Empower your best contributors

30 10 2009

medalIn an online  community, your top contributors are your site’s godsend. Roll out the red carpet for them, recognise and reward them, make them feel as valuable as they are to your community and brand.

Especially in the early stages of your community, your top  contributors are loyal visitors who continue to comment and post ideas – even if your numbers are small. They talk to the community manager by name, and set the high standards that should be part of any online community – listening and responding.

Once you have an established and working community, these people become your star pupils. But keep in mind – if you make a mistake, or become slack – they will certainly pick you up on it!

Your top contributors answer members questions before you have a chance, and will defend your brand when need be. A response to a customer’s negative comment always looks much better coming from a loyal customer than a company representative with obvious bias!

You can empower your best contributors by:

  • Personally thanking them for the contributions and help.
  • Launching a ‘Top Contributors’ blog post – where you recognise their efforts. Woolworths Everyday Matters community has recently launched their second Hall of Fame (disclaimer: I currently help Woolworths with their community).
  • Assign badges which assigns a special status to your best contributors. This has been effectively done in sites like Tripadvisor, which assigns a number next to their screen name to indicate how many times they have left reviews on the site, or Hostel World which classifies their customers on how well-travelled they are – Novice Nomad, Avid Traveller and Globetrotter.
  • In larger communities or communities where comments aren’t pre-moderated, you can assign these members moderating privileges which allows them to flag inappropriate comments, or allow new comments through. Communities like Game Spot, and Small Business Online Community. Communities like Slashdot use a ‘karma’ system, which depends on how good/bad/neutral your contributions have been so far.
  • Ask them to guest blog for the site.

Remember to regularly research who your best contributors are, as there may be new members rising up the ranks – especially once they see how good it is to be a top contributor on your site!


10 Tips for Engaging Your Community

23 10 2009


Online communities take time and energy at all levels to ensure their success.

The community manager must nurture the community, while the marketing team needs to actively promote the community to drive recruitment, and at a corporate level suggestions and ideas have to be taken on board and acted on where possible.

The following are tips that I like to follow, to ensure that I have a healthy community!

  1. Listen – Golden rule number for engaging your community – you have to listen. Don’t ignore the important things your members have to say to you.
  2. Respond – Don’t ignore your members, especially when they care enough to take the time and energy to tell you what they think. This needs to be done in a timely manner as well.
  3. Follow up – When a member asks you a question or leaves a fantastic comment, don’t just leave them hanging. Tell them that you’ll get back to them shortly – and then do. If your members get no response from you or the rest of the community, then why would they come back?
  4. Update content – When people first arrive at your site, they want to see that the community is active and that the content is fresh. If you haven’t updated your content since January 09, it makes the community feel abandoned and unlived in.
  5. Nurture your advocates and top contributors – One of the most important rules of creating an engaged online community is to ensure that you nurture and reward the top contributors on your site. You need to know these people by name, and these are the select few in your community who will welcome new members, answer your questions before you can get to it, and defend your brand. These are biggest advocates and need to be treated as such.
  6. Show action – You should be regularly reporting back to the community with updates on what’s happening, which of their suggestions have been acted on, which ideas are the most popular etc. Why give their ideas and thoughts if nothing’s going to happen with them.
  7. Become personable – The editor of the community should be a person, not a corporate front. That means no corporate talk and no responses written by legal. A community is a two-way street – to expect your members to give information, you have to as well. By relating to your members, with personal experiences, members will feel more comfortable to do the same.
  8. Re-engage – It’s very common for members to become busy, forget to visit your community, and become disengaged. By sending out a monthly newsletter or an email, you can let members know what’s happening on the site and is a great way to gently remind people that you’re still there!
  9. Engage other social networking sites – If you’re running a branded community, a great way to recruit and engage is by having a presence on other popular networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Depending on your member base, it’s likely that they regularly visit sites such as these, and shouldn’t be ignored or expected that people will always remember to come to you.
  10. Be open and authentic – Customers understand when they’ve made an unreasonable request, and by openly explaining why you are unable to act on some ideas builds respect and loyalty among your member base. If there is a problem, or a reason why your member is upset – be honest. Apologise for your mistake, offer to listen to their grievances. Never delete negative comments from your community (unless they are rude or defamatory) – the conversation has to be authentic, including the good the bad and the ugly.

What tips do you have for engaging your customers or community members?

5 guilty pleasures online

16 10 2009

embarrassedWhile I like to believe that the majority of my time spent online is both educational and worthwhile, I have to admit that a few guilty pleasures have  entered my favourites list overtime. Enjoy (and don’t judge)!

  1. Lamebook – Similar to watching a car crash, the content is extremely inappropriate, shocking and mostly hilarious – it’s simply amazing what some people deem suitable to post on their Facebook!
  2. Perez Hilton – You’ll either love his infamous blog or hate it, but I have to admit that I can’t seem to get enough of reading about the lives of the rich and famous. Highly addictive and very voyeuristic.
  3. Tripadvisor’s Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels (2009) – While I also love reading (and dreaming of the never likely to happen!) Conde Nast’s Golden List, I also enjoy reading the reviews of some of the worst hotels in the world. Mostly because I’m relieved that I’ve never had the pleasure of being their guest, but I also can’t believe how bad some of these places sound!
  4. People of Walmart – Simply described as “what were they thinking?!?” – take a look for yourself.
  5. Pick the Perp – WARNING: An addictive time waster – who knew I was so terrible at spotting a criminal?

Five Problems with Crowdsourcing

1 10 2009

vegemiteCrowdsourcing is enjoying infamous popularity at the moment, partly (or should I say mostly?) due to the colossal amount of attention Kraft’s received for its launch of iSnack 2.0.

Also commonly known as fansourcing, crowdcasting, open sourcing, open innovation, crowdfunding, mass collaboration, collective customer commitment, wikinomics, tapping the wisdom of the crowds – just to name a few.

The online space has enabled  brands to access the feedback and ideas of your customer’s extremely quickly, and crowdsourcing allows you to harness this resource.

But as we have seen with the recent Kraft debacle, there are some issues to be aware of –

  1. While the promised prize of naming a new product will certainly guarantee large numbers of entries – what happens if there aren’t any good/acceptable/great ideas amongst the pile? Your brand has no control over the quality of entries.
  2. Your company becomes blinded by the success of the buzz and attention the competition has generated – what if they choose the wrong winner? Over 40,000 entries and the best they could choose was iSnack 2.0?
  3. Condorcet’s jury theorem – a political science theorem which states that if a crowd is slightly more likely to be wrong about a subject – the bigger the crowd the more likely you are to get the wrong answer (iSnack 2.0 anyone?)
  4. The public aren’t professionals or experts in branding/advertising/marketing, and while thinking outside the box can result in some innovative ideas, how can you ensure that they will choose a good one? OzSoapBox explains the danger of “allowing another IT nerd to name anything ever again”.
  5. This process still requires the guiding hand of an expert in the subject, and cannot be expected to be fool proof exercise.

Yet you can understand why brands and their agencies are loving the idea of crowdsourcing –

  • They engage the advocates of their brand effectively
  • Participants subsequently feel like they have a voice which is heard
  • You can get some great ideas… for free

Alan Wolk describes this phenomenon on his blog as a “creative gangbang 2.0”. Some say that a million heads is better than one….. but is it?!?

Does adding an’i’ before anything, make it instantly cool/trendy and very 2.0 – and as Nicole Martinelli pointed out in her post “Proof you can’t just ‘i’ anything: iSnack 2.0 Vegemite” – shouldn’t Apple be offended unofficial endorsement?

Credit to Kraft for listening to the response to its new product, and quickly dealing with the online firestorm. They released a press release yesterday afternoon, admitting that they had heard what the masses thought and were taking steps to review their choice. What I wasn’t aware of was that the original Vegemite name had also been chosen through a crowdsourcing competition of it’s own, in the 1930’s.

I feel that Kraft will be able to turn this into a positive for their new Vegemite/cheese concoction, as they are now running a public vote to decided on a replacement name and will allow them to have much more control over the choices! As Paul Harrison points out in his post “iSnack 2.0: a branding disaster? Not exactly” – name hating aside, Kraft has been extremely successful in getting the population to have interest and talk about their new product. Any publicity is good publicity right?

5 signs of changing times

18 09 2009

timeNowadays the web is full of social media gaffes – embarrassing and inappropriate comments made online, making sites like Lamebook and  Oversharer hugely popular.

As we have previously discussed on Community Girl, the lines of private and public have been challenged and blurred, with society still grappling with the consequences on having a profile online. But with appropriateness/inappropriateness aside, there seems to be a real change in the way people handle certain situations and procedures.

Trapped in a drain? No way to escape? Update your Facebook status!

Robbing a house? Want to check what your friends are doing? Want to check your friends latest holiday snaps? Don’t forget to log out!

Investigating a robbery? Want to catch the perp? Wanting more friends on Myspace? Add him as a friend on Myspace and politely ask him to turn himself in!

Feeling disgruntled with your customers? Customers at work really grinding your gears? Why not publicly announce that you would like to “cattle prod” or “punch” them on your company’s Facebook group!

Feeling bored at work? Want to keep your followers updated on all your daily happenings? Want to share real-time information about your students? Tweet during the class while you teach!

While I have previously asked if people should be held responsible for what they say and write online – it looks like social media is presenting further difficulties in what people do offline as well.

Social media and your boss

11 09 2009

boss2Still having difficulty convincing your boss/CEO that venturing into social media is a good idea?

Is your company still worried about dipping their toes into the online space?

Are they still scared to hear what their customers really think?

Well good news, it seems that “executives are warming up to social media usage in the workplace” – well in the US at least.

Geoff Livingston in his post “Getting Social Media Approved By Your Boss” – has some great tips in the meantime, such as starting off as a pilot, keeping it low cost, and to have measurable goals.

Oliver Blanchard’s presentation “Basics of Social Media ROI” is also well worth a look, if you are campaigning for social media in your company.

The truth of customer reviews

4 09 2009

up down thumbAfter organising an epic two month journey for 15 people, visiting over 16 destinations in Europe – it’s fair to say I had done my fair share of research before I left.

Hours were spent on sites like Tripadvisor and Hostelworld, and most of my free time was spent trawling through the customer reviews and ratings, before making decisions on accommodation and modes of travel. While the excitement of the upcoming journey kept me going – if I never organise another trip, it’ll be too soon!

I have become a consumer that (especially in terms of hospitality) will only make a decision after I have read several customer reviews persuading me that my time and money is worthwhile. And this has been a growing consumer trend for awhile, as trendwatching.com reports.

Now when you want to book a hotel over the other side of the world, in an unfamiliar destination, it’s no longer a luck of the draw situation, or a case of you having to trust the (often deceiving) photos on their website. Nowadays you can read through hundreds of customer reviews from people who have actually stayed there, and even look at the more truthful photos that have been uploaded. Booking the perfect holiday has never been more easy.

But do all consumers tell the truth in their reviews? How can you be sure that they haven’t over exaggerated their positive/negative comments?

How can the owners/brands/companies control what is being said in these reviews?

I have noticed that on Tripadvisor, when a customer leaves a complaint about the establishment warning others to not stay there, the owner will sometimes rebut their comments, often blaming the complainant for their unpleasant stay and for any grievances they experienced, because of course they had done everything in their power to rectify the situation with a very difficult customer. Interesting PR method??

But other places do choose to respond to complaints by offering their apologies and thanks for their feedback. This is perhaps a more recommended way to handle the situation, as owners need to remember that this is a public forum, and by addressing the situation and accepting responsibility, rather than attacking the customer, future customers may still consider staying there.

All of the research for my trip did pay off, with 15 out of 16 accommodation decisions working out perfectly. My choice in Prague was an interesting one, which included a room in the roof, in which we couldn’t stand up properly, a very eccentric owner, and a location in the middle of nowhere. But surprisingly the reviews mentioned none of this?

While the humourous experience can now be put down to the joys of travelling, I finally figured out why I had been misguided on our departure day. The little old Czech lady sprung open me as we were attempting to get out the door with all of our luggage, and said in her broken English “make sure you leave good reviews!”, and then becoming serious as she grabbed onto my arm “at least 97%!”. Ahhh mystery solved!