Daily Archives: February 27, 2013

A Community At Sea

This week in #CMGRclass, the topic has been Building A Community or Social Media Program from Scratch.  The accompanying readings included chapter 12 of Richard Millington’s “Buzzing Communities“, entitled “The Audience: Demographics, Habits, and Psychographics.”  Millington describes the importance of understanding a new community’s target audience: “who they are, what they do, and what they think.”  He goes on to describe five types of communities:

  • Communities of interest, revolving around a company or organization and its goods, services, or other raison d’être.  Example: MacRumors Forums, where fanboys/girls discuss their passion for all things Apple.
  • Communities of place, relevant to a specific location.  Example: Omaha, Nebraska’s Omaha Forums, where Omahans talk News and Events and Dining/Culture/Entertainment.
  • Communities of practice, cultivated around something practiced by its members, such as specific functions at work.  Example: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) users’ groups like the ESRI Petroleum User Group.
  • Communities of action, helping members progress toward a specific goal.  Example: MarathonGuide.com‘s online community.
  • Communities of circumstance, fostering relationships based on shared experiences.  Example: health-related support groups like the Lupus Foundation of America’s online community.

A Missed Opportunity

I recently vacationed with a large group of extended family – about 15 in all – on a five-day cruise on Royal Caribbean International‘s MS Liberty of the Seas.  It was a great experience filled with fun, food, and family time.  Reflecting on the cruise, though, I can’t help but think that Royal Caribbean is missing the boat (no pun intended) at leveraging the power of their loyal fans to promote their brand.

While Royal Caribbean has a social media presence on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+, these sites provide more of a one-way push of information to their audiences, rather than two-way dialogue between the cruise line and its customers.  Their social tools on Facebook, including the Royal Connections app and Discussions tab, are not highly-used.  (For instance, there were only seven people attending the Facebook Event corresponding to my cruise.  The boat seemed a bit more crowded than that!)

Not only do these tools lack in content, I believe they are also misplaced.  Leading up to the cruise, I had done all of our planning – researching our itinerary, on-board amenities, and the like – on the Royal Caribbean website.  As Billington asks, “What tools and platforms do members use?”  I can’t help but wonder, why not add a community where future cruisers are already spending time online?

#royalcaribbean #libertyoftheseas

(Instagram image by @josuelopz_.)

  • Communities of interest could target specific passenger segments sharing common attributes.  For example, parents traveling with their children could discuss the best kid-friendly activities or individuals with unique needs – say, those with special diet or accessibility concerns – could converse about their needs.
  • Communities of place are perfectly-suited for specific vessels.  Liberty of the Seas passengers on Twitter posted updates as the ship set sail, using the hashtag #LibertyOfTheSeas – a self-organized community of sorts.  (See photo above.)  How about formalizing that group as a community centered on a specific vessel, and even hold an on-ship tweet-up for passengers?
  • Communities of circumstance would be a valuable resource to allow brand-new and seasoned cruisers alike to converse with each other before, during, and after their cruise.  (See photo below.)  Websites and online forums like communities like Cruise Critic already provide this platform.

(Twitter image by @Cewitz.)

Set Sail!

Businesses and organizations would be well-served by identifying and implementing the type(s) of communities that, when developed and nurtured, help to meet their strategic objectives.  Travel companies in particular would benefit from hosting online communities for consumers to share tips about destinations and activities pre-trip and provide opportunities for meet-ups while vacationing.  Certainly, providing an online forum closely coupled to an official website poses some risk – à la angry traveler makes waves – this action also demonstrates transparency, can help to humanize the brand, and opens the door for a far greater number of satisfied customers to broadcast their positive experiences.

What travel companies are doing this well?  Do you think the potential benefits outweigh the risks?

.@RoyalCaribbean #Flirtini.

Beach still life. #sun #sand #cruise #family #lifeisgood

(Featured image and Instagram images by author.)


Where to Start when Starting a New Community


This week the #cmgrclass focused on building a community from scratch. While companies see the importance of establishing a social media presence, very few are educated on how to properly navigate through digital platforms that result in successful outcomes.

For starters, companies and even industry leaders cause confusion when distinguishing between social media management and community management. Kelly Lux posted an article to the #cmgrclass Google+ community entitled, 5 Brilliant Ways to Staff for Community Management. The author noticeably blurs the characteristics of the two. If companies could decipher between the two, they could better pinpoint if it would be more beneficial to develop social media strategy or create a community to sustain and enhance their existing brand.

Olivier Blanchard spoke on building internal communities in last week’s Google+ hangout session. Many of the basic concepts from his chat can be used when looking to form a start-up community. Community building should almost be effortless. Blanchard suggested allowing it to grow organically. Prospects don’t want to feel like they’re being targeted by a company’s pitch to market and promote new products. Remember, start small and grow big.

In the article written by Dino Dogan, How to Build a Community of Fanatics, his third step in starting a community from scratch is, be a human. Members aren’t going to form relationships with automated voices or avatars of wild animals. Be the face of your community by including your name and picture. If your community requires people to create a profile, how do you expect them to share who they really are when you aren’t being authentic? Brand extension begins with the community manager attempting to cultivate and maintain genuine relationships.

Author of How to Build a Community from Scratch, David Spinks, offers a strategy for start-ups and larger companies to build trust and loyalty amongst members. It’s simple. Pick up the phone and call a user or customer, depending on the type of community you’re managing. Ask them for their personal insight on the experience they’ve had with your company. Don’t expect to complete this task in one sitting. Over time reach out to as many people as you can. Spinks says, when building a true community no interaction should be overlooked. Is time management an issue for you? Well, make the time. These are people who are ultimately investing in your company/brand. Without them who will market for you while you’re sleeping?

Balancing a Brand & Community Members

logo_chevyLast week, the main focus of the #cmgrclass readings were focused on the role of community members and the art of enticing members who will benefit your brand.  In her post 5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Community Campaign, Deb Ng explores the delicate give-and-take relationship a community manager has to keep in balance between advancing the brand and doing right by community members. She identifies these five questions as the following:

  1. How will this benefit our community?
  2. How will our community react?
  3. Can our community afford this?
  4. What is the worst-case scenario?
  5. How much work will my community have to do?

From my experience, it’s the first two questions of the five that are most important in establishing whether a certain community campaign is one that should, in fact, be launched. By looking at two cases, one for each question, this may become more readily apparent.

The first question of “how will this benefit our community” ensures that the community manager considers that there is some incentive or reward for community advocates to take that extra step, or spur more conversation on social networks. While community campaigns are launched with the intent of bettering the brand and increasing sales, there should be another focus of what community members are getting in return for their efforts.

For example, geolocation service app Scvngr paired up with Chevy in 2011 to launch a car giveaway competition. The competition was run in 27 cities across the US, and in order to compete Scvngr users had to participate in as many of Scvngr’s location-based challenges in their cities as possible. This campaign, though primarily geared towards increasing brand awareness for the 2012 Chevy Sonic Sedan 2LT (the car that was giving to a prize to each winning team), it simultaneously drove brand awareness for Scvngr and offered a considerable prize to active participants. Little advertising was done to promote this campaign, and most of the hype and participation was driven by engaged community members. In this scenario, the brands found an ideal balance between a brand-centric and user-reward model, driving brand awareness while satisfying community members simultaneously.

The question of “how will our community react” takes into consideration how a campaign will be received by the members of community. Ill-founded campaigns can offend community members or just plain old annoy them. Campaigns that are intrusive and not well received by the community will fail because few community members will actually participate in them. One campaign that was successfully due to paying particular mind to question #5 (How much work will my community have to do?) but widely acknowledged as being intrusive is the e-mail campaign launched by Obama for America in the campaign for the 2012 presidential election.

The e-mail campaign, deployed to keep voters informed and solicit money, was effective in raising funds thanks to a very conveniently placed “Quick Donate $3” button on every fundraising e-mail. On a whole, however, the campaign was viewed as one half step above spamming. Sending e-mails with a subject line of “hey” or other non-specific lines numerous times a day was not taken favorably by those on the campaign’s e-mail list. Though this dynamite-fishing technique may have been effective in raising funds, it may also have alienated members of the community who may have otherwise been better and louder advocates.

Although I identify questions 1 and 2 as the most crucial in planning a community campaign, taking all five into consideration is of particular value. If a community manager can favorably answer each of the questions (as the managers of the Scvngr/Chevy campaign could) the endeavor will most likely lead to satisfied community members, more brand awareness, and subsequently, more sales.