Author Archive for Jessica McDonald

User Generated Content & Amazon

User generated content is a currently a hot topic. Taylor Hawes’ blog Is User Generated Content Right for Your Website? goes on to explain the basics. In simple terms, user generated content (UGC) comes about when businesses opt to have users generate content for them, either in place of or as a supplement to the content they already have. Such content can be: product reviews, guest posts, and customer images, along with others.

My Amazon Experience

Amazon is a prime example of using user generated content, most popularly in the form of product reviews. Every college textbook I have ever gotten along with 99% of items I order online comes from Amazon. While this blog isn’t to brag about them, I can commend them for the way they handle user generated content and it is easy to see that they benefit from it.

Let’s face it, most of us read reviews when we are looking to order something. Some even base their decision whether to order something or not solely off the reviews. In my experience, I have found that Amazon benefits from this. Not only does  Amazon offer quality products, but they also cater to the users. They always want users input on their products.

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So here, these product reviews are a good example of user generated content. Amazon breaks down these reviews with “most favorable” and “critical” so that you can get two different helpful reviews. Here is another example of user generated content. Many different vendors offer products on Amazon, and Amazon fulfills those orders. When users provide negative feedback, Amazon jumps right on to address it.

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In this case, there was a bad experience and Amazon was there to take responsibility. Without this user generated content, Amazon would not have any clue that this vendor sold a defective item. Amazon in my experience is one of the quickest to resolve these negative posts. They have one of the best customer service departments I have ever dealt with.

Why is UGC benefiting Amazon?

It is easy to see that Amazon, the company that sold 306 items per second, or 27 million items on Cyber Monday has a lot of content. These product reviews act as a supplement to the content that they already have. These reviews give them valuable information about their products and promote more business. You can’t tell me you won’t buy a product when you are contemplating buying it and you see a review for it saying that it shipped in one day and was better than advertised. Ultimately, UGC is beneficial for Amazon. They have a loyal fan base (when I look at a product it generally has over 200 reviews) and the content is generally spot on. If for some reason there is a negative review, you can be sure Amazon will resolve it within a few hours.

A few questions to consider:

  • In terms of quality of content, how would you deal with user generated content (in this case product reviews) that was not true? How do we know if users are just lying to give the product 5 stars?
  • Are there any downsides of UGC for Amazon?

Why SEO is Important

So, you are creating a new website and you want to attract users. What is the first thing you need to think about? Well, for me, it’s the users. But how exactly do we attract users? The answer is search engine optimization, or commonly, SEO. According to Victoria Edward’s article SEO Basics: 8 Essentials When Optimizing Your Site, SEO is fundamental and essential. She also states:

SEO will help you position your website properly to be found at the most critical points in the buying process or when people need your site.

 

What is SEO?

Edward’s article does a great job explaining SEO in 2 simple phrases. The first purpose of SEO is to create a great user experience. To me, user experience is extremely important. How many of you would waste your time on a website where you have no clue how to even navigate the site? Last semester, I took a class called Information Architecture. We learned an incredible amount about what people look for in an effective site, and user experience and friendliness was at the top. After taking that class, it is easy to tell whether a site will be effective.

The second purpose of SEO is to communicate to different search engines (one example is Google) so that they can recommend your website for relevant searches. Everything you do to make your site as effective as you can, such as having great content and great information architecture is beneficial, but will not matter as much if SEO is not a focus.

 

Taken from Wikimedia Commons

Taken from Wikimedia Commons

 

So why exactly is it important? 

Now that we know exactly what SEO entails, it is time to unravel the importance of it. Rank Executives, an internet marketing company, wrote an excellent article titled 10 Benefits of SEO. After reading and analyzing this article, you can’t help but to think that SEO is crucial to businesses. Ultimately, SEO is important for YOU. With SEO, you can see a clear increase in site traffic, and one of the big benefits is that you will stand out. With roughly 250 million websites on the web, it can be very difficult to make a name for yourself, especially in a competitive market. Also, according to Rank Executives, 60% of clicks go to the first result. So, only 40% of clicks on search engines go to the second thru millionth result. Securing that top spot would definitely gain thousands and thousands of visitors. The big question: Wouldn’t you want to be #1?

Summary

Since we now have an understanding of SEO and understand the importance of it, it is time to to optimize your site. SEO should always be thought about. Skipping out will do nothing but hurt you since you will lose out on maximizing revenue opportunities.

Questions to Consider

  • Can you think of other benefits of SEO?
  • Do you have any experiences optimizing a website?

 

The Most Important Tip for Blogging

Is it just me or does it seem like everyone is a blogger now a days? I’ve never been a blogger, but I am beginning to realize the importance of becoming one. I used to only think blogs were for sports, entertainment news, and really any other opinionated subject. Much to my surprise, I have found that they are a crucial element to not only a community manager, but they also build a brand. However, a blog is not going to be of much importance, nor is it going to get many views, if these following tips are not used.

The Top Ten

Darren Rowse’s article How to Craft a Blog Post- 10 Crucial Points to Pause is listed below:

  • Choose a topic that matters to readers

    Photo courtesy of Beth Kanter via Flikr Creative Commons

    Photo courtesy of Beth Kanter via Flikr Creative Commons

  • Craft the title so that it will stick out to readers
  • Choose a good opening line to make a good impression
  • Make sure your post has a point and ‘matters’
  • Drive readers to do something, where they can apply what you say to real life
  • Make sure you have added all of the depth you possibly could
  • Polish posts- even the smallest mistake cost you
  • Publish your post at the right time
  • Post promotion- don’t just rely on the publish button to get views, give a few ‘nudges’ to increase exposure
  • Converse with readers and other bloggers once your post is published

Having a polished post with little to no errors or grammar mistakes would be the most important. For example, the picture below says “no unortherised parking” and is something that should have never been printed. I wouldn’t take that sign seriously, and the same goes for a poorly written blog post.

Another tip I feel is very important is that the post has a point. If we write about something that has no point, a viewer may not be apt to read another one of your blog posts. If it has a catchy title, it will get people to read it, but if the post doesn’t ‘matter,’ as Darren Rowse states, “it’ll never get traction.”

Lastly, crafting the title of the blog that will catch the attention of readers is also important. It is the most crucial part of getting people to actually start reading your post. If it’s easily searchable via Google or easily tweetable, it can help in the amount of traffic the post gets.

Maybe before the committee spends money on a sign, they could check their spelling of "unauthorized" - Image courtesy of Zoay via Flikr Creative Commons

Maybe before the committee spends money on a sign, they could check their spelling of “unauthorized” – Image courtesy of Zoay via Flikr Creative Commons

Ask yourself, “Am I thinking about these tips when I construct my blog post? Did I spend enough time thinking about the title?” Questions like this can make you stop and pause momentarily, or even hours to try to craft the best post possible.

What tip do you find most important? Are there any on the list that you do not think should be there? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 

Developing a Community Strategy is Easy as 1,2,3…4,5?

The first thing that caught my eye when reading the first chapter in “Buzzing Communities” by Richard Millington was, “Wow, only 5 steps to create a community strategy?” Much to my surprise was the depth that each of these steps involved. Alas, I read on and developed a better understanding.  However, once I was ready to come up with a strategy of the year, I read on to figure out that it is easy to make up a strategy that sounds perfect, but there are problems such as the strategy being either “unrealistic, not supported by data or theory, or difficult to execute.” So, I found myself back to square one and my hopes of developing a great strategy right away were put on hold.

The Steps that Matter

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee via Flikr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee via Flikr Creative Commons

A strategy is comprised of five steps:

  • Data collection
  • Analyzing data
  • Establishing goals
  • Creating an action plan
  • Tracking progress and ensuring accountability

Collecting data has to be done first and foremost. The particular data that needs to be collected is regarding the audience, and the current progress and health of the community. While collecting data definitely takes time, it is something that has to be done. If you do not have data to support your strategy, then it’s practically a guessing game.

Next, analyzing data is crucial because you need to make use of the data you’ve collected. By analyzing the data you’ve collected, you can make use of it while analyzing how the community progresses in terms of growth, activity, and sense of community.

Analyzing data leads right into establishing goals. After figuring out the current state of the community, we can use theory to figure out the community’s next steps. Setting goals and targets that can be measured is an important step in developing a community strategy.

Once goals are set, it is required to figure out how you are going to meet those goals by establishing a plan of action. Daily, week by week, or even monthly plans can set you on track to complete your goals in a specific amount of time. We cannot just expect our goals to be met if we do not figure out a plan to meet them.

Finally, we cannot create an action plan without tracking progress along the way. We need to make sure that progress is being made toward our set goals and we aren’t missing any goals. We need to identify if there are any factors getting in the way, and if there are, we need to be able to make alternative arrangements to still be able to meet the goals. Tracking progress is the only way we will be able to tell if we are moving in the right direction.

Easy, Right?

We might all take a step back and say, “So, what’s the big deal?” Little do we know there are a lot more factors involved in developing this kind of strategy. Like previously stated above, we might think that by following these steps, we can create a pretty great strategy. However, there are two key elements that most strategies lack, which are data and theory. So, until we go behind the scenes of the theories of how communities develop as well as being able to effectively support a strategy with data, these 5 steps are not the golden ticket.

Overall, I think it’s important to remember that while these are the five steps that community managers need to take in order to develop a good community strategy, there has to be an understanding of data and theory in order to apply these steps.