Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Double Edged Sword of Guest Posting

retrieved from: http://stinkingtruth.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/side-projects-development-double-edged-sword.jpeg

retrieved from: http://stinkingtruth.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/side-projects-development-double-edged-sword.jpeg

Guest blogging, akin to pretty much everything else in the social media sphere, is a double edged sword.  In his post How to Find and Keep Great Writers for Your Blog from this week’s #cmgrclass reading, Jacob Klein cites the employment of guest bloggers as crucial in order for those who run blogs to consistently provide quality content in diverse voices on a regular basis. While there is ample evidence to support the benefits of mixing things up with a guest blogger here and there, as the practice of guest blogging has grown myriad issues have emerged to challenge the purity of this practice. Diverting from Klein’s optimistic outlook on guest blogging, there are numerous sources across the web that call for caution in engaging with this outsourcing blogging practice, for quite a few reasons.

 

Pros

Mutually beneficial new content

For blog managers and editors, the pressure to create new and diverse content can get a bit demanding and overwhelming at times. Inviting in a guest post adds variety, a new point of view, and provides the editor with a small but helpful hiatus. In its best form, the practice of guest blogging is an exchange of value-for-value where both parties benefit mutually.

Increasing backlinks

As stated by Klein, the “content for links strategy works so well because both parties are receiving something truly valuable.” The guest poster receives exposure and a link to his domain from a trusted source, the new content can generate site traffic and, as is the theme of this pro-item, “precious, precious links.”

 

Cons

Commercialization of guest post pitches

Sujan Patel from Single Grain Digital Marketing laments that the well-intended procedure of guest posting has been hijacked by “enterprising marketers” who “see guest posting as a technique that can be automated… to promote their own websites for to get guest posts published as a  service to others.”

Increasing backlinks

No, you’re not having déjà vu. This fun tidbit is so special it made it onto both the pro and con lists. While more backlinks will result in better SEO results, it will also post a billboard-sized invitation for spammers across the web to pay a visit or 500 to your blog. To be curt, Mo’ Backlinks, Mo’ Problems. Not to mention, spattering your guest blogger’s post with backlinks to your own blog, or vice-versa, can come off as inauthentic and self serving, and no one likes that.

Content. Content, content, content

In a world where content always has been, and always will be, king, the concern over questionable content received from guest bloggers poses a viable threat to the practice. This overarching issue breaks down into three sub-issues; poorly written posts, stolen or re-purposed content, or a voice that is not consistent with the blog or one that completely misses the mark on the purpose of the blog.

Blogger Jeff McIntire, in a guest post on guest posts called Why I Took Down my Guest Posting Page (take that for meta), laments over these issues and how it’s changed the way he approaches guest blogging.

“When I put [my guest posting] page up, I assumed it would attract professional pitches and posts from knowledgeable content creators. I knew that many of these pitches would come from marketers, but thought certain they’d  want to build a long-term relationship with an established site, and send me well-written, thoughtful content that I’d be thrilled to share with my readers. In a few cases, I’ve received those high-quality pitches and posts; in many, many others, I’ve been proven woefully wrong in my assumptions. More often than not, I’ve gotten untargeted, spammy pitches.”

And for your viewing pleasure, blogger Ann Smarty has compiled a handy video on guest blogging pitches gone wrong. This video is incredibly groan-worthy and showcases link-hungry guest post spammers. Read her full post on The Guest Blogging Fails: Again here.

A business case for blogging, Content Marketing Magic!

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Photo By esalesdata

How much can blogging really help with your content marketing strategy?   Before we answer that question, let’s talk about what content marketing means?  The author of the whitepaper, The University Guide to Blogging and Content Marketing defines it as simply, “Any and all materials an organization creates and shares to better engage customers and prospects.”  The paper goes on to address several benefits of using blogs to power content marketing efforts:

  • Blogging is controlled.  Any content that comes into your blog should be approved before it goes live, meaning you never have to worry about off-message or inappropriate content hurting your organization’s image.
  • Blogging is conversational.  Blogs humanize marketing efforts as they give people a way to share thoughts, experiences, and ideas in their own words.
  • Blogging improves search.   By creating frequent, relevant, focused content, you’ll have more opportunities to provide value and create relationships with people who need your help.
  • Blogging demonstrates thought leadership.  Blogging about what you’re thinking and doing shows people what you’re really all about.
  • Blogging is linkable and sharable. Blogging provides a platform for promoting content on social networks.
  • Blogging is a more permanent repository for social media marketing. Using a blog to manage a social media marketing strategy gives the organizations the ability to take control of their content.

There is no doubt, blogging makes content marketing sense!

The author of the article 7 Tips for Making Your Blog a Marketing Magnet,  contends that the blog is the content hub.   That may be true today, but what does the future hold for bogging and content marketing.  If blogging platforms such as Overblog  are any indication, blogging may become an even easier content marketing solution.  What make Overblog different?  It can assist users in organizing a stream of social content onto their pages, whether it’s coming from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, or Instagram.   It also includes free designs that can be customized with HTML or CSS, analytics tracking on the dashboard, multiple user access on one page, and it offers a 50-50 revenue split with bloggers who receive at least 500 unique visitors per day.  The CMO of Overblog, Liva Judic, states, “If you intend to be a serious blogger and you want visibility, [our platform] is good for you because the SEO approach is really comprehensive.  It puts it all in one place, enriching the content and making you more visible to the search engines. So if you’re an individual or small business wanting to build a brand, it’s a good strategy to be on Overblog.”

Blogs give organizations of all sizes the ability to focus marketing efforts, even small companies with few resources.  Blogs can be a powerful and important foundation to an organization’s content marketing strategy.  Their significance should not be overlooked.  If you own a business and you have not started blogging, it’s time to consider this content marketing jewel.  In fact, the perfect time to start blogging was a year ago.  The next best time is today!   Just consider advice from the article 10 Commandments of Blogging, the Path to Content Marketing Salvation.  In it, the author urges her readers to just “Begin with the basics and practice to learn. You won’t get it perfect with your first post, but you’ll learn as you go.”

So what are you waiting for?  It’s time to get that content marketing ball rolling.

Get out there and start blogging!

 

Building a Brand Around a Common Name

http://howmanyofme.com/search/?given=Jessica&sur=Smith

http://howmanyofme.com/search/?given=Jessica&sur=Smith

I was cursed when I was born. This curse came in the form of my name, as gifted by my innovative parents. Jessica. Lynn. Smith. Because Twitter was just a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye, and the concept of domain names were completely irrelevant to either of my parents’ lives, the volume of people with the same name as me was of little to no concern to Kevin and Beth, who did not foresee the online woes it would present to me as I grew up alongside the internet.

Last week in #cmgrclass we had Olivier Blanchard, renowned maverick of brand building in the social sphere, join in on a Google hangout with the class. While this particular Olivier Blanchard is a U.S.-based author of the book Social Media ROI, he shares a name with French Olivier Blanchard, a world class economist who is well known for his work with the International Monetary Fund and has published a book on macroeconomics.

Identifying that we both shared name-based woes, I inquired how one can best build a brand when a name makes it uniquely difficult to gain the assets necessary to grow a self-oriented brand.  Using answers provided by Blanchard (the social media guy, not the economist) and outside resources, I’ve compiled a list of some tactics that can be used to distinguish yourself in a sea of name-sameness.

  1. Work with what you’ve got.

Blanchard recommended to first and foremost take a look at methods outside of a name that can be leveraged to strengthen your brand. One would be to use a consistent profile picture across all online accounts. Another would be to design and implement a consistent graphics scheme to use as backdrops and, when optional, icons, in order to build a readily identifiable image to strengthen your online brand.

  1. Use a variation of your name.

 In her post 6 Personal Branding Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for People With Common Names, Kimberly Bordonaro, a branding consultant who realizes that “..you must stand out if you want to be noticed. You get it. Your mom didn’t. She named you something so boring, so original, so blah…” recommends throwing some twist on your parent-given name to give it a little distinctive umph. I’ve done this, with my inventive and truly visionary adaptation of my name to create the twitter handle @j_lynn_smith, but have seen much better, more effective variations that don’t require the inclusion of not one but TWO count ‘em TWO underscores. There’s the option to add hyphens to names, or choose different extensions for domain names.

  1. Change your name.

Drastic? Maybe. Effective? You betcha. Erik Deckers, owner of Professional Blog Service, created this post on how to brand yourself with a common name in response to a request from a Twitter user. He uses Chad Johnson, #85 for the New England Patriots, as a prime example. Filled with dismay over his #3 most common last name (which, let’s be real, is a cakewalk compared to Smith), Chad opted to change it to something a bit more distinctive, and went through the legal process to change his name to Chad Ochocinco. While he likely didn’t make the name change to acquire his ideal domain name, or get that Facebook extension he’s been lusting after, this seemingly drastic measure can be quite effective to social-media-minded individuals as well.

While I have no immediate plans to change my name, and my Twitter handle is pretty much set unless Twitter wants to go ahead and repurpose @j_smith for me (c’monnnnn guys), I’m going to take Blanchard’s tip on working with what I’ve got. And, in spite of the fact that there are 6,805 Jessica Smiths in the United States (according to HowManyOfMe.com) I plan on building my brand and hopefully, making myself the most distinctive Jessica Smith out there.

Book Review: Cognitive Surplus, Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

Photo credit flickr, jdlasicaClay Shirky’s book focuses on the cognitive surplus: concisely defined, the immense potential humanity now has because of its trillion of hours or leisure time to devote however it likes.  The shift is manifest in social interaction online – a preferable activity, Shirky says, than wasting time watching television (which was the main time drain of the 20th century).

Shirky discusses the change in “media,” from a profession and industry that produced exclusively for consumption to a word with a meaning to encompass the new digital environment. Now, anyone with a digital camera or device can contribute “news,” become a well-regarded “expert” in their chosen niche or expertise, and engage in a discussion around anything that traditional media glosses over (either selectively, in order to retain their advertising revenue, or because there simply isn’t enough space/time/perceived interest). His very excited revelation, shared by the billions of people who participate socially somewhere online, is “You can play this game, too!”

While his differentiations are not arbitrary and seem to be positively guided, Shirky spends a large amount of space in this book differentiating between private, public, and civic social production.  His claim is that civic production creates some real, societally necessary good or change from its efforts. I disagree with how cut-and-dry he presents the three categories.

While I think his description is idealistically true, it seems a bit subjective. Fundraising for charity or organizing a neighborhood-led cleanup effort is arguably a goal with civic improvement aspirations as the motivating force core. But what about communities that raise money for lobbies in a government setting, or devote their time and energy to political causes on one end of the spectrum or the other? What is civic improvement, and what is civic regression, and where do you set the shift from one to the other?

Shirky refers to lolcats as a community and phenomenon that’s for private benefit – it’s funny, but it’s not for the social good, regardless of how clever it is or how many laughs each meme generates. I think Shirky might have some trouble defending the sorting of causes into one category or the other.

However, I do think this book is worth reading for community managers out there, if only for the discussion of psychological motivation for participation in the many online communities where there is no tangible or monetary reward for individual efforts. The major takeaway within his discussion is human emphasis: If you devalue human interaction in your online community, be it through a change in appearance/usability, the addition of advertising to “monetize” the site, or the institution of fees as a punishment for negative behavior, you’re likely to experience a decrease in devotion and use. Shirky discusses this tendency as the underpinnings of social production – the open-source creation of value by a group for its members, using neither financial motivation or managerial oversight to coordinate the efforts of individual participants.

5 Takeaways From Moderating #CmgrClass

I moderated the class discussion for the week of February 17 – 24 on the topic of “building a community from scratch,”and came away with five key conclusions about the work of managing a community.

CC:chintermeyer

CC:chintermeyer

To begin the week, I pulled a selection of comments from three noted authors and their thoughts on building community. This included Peter Block (Community- The Structure of Belonging); Olivier Blanchard, who was our first guest expert and Social Media ROI author, and Chris Brogan, who co-wrote Trust Agents.

Chobani.com

Chobani.com

Sunday night, I put up the posts, and added links for a brand that I think does an exemplary job of managing its community: yogurt-maker Chobani.

These provided a look at the Twitter, Facebook, and Web presence of the brand.

And I promised, “I’ll show you a little more about this brand and how it has developed its voice soon.”

The week went like this:

MONDAY, FEB. 18

I tweeted about my posts. To my pleasant surprise, Chobani was listening and responded. This was fortuitous; when I asked, a Chobani community manager agreed to be my interview for the #CMGRclass final project.

Feb 18 Chobani@Chobani

@stirlingdm Happy to be helpful!

10:16 a.m. – Feb 18, 2013 · Details

Later that morning, I discovered an emerging issue that related to how a community reacts to a brand, so posted from multiple sources regarding the hacking of Burger King’s Twitter account:

http://bit.ly/VASVHshttp://bit.ly/YBXkon ; and http://bit.ly/15q1CG6) and asked the community to react.

bk.com

bk.com

Hannah Warren responded the same day; Steve Rhinehart added information the next morning; and others followed. I responded to each shortly after their posts went up. (On Feb. 21, I continued the conversation by adding an update about some side benefits of the hacking.)

Instructor Jenn Pedde also posted course and schedule information this day.

TUESDAY, FEB. 19

Steve Rhinehart put up an article regarding Famous Dave’s flubs that garnered some immediate attention. Alaetra and Rod posted responses the same day.

Kelly Lux posted the professor’s summary.

Since I was busy at work all that day and evening, I only monitored what was going up and the general activity of the community.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 20

After a prior quiet day, I put up two articles I hoped would promote discussion. The first, by Deb Ng, discussed being careful what you ask the community to do. The second, from Douglas Atkin, included a graphic of the community “commitment curve.” I asked for comment on both posts. 7158723040_ab7ff243a1_q.jpg curve

By now, I was beginning to get a little concerned about the level of interaction being experienced.  I thought it was a slow start. I recalled the pace of Steve and Jessica’s weeks, and reflected what I might do to boost the interaction.

Later that day, I picked up on some good content — a livestream event that I thought would be of interest to the community. I posted the link and a Twitter hashtag to follow.

“If you’re able to tune in, Social Media Week Ogilvy is now hosting livestream panel (Ford, Ogilvy cmgrs) on “The Role of the New Community Manager” through 1:00 p.m. Tune in here: http://new.livestream.com/smwnyc/events/1875505”. I also posted  the hashtag.

Later that day, Kelly Lux posted a reminder about course participation and its grading component.

I wondered later if the mid- to late-week increase in response had been incentivized by that. It made me think about how a “reward” – or some sort of imperative — may be useful in gaining engagement.

THURSDAY, FEB. 21

I asked the community if anyone had a chance to review the commitment curve and gauge their position on it. The next day, I received several responses to that post. I made a point of sending a reply in recognition of each person’s points on the day they posted their response.

I also decided to look back at my early-week posts, to see what might be going right and what might be needed to be done before the week ended. I recognized that I had failed to follow-through on my “more info” Chobani promise. So I did more research and posted several new links: Who we are;  Community; Shepherd’s gift.

FRIDAY, FEB. 22

I didn’t post this day. I was busy with work and class assignments, but did monitor the posts to see what was going on.

SATURDAY, FEB. 237006581850_4de3436371_q.jpg nugget

Knowing this was my last day of the moderating week, I wanted to leave several good informational nuggets.

I posted three articles about change in communities that I had seen and researched during the week. The posts were about building a community; change-management processes, and how to transition when a community manager leaves.

Michael, Steve and Hannah responded on Feb. 23; Rebecca and Rod responded Feb. 24.

Here are the five big takeaways I got from moderating for the week:

1)      Moderating a Community is not haphazard or a simple task. It takes organization, time, and thoughtfulness to curate, prepare, and develop good content.

2)      Preparation is critical.  I prepared for my week by doing readings in advance and during the days. A community manager must always be preparing and curating information. Maintaining high standards takes a good deal of time and work.

3)    Moderation takes intermittent, yet focused attention. There were only two days when of the week when I wasn’t busy preparing and curating content. Still, I was monitoring the conversations and checking in on activity every day. On the days I was actively engaging and responding to comments, I experienced a “tension” or “pull” from the community to be constant, and I checked in often.

4)    Engagement Differs Per Time of Day, Day of Week  and People

I learned that most people don’t seem to post in the mornings; they are likely busy at work (or if night workers, sleeping then). Mid- to late-afternoon and early evening were much more “active” times.

Days of the week matter. For me and other moderators, Monday and Tuesday seemed  slow-start days. Wednesdays picked up, and Wednesday through Saturday was the most active time. Next time, I would schedule my posts around these high-interest times.

5)    It’s really hard to get people to react, respond, and integrate online.

Even when I posted what I thought was good and interesting content, it still seemed hard to get community members engaged. It isn’t an easy thing to do. While many in our community knew one another face to face and had the same community of interest, we still were a diverse group. Our ability to respond, engage, and be part of the community differed from time to time in part based on what other activities we had going on. Life and work situations –in one case a workforce reduction, in another, a major event hosting—as well as more casual interruptions and scheduled activities – played a key role in people’s ability to be part of the group and to thoughtfully respond.

Creating An Online Community Is Easy … Not Quick!

evolution

If you build it, they will come.

Are you looking to  understand the value of creating online communities? The biggest reasons for doing so may be to share ideas with,  answer questions for, and gain the support of others for your business and personal endeavors. With opportunities to connect world wide via the internet, everyone has the ability to find others that have common interests. It is a beautiful thing!

So, now comes the “daunting” task of finding these people and getting connected. How do you go about starting to grow a community, you may be asking? Perhaps you have come to the right place to get some answers. The first and foremost thing to remember is, “build your community ONE person at a time. ” You cannot build a company overnight, so don’t expect to build your community overnight. Just like a fine wine, it takes time to get to perfection.

question mark

As you undertake your task of starting a community, ask yourself  a few questions:

These questions can get you started and once you have those answers you are ready to move on to the next step. As you begin to scour the universe for your community, a good place to start is with your friends and other online communities you are involved in. Let them know what you are up to and engage them in conversations. Make personal connections! Everyone likes to be valued, don’t you?

You can connect with people online and invite them to your community. Once they get there, don’t leave them hanging, introduce them to the community you already have and help them integrate. You could also invite them to a Google + hangout or invite them to a private group from your community. This investment of your time upfront will pay off later as begin to see your community take on the lead role of talking about whatever you started to market yourself. They will do this because they are invested in the community. They are passionate about what is contained in this community. They will want to be evangelists for you and your brand because they have found value in it. A great way to keep feeding the enthusiasm is to invite guest postings to your community. Keep things fresh, get new perspectives and your members will share their enthusiasm with others to keep things growing .

 

outreach

 

As the community starts to grow and flourish, keep in mind you should never take them for granted. They will be helping you by fielding questions, supporting your brand and recruiting others to join the community. Always treat them with respect. These key ideas may serve to remind you:

  • Don’t ask your community to do something without knowing what is in it for them
  • Don’t “sell” to them, rather, inform them
  • If you do offer something to them be sure they can afford it
  • Don’t ignore problems or negative issues that come to the light.
  • BE TRANSPARENT

Remember, you have a sacred commitment to your community to be honest, consistent, and supportive if you want them to continue to be a part of your brand. It takes time to build a solid community. Don’t try to rush the process, just concentrate on good content, consistency, and outreach. If you build it, they will come!

Until next time, “Happy Trails”!

Thou Shalt Not Troll: Creating Community Guidelines

Planning a community is of high importance to its eventual health and your success as a community manager. One of the chief stages of community planning is the creation of community rules and guidelines. Without rules or guidelines, your management duties are simply going to be a nightmare. You’ve got your target audience, and topics to focus on, but how will you know what’s in and what’s out of bounds for content, discussion, and interaction? How will your community members know? Obviously, this is where those rules and guidelines come in, and where effectively communicating the intent behind them is key.

I’m a moderator over at the Coffee community on Google+, and that experience has taught me a bit about creating and evolving community rules. While the community itself is simply called “Coffee,” our main purpose is to encourage discussion of specialty coffee – beyond Folgers, beyond Starbucks, to the point where coffee is treated as a culinary product, much like wine. This distinction has always been communicated in the description in our sidebar, but it has created a small amount of confusion and tension, especially when a member feels their post was removed for some kind of bias. But we feel our rules spell things out pretty clearly, take a look:

Blog7_Rules

Some of these rules are pretty obvious choices, some are aimed at protecting our members from spam or risky business (the MLM posts are especially notorious for phishing and malware), some are merely preference for our community, such as discouraging introductions (we don’t need over 22k “Hello” posts, which add nothing to discussion). The last rule on there, about foreign language posts (non-English) is mainly because most of our members only speak English (our moderators too), so non-English posts received almost no interaction early on.  But are we too strict? Should we be more inclusive? I don’t personally think so, and our members seem to agree that we’re being reasonable – with a few, occasional exceptions in the form of snide commenters who think we’re some kind of coffee gestapo.

So where should you draw the line in the sand for your community? Who gets to make those decisions? This was actually the topic of a recent #CMGRChat, where contributors offered that the initial rules should be simple and based in common sense (be civil, don’t post spam, etc.), but you should also turn to the community itself to help craft more particular rules. In one of this week’s readings, Do Your Community’s User Guidelines Only Protect People You Like?, the author emphasizes equality and fairness in rules; we are all entitled to free speech, even if some of our opinions are controversial.

In the Coffee community, we don’t remove a post just for mentioning something like Kopi Luwak (a.k.a. “cat poop coffee”), so long as it isn’t a commercial post. We would even encourage discourse on the issue, as hopefully it would raise awareness of some of the animal welfare issues or other drawbacks of the product. Censorship, in that regard, would lead to no discussion whatsoever, and leave our members feeling shunned and disappointed in our closed-minded approach.

Blog7_goats

Animal welfare.

So, when you’re crafting your rules, keep your community in mind. Think about what you want for your members, as well as what they might want for themselves. Then, as the community grows, periodically ask for input from your members, and revise your rules to support their needs and yours as you progress. And keep in mind that everybody has a right to their opinion, and that voicing an unpopular opinion in a civil manner is something that should be encouraged, not blocked.

Community Guidelines and Offensive Language

Image from http://www.inflexwetrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IFWT_offensive_language.jpg

Image from http://www.inflexwetrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IFWT_offensive_language.jpg

Community guidelines can be key to helping a community manager moderate a community. Keeping all members on the same page and laying out expectations will help prevent hiccups along the road to a happy and healthy thriving community.

In his post Do Your Community’s User Guidelines Only Protect People You Like, Patrick makes the claim that if your community guidelines don’t apply to people outside of your community, they’re pretty much meaningless.

Most communities feature guidelines that put a premium on respect; no name calling, no disrespectful comments, no unfounded attacks, etc. The author touts a track record of ensuring community guidelines apply to members within his community, as well as everyone and everything outside of that community.

According to Becky Johns in her blog post How to Create Facebook Community Guidelines, the content issues most frequently addressed in community guidelines fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Profane, defamatory, offensive or violent language
  2. “Trolling”, or posting deliberately disruptive statements meant to hijack comment threads or throw discussions off-track
  3. Attacks on specific groups or any comments meant to harass, threaten or abuse an individual
  4. Hateful or discriminatory comments regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or political beliefs
  5. Links or comments containing sexually explicit content material
  6. Discussion of illegal activity
  7. Spam, link baiting or files containing viruses that could damage the operation of other people’s computers or mobile devices
  8. Acknowledgement of intent to stalk an individual or collect private information without disclosure
  9. Commercial solicitations or promotion of a competitor
  10. Violations of copyright or intellectual property rights
  11. Content that relates to confidential or proprietary business information
  12. Content determined to be inappropriate, in poor taste, or otherwise contrary to the purposes of the forum
  13. Promoting competing products, services, or brands
  14. Personal promotion

Let’s take category one as an example for Patrick’s issue. While profane, defamatory, offensive or violent language may be expressly prohibited when directed towards fellow community members, should that protection be granted to entities outside of the community as well? And by what standards is the “offensive” nature of a post determined?

Patrick believes that any application of one of these categories will do nothing but impede useful and productive discourse and instead invite in a mob mentality with little constructive conversation. While some may cite their wording as necessary tools to effectively express their opinions, the post writes this off as a useless excuse. Patrick finds that:

“You can dislike what someone does, you can criticize their actions, you can disagree with them – without calling them names, without inflammatory language, without personal attacks. That is the level of discourse I aim for.”

While I personally agree with Patrick that eliminating rude and offensive language entirely will raise the level of conversation and provide a better quality, I do not think that expressly forbidding that avenue of expression is the right way to go, either. If something is truly horrific in nature, the CM retains the right to remove the post. Otherwise, conversation should remain as unrestrained as possible to foster authentic and organic conversation, offensive or not.

Content Drives Community (Drives Content)

“Content is king.” – so goes the oft-uttered saying.  While the phase seems to be derived from an article by Bill Gates, I’ve come across the phrase in #RotoloClass, #NunesClass, and now #CMGRClass.  Although the specific venue within which this rule is most applicable may be debated – websites vs. blogs vs. SEO vs. online communities vs. social media sites – the importance of creating compelling content that resonates with audiences should not be dismissed on any platform.

In Chapter 3 of “Buzzing Communities,” Richard Millington addresses the role of content within an online community.  Millington compares an online community to a much older communications medium, the local newspaper, by discussing three ways the latter serves its community:

  • Establish a social order and narrative: identify the news items and individuals that are most newsworthy of readers’ attention
  • Inform and entertain: balance news and events with entertainment items
  • Develop a sense of social community: serve as consensus and determinant of community opinion

A local newspaper has a critical role in informing its community while establishing context among news items and individuals within the community.  Millington goes on to argue that online communities would be well-served in using local newspapers as a model for developing content.  He provides the following goals of content: create a community narrative, encourage regular readership, develop a sense of community, establish social order, and influence action within the community.

Whereas a content site may deliver the latest information about a topic or organization, prompting visitors to read or consume the content, Millington states that a community site “will provide information for members, establish a social order and facilitate strong bonds and heightened sense of community”, encouraging readers to participate and engage in conversation around the content.  It is content about the community that most resonates with members.

#MeetTheJLS

In July 2012, I became the first Online Engagement Chair for the Junior League of Syracuse.  Earlier that year, while serving as Communications Vice President and recognizing the increasing importance of an online presence in today’s world, I had lobbied for the creation of the role.  Personally, I was struggling to balance my duties at VP while managing the organization’s website and social media properties.  Around the same time, I was a #RotoloClass student, learning all about the importance of social media in engaging in two-way conversation.

Out of #RotoloClass, the idea of a blog post series entitled “Meet the JLS” was born, in which Junior League of Syracuse leaders would be profiled to demonstrate the spectrum of women who make up the JLS and humanize the organization as individual faces behind its logo.  (Little did I know at the time that this series would help to further many of Millington’s content goals, including developing a sense a community, aspirational spotlighting, and influencing activities and behaviors!)

JLS on TumblrI entered the current JLS year completely jazzed about the new blog post series.  To date, five interviews have been conducted and three profiles published (example at right).  Feedback was good, including from the organization’s leadership and membership, as well as from sister Junior Leagues who saw the posts on Twitter using the #MeetTheJLS hashtag.  However, to say that “Meet the JLS” has stagnated since the fall would be a kind understatement.  What happened? – any number of things, on a range of organizational to personal levels (competing priorities, lack of enthusiasm from participants, scheduling difficulties…).  As the time increasingly grew since the last post or interview, frustration slowly turned to indifference.

Moving Forward

The best content for a community is content about the community.  When I read Millington’s quote about the importance of community-based content, it was like a huge light bulb illuminating over my head and an Oprah “aha moment,” all rolled into one.  I immediately flashed back to the excitement of completing my first profile.  Now, I hope to reshape some of my priorities and elevate the blog post series within them, knowing that the content will add to members’ sense of place within the community, and perhaps even promote aspirations to be one of the women profiled in the series.

Do you belong to a community that is particularly inclusive?  What makes you feel part of that community?

(Featured image by Flickr user Cubosh.)

Community News Content Lives, No Matter the Form

It seemed about as close as you get to having an episode of deja-vu while in the process of reading.

I was only on the first page, and in the first few paragraphs, of Chapter 3, “Content,” in Richard Millington’s Book, Buzzing Communities.

As I was reading along about how Richard advised, “The best content for a community is content about the community,” I immediately thought: JUST LIKE A LOCAL NEWSPAPER.  7651255714_b476e0a77e_n.jpg stack of papers

A few sentences later, local newspapers were exactly what Richard was talking about, like this:

“Think of your content as the equivalent of a local community newspaper that tells you what’s going on in the community”

“The content of an online community is the same. It tells you what’s happening in the local online community.”

Boom!

Suddenly, the true-to-form image and understanding of an online community, and online community content, couldn’t have been any clearer for me.  That’s probably because working at a local community newspaper, reporting local community news, editing the writing of other community reporters, was my first job in journalism. (Actually, thinking back, I worked as a community-interest writer first, while a student, before I became a paid “general assignment reporter.”  That recollection provided even more clarity of what makes for good community content.

Even as newspapers have evolved to manage some sort of future in the wake of Internet journalism and online publications, people always still want to know the same kinds of things.  They want to know what is happening for their friends and neighbors, what “bigger things” are occurring in the community, and they want interpretations of how it will all affect them. In this way, Millington describes, just as the local newspaper performs “a key role as a facilitating agent for the community.”

3682410568_3c03dc0d92_n.jpg locl newspaperThe author continues to draw the parallels between local newspaper and online community content:

  • To provide informative and entertaining information
  • Create narratives that allow the community to follow what’s happening.
  • Develops a sense of community among members
  • Initiate conversations, things to talk about, and activities to take part in

He goes on to compare how the elements of a news publication are similar to the content parts of online community content: news stories, feature articles, announcements, opinions and guest columns, classified ads.

In fact, I know someone who has transferred the concept of the local community newspaper and made it into an online community content system.  A journalist by training, he did this several years ago, before most mainstream papers developed their online presences. He has put into effect online all the elements of community-building that Millington says comprise a thriving community in the publication, Radio Free Hamilton.

2q-001672012202314.jpg RFH For the reasons people have turned to newspapers for decades, they can be motivated to turn to communities online that fulfill the interest and information needs they have now.

And as newspapers face increasingly challenging economic futures, it may indeed be online moderated communities that do – in addition to or in place of, perhaps — what newspapers were founded to do – record, report, and be a sounding board for the community.

However, it seems like a sure thing that some form of community information-gathering and dissemination mechanism will always be there.