Author Archive for Jessica Smith

Thoughts on our Google+ Classtime

Class started with casual banter per norm on Tuesday the 26th, in which we learned that Steve makes great homemade pizza and it was Rebecca’s birthday.  Then delved into content for the previous week, the topic of which had been “Building a Community from Scratch.”

Spent most of the class time considering the maturation model and identifying at which point of the model we are at in the class. Most of the discussion pointed towards the class being at the 3rd stage of the model because we have flexible policies and governments, we have a general idea of what we need to do, we drive our participation in the community on the CMGRclass g+ space, and we use collaborative leadership. It was also suggested that the class is in limbo somewhere between 2 and 3 due to the fact that the class is a consistent size and is not open to growth.

The next topic was the difference between a community and a network based on the model. A community has a manager pulling string behind the scenes, whereas a network is more individualized. Community has some form of sovereignty, even if the lines are fuzzy, network pretty intertwined into other things.

The question of whether or not you can plan to stop the process in the maturation model at the point of at forming a tight knit community and not going any further was then considered. In Jenn’s opinion, it’s huge brands and their community members that make a network (pepsi, coke, etc). You’re part of a network and an audience, not a tight knit community that comes with smaller, more conversational and personalized grouping that is kind of like a family. Many smaller networks do, indeed, stop short on the maturation model and hover in the “tight knit community” category.

This led to the next topic of discussion, which was “Is the end game of building a community always moving towards creating a network?” The answer seemed to be a solid “no, not necessarily.” The maturation model is a good guideline for companies and CMs to take bits and pieces from, but not everyone is working towards a network and not all companies/communities follow these steps.

From the maturation model the class moved on to the Commitment Curve. It was discussed that the commitment curve needs to be scalable community to community, an opinion heavily aided by Steve’s personal experience and the fact that attending an event in some communities represents and exceptional level of commitment, but in others really doesn’t take much effort or exhibit much dedication.


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.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Taken by realbruts in August, 2009

Taken by realbruts in August, 2009

This week in #cmgrclass one of the key concepts discussed was the importance of authenticity behind building up a brand name and presence. In this kommein piece written by Deb Ng, the author laments over the intrusive and forceful tactics some organizations employ to grow their online communities.  Namely, she lambasts certain organizations for using DM and inbox on Twitter and Facebook, respectively, to ask individuals to “like” a certain page.

Soliciting likes via private messaging is akin to insurance companies soliciting products via knocking on your front door. It’s intrusive. It’s mildly uncomfortable. And the receiving party feels unduly pressured to endorse a product or service he probably doesn’t want.

In her post What Not to do When Using Social Media for Business, Alyssa Gregory dedicates four of her seven “what not to dos” to items related to Ng’s initial pet peeve. Gregory suggests:

  1. DO NOT Spam Your Fans, Followers, Circles
  2. DO NOT Share Too Much
  3. DO NOT Self-Promote All the Time

By following these three commandments, an organization may avoid being absolutely horrible and learn to build trust authentically.

So if you’re not supposed to directly ask for people to like or endorse your online brand representation, what exactly are you supposed to do? This question leads me to my theory of If You Build it, They Will Come (yes I took poetic license with the name adaptation, but it’s applicable as much here as it was in Field of Dreams).

If you manage the community for a brand, the best way to build up a community around that brand is to identify the target demographic of your brand and then create content and conversation that appeals to that demographic while also properly representing the brand. If you can accomplish this, community members will organically be drawn to the brand in question. Aka, if you build it, they will come.

Let’s use Zappos as an example here. In her blog post How Zappos makes social media a part of its company culture, Susan Rush opens with “When it comes to social media, just gets it.” And get it, they do. As a company that started as a small startup with almost no community, as it grew it built its presence by engaging in authentic conversation and creating content that not only had to do with its own product and overall brand, but also appealed to its demographic.

“But how did they do it”?, you may ask. According to Zappos’ Thomas Knoll, their success comes from implementing the “social media policy [of] be yourself and don’t be stupid.” No inboxing strangers. Not DMing Twitter users with a high Klout score. Just plain old authenticity. And from there, a community was built.


Industry and Internal Innovation

Taken by Paul B.

Taken by Paul B.

It’s no surprise that online communities foster innovation in industry (and if it is you should take a few minutes and give this journal article entitled Online Communities and Open Innovation a quick read). Since the creation of the internet’s first message board, online communities have acted as a forum for exchange of thoughts where ideas created by one user were perpetuated and grown by others in remote locations. But this, of course, is old news. The story of community-oriented betterment of ideas and innovations by online user groups has been told and retold as online communities have flourished. has aided programmers everywhere, Wikipedia has quite effectively hijacked the locks that used to be held by the gatekeepers of information, and niche-oriented professional communities are popping up left and right to lend the benefits of online collaboration.

What has yet to be fully vetted, however, is the manner in which these online communities will change the way industries and larger companies grow and innovate. According to the paper mentioned earlier, companies are attempting to piggyback onto some of these online communities to foster innovation in their own organizations. The paper also establishes that the two main themes crucial to proper management of these online communities are governance and symbolic value creation.

The issue here, is that in the examples offered, the application of these ideas is on communities that are not necessarily supposed to be governed by some despotic higher power, or create value for a specific cause other than organic innovation. Or in other words, not only is the work being designed around the technology, but the work is being designed around technology not necessarily intended for that use. On the industry level, the model of work being designed around technology as opposed to technology being designed around work is the end-all of innovation, motivation, and ultimately, success.

In order for innovation and community development to truly benefit a company, the technology must be developed around the work, and more importantly, the users completing that work.

As a quick example I’d like to reference the Pitney Bowes Employee Innovation program. In their White Paper study, Pitney Bowes identified the five characteristics of successful employee innovation as follows:

  1. Cultivate two-way conversations
  2. Tackle today’s business challenges
  3. Actively engage at all levels
  4. Foster diversity and inclusion
  5. Design to fit your culture

And after these characteristics, they leveraged them to create their innovative workforce. Seeking to lift the innovative capabilities of their employees to the next level, Pitney Bowes developed an internal social community called IdeaNet. This internal online community encouraged all employees within the company, from the C-suite right down to the entry-level assistants, to take part in idea challenges, while providing unparalleled avenues of communication between users and unfettered access to any innovative tool or informative document possible

Organic online communities should be left to be just that: organic. A company truly looking to foster its own innovation output should take a leaf of out Pitney Bowes’ book and build their technology around their work, and most importantly, their users.