Daily Archives: February 6, 2014

The 4 Stages of the Community Life Cycle

Current online technologies have made it easier than ever to participate in discussions with people with similar interests and passions. Barriers for connecting with others have never been so low, as enhanced forms of media have enabled us to convey ideas and share like never before. In a society obsessed with content, the internet and social media has changed the way that we discover this content and who is able to distribute it.

The internet has changed the role of community managers, and has given them a wider range of tools to encourage discussion and inclusion within the community. Social media is one of these tools, as pointed out in Minot State University’s study The History of Social Media and its Impact on Business. Syracuse Sync, a local web design community organized it’s first meetup mainly through Twitter. Word of the meetup spread through social media, speakers and sponsors found through Twitter conversations, and the conference was a great success. Since attending, many attendees have reached out and supported my endeavors.

However, a community does not only exist on social media, and other efforts are required in order to build a successful community. Building a community is not easy, it requires a focused strategy and attention to sustain. A community manager’s main goal is to create relationships within the community, and to no longer drive the conversation. That being said, there are four main stages of a community life cycle as outlined in Chapter 1 of “Buzzing Communities” by Richard Millington. Each stage has specific duties in order to maintain and grow a community.

cycle

Inception

This is first life stage of a community, where the manager starts building relationships and initiating discussions. At this point, the main goal is to reach critical mass, or when your community is actively generating the content and discussions. Reaching the point of critical mass is achieved by:

  • Inviting people to join the community
  • Initiating discussions
  • Encouraging members to share and contribute
  • Establishing one-on-one relationships
  • Post content regularly

Establishment

This stage is marked by the community reaching critical mass. Community manager’s role is to promote inclusiveness and regular activity by the members, acting as a moderator. At this point, focus is shifted to referrals, promotion of the community, and organizing events. Tasks include:

  • Writing content
  • Managing events and chats
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Recruiting
  • Analyzing data about community
  • Referral growth tactics
  • Establishing a strong sense of community

Maturity

This stage level is when the activity level by members is the majority of the activity of the community. The community manager’s role is now to build publicity about the community and maintaing the general tasks. In addition, this stage will eventually plateau where the level of activity will be maintained at the highest point possible. The community is highly responsive and active, and is influential in its industry.

Mitosis

The final stage of the community cycle, where the community is very large and prominent. Subgroups form within the larger community, and the manager must make sure that the sentiment of being in a good community is still priority. The community manager supports the mini communities, and helps them become at critical mass.

This outline of the life cycles in “Buzzing Communities” is very clear in visualizing the goals and tasks for the community. Growing a successful community requires a lot of hard work and monitoring in order to create value for all participants.

 

The 4 Pillars of Blogging: How To Create Excellent Online Content

Blogging is something we are all familiar with; these online discussion sites surround us, as they are used by most people, companies, and different organizations that touch our daily lives. Yet, blogs are also something a little unknown to us, maybe even a little mysterious. Blogging has become habitual to certain professions like community managers, professionals who try to establish communities and discussions around a company, brand, product or service.

So, you may be asking, why am I writing a blog post about blogging? Hey, see what I did there?

Well, because there’s an actual science to creating an excellent blog, a system that community managers follow very closely, in order to retain and attract more active members to their communities. And I don’t know about you, but if I were to start a blog right now, I’m not really sure if I would have the confidence to do so. Therefore, in this article by ProBlogger, the 4 Pillars are laid out to show you how to obtain the essence of blogging, one of the many tasks required of community managers today. And why am I here? Well, I’m going to explain these 4 Pillars to you, so we all can learn something new along the way.

The Four Pillars 

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Tiziani, Eliza. “4 Pillars”. 02 June 2011. Online Image. Flickr. 31 January 2014.

1.) BE USEFUL

There is nothing worse than reading something you think would be relevant to you, but actually provides nothing useful. In order to have a successful blog, you as the writer must provide your audience with information that will be practical in their daily lives.

2.) WRITE GREAT HEADLINES

It’s as simple as this, great headlines attract readers for the things they’re looking for. My example for this post, The 4 Pillars of Blogging: How to Create Excellent Online Content; I came up with this title because it included the phrase “How To.” People are always searching for how to do certain things, therefore this post would have a high probability of catching a reader’s eye. Also, I used numbers; lists are always something that attract readers because it lays out the content in a more organized fashion.

Great headlines improve your blog’s Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, which is basically a fancy term for getting your blog noticed more by search engines. This way, people are more likely to come across your blog post when searching for specific information, and certain phrases allow this to happen. Other phrases to use in headlines include:

  • The Basics of ____
  • ____: What it is and How to Use It
  • __ Steps to Become an Incredible Blogger

3.) MAKE YOUR POST SCANNABLE

In your blog posts, you don’t want paragraphs upon paragraphs of text. Why not? To put it bluntly, nobody is going to read it. People want to be able to open a blog post and scan it for the most pertinent information to them. So, how does one accomplish scannability? In a few different ways:

  • Lists- Like the Four Pillars list that is currently in numbered order
  • Bullets- Like these ones you are currently reading
  • Bolded Items- Like the bolded listed items throughout this post

All these different methods allow for readers to pick out key pieces of information, without having to dig through paragraphs of text. Ultimately, readers are going to really appreciate this and come back to your posts for more incite in the future.

4.) WRITE IN A PLAIN, CONCISE, COMMON-SENSE STYLE

People read blogs for a reason, because of their style. They’re not textbooks or difficult to read manuals, but are articles written like the way we normally talk. Blogs are an opportunity to write in a manner that we normally don’t get the chance to outside the academic or business realms. So, just write how you talk and people will most definitely understand your key points and be wanting to hear more of your voice.

Blogs also allow you to BE YOURSELF. You have a unique voice, so show it!

So, to recap, in order to start a blog with great content just follow the 4 Pillars and you’ll be on your way to blogging success!

Kill Your Darlings, Not Your Blog

In 2008, I started utter (de)construction, a blog that covered major issues facing global brands, politics, and society. It was pretty cool, but as I continued to publish, I became was afraid of my strong editorial voice, which is naturally bold and provocative.

At the time, I was a Communications Associate at a religious institution, as well as a freelancer who was looking for new clients, and working to satisfy current ones. Although my blog was not targeting these populations, I kept my more conservative contacts in mind as I developed my personal brand. This made me increasingly uncomfortable putting my content out there as a blogger.

I worried my delivery was inappropriate for some readers. An example of this is when I entitled a post about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s campaign-financed clothing makeover “Barely Legal Campaign Expenditures,” I thought it was edgy and pretty funny but worried that its reference to the porn industry went a little too far. Despite my concerns, I ultimately published the post but it never felt quite right. Eventually, I ended the blog. We’ll get back to that later.

The two-step writing process

After reviewing the readings for #CMGRclass, I found myself revisiting this personal experience and realize that there is a simple, two-step process for writing and editing content for any channel (blog, website, video script, etc).

Image via Flickr

Step 1 (Write): Let loose

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging by the Content Marketing Institute provides three key points to consider while blogging. One tip states, “Loosen up: Authenticity trumps perfection when connecting with readers.” This is true for the writing stage. Do not edit while you write. You need to write a first draft from start-to-finish (making notes along the way to cite that article or fact check some detail, rather than derailing your initial draft). Type whatever comes to mind, even if it sounds stupid. Especially when it sounds stupid. Step 2 will take care of the rest.

Step 2 (Edit): Kill your darlings

Recently, I heard that to write for any channel, including, but not limited to, blogs, you must kill all your darlings—a phrase first turned by famed writer, William Faulkner. It is often the work to which we are extremely attached that most needs editing. This points to a tension that exists between writer and editor, which, for bloggers who wear both hats, refers to the same person.

From 2008 to today

When I first launched utter (de)construction. I covered issues that not every 20-something could handle. I was on to something.

Looking back, I realize that when I felt conflicted I killed my blog when I should have simply killed my darlings.

Thinking back to that racy title in 2008 that never quite sat right, I now realize that those four words “Barely Legal Campaign Expenditures” embodied one of my darlings. I just love the phrase, even today, but now I am prepared to lead that and others to slaughter. Lesson learned.

Going beyond the two-step process

There are many guidelines that make for a great blog post. These are some from #CMGRclass:

Blogging: 34 Things you’re Doing Wrong

How to Write Great Blog Content

How to Find and Keep Great Writers for Your Blog

How to Create an Editorial Calendar That Will Grow With Your Audience

Five Benefits of an Editorial Calendar

Do you have a single tip that helped you unlock the words stuck in your head or to mercilessly edit your own work? Please be sure to include them in the comments below.