use using their personal social network accounts to promote the product. Are companies employing people because of the size of their friends list? And more’s the point – SHOULD we be expected to use our friends, for our employer?

I admit I am guilty of using my personal social networks to promote my DJing work, but I feel this is acceptable to a point as it is “ME” doing it .. but recently I was asked to promote an 3rd party event through my own accounts. I balked slightly, reluctant to thrust this event onto my friends, relatives and acquaintances.

By the very nature that some people will use their friends as social (and business) currency, does it prove the point that contacts ain’t what they used to be?

29 Jan

Grafitti + Twitter = Tweefiti

As part of a new Birmingham arts project, this weekend that will see one of the city’s grafitti artists spraypaint inspirational messages send in on Twitter.

The theme is “life feels better”, and Aerosol Arabic will be outside Bullring shopping centre on Saturday and Sunday creating a unique piece of art from tweets sent into the @lifefeelsbetter account, which will also appear on a Twitterfall.

It’s a nice idea, and a nice push for Twitter. However, do enough people use Twitter yet? We all know Facebook is the behemoth of the social networking world (350 million users and counting), but have enough people adopted its more minimalist rival? It’s big news in the media/tech world, but every one else? A lot of my friends join Twitter, then leave again saying “I don’t understand it” or the classic “it’s not as much fun as Facebook”.

It’s a great idea, however, and it will be interesting to see the response it gets

The Bullring Arts Project launched on 25th January 2010 and Brummies are being encouraged to send in their pictures, artwork, writing or music to http://www.lifefeelsbetter.co.uk

[mappress]

26 Jan

A Good Girls Guide to … co-working UPDATED

Open office (or co-working) is hot news nowadays. The press has been full of it this week, with magazines (Company) and radio (4) running features about this very 21st century way of getting stuff done.

So how does it work? Well, either by membership or a one off entry fee, you gain access to an open plan environment, normally with wi-fi and hot and cold running drinks where you can plug in, log in and work. It has become a refuge for home workers desperate to get away from Jeremy Kyle and the washing up.

In theory it’s a great idea: away from the distractions of home life, you can focus and increase productivity. If you want to chat, the people around you are vibrant, trendy media or programmer types who want to share their ideas and collaborate on some wonderful magical project that will cure cancer or make Twitter fail-whale proof.

In reality, its a bit like being in a library. However, at least in a library you know the rules as they have been drummed into you since an early age. No talking, no mobile phones, no eating and generally don’t be a pain to everyone else or face the wrath of the chief librarian.

In a co-working space, do these rules apply?

If your phone rings, do you answer it? Should it be on silent?

Should you have a spontaneous little creative chat with your co-workers if everyone else is sitting there in silence?

Are they all wishing you would just SIT STILL and stop fidgeting?

If you work in an office you KNOW the person sitting next to you. You may not like them but at least you know their name. In a co-working space you are sitting next to a total stranger. So when you go to the toilet, should you take your bag with you? Or is that seen as a lack of trust? You wouldn’t take your laptop, but what about your mobile phone?

And that nice person that you exchanged a few pleasantries with an hour ago: do you offer them a drink when you get yourself one?

It’s a minefield. But at least it’s better than Jeremy Kyle.

MORE ON CO-WORKING

http://www.moseleyexchange.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE51G49R20090217

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Recently I began renting a desk at the Substrakt offices.  It’s a great location based at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth in Birmingham and is 50% populated by this very cool creative communications company and 50% by other people, like myself, who just need somewhere to go.

It’s early days and I need to decide if it’s value for money, but for now it’s proving to be incredibly good for me. Without my stuff to distract me I am getting a LOT done. I also feel obliged to actually get up and go into the office as I am paying for it. It’s nice to have people around, and you never know, I may get some work out of it.

Who knows?

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020