Branded Communities & the things to know.

5 secrets every community manager wishes they knew

  1. All viral adoption is “perpetuated”. For every one successful case of HotorNot there are thousands of Suqidoo and besides the fact that you have to make a product or service something to get passionate about, building a community around it “just does not happen” with 10 users telling 10 other users.
  2. The communities that thrive are the ones that are built one participant at a time. Its slow, painful, measured and very effective. Connect with community members, take a genuine interest in their needs and most importantly cater to their specific need as much as you can within the confines of your “community”. But make it each persons own community.
  3. Community value increases exponentially with increased participation. It cannot be a linear value proposition. If that was the case, the “network” effect would not exist. To ensure the value increases exponentially, you have to let the community jointly own the direction & its future.
  4. “Marketing” is not a four letter word for communities, but “Control” might be. You have to ensure that people know about that the community exists. Does not mean you spam them like Facebook did, or keep nagging them like BirthdayAlarm. On the other hand trying to “control” the community discussion, direction and future is the quickest way to get a competitive community built by the users without you.
  5. There is no pixie dust, silver bullet or magic trick. No software program enables your community to happen, regardless of how much it promises to be “just like Myspace”. No consultant (including us at Canvas Group) can make magic happen – although we wish we could. It take good focus, set goals, a lot of hard work (segmenting your users, micro targeting your initial adopters and encouraging feedback) and a little luck.

Best Engaging Online Communities

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEN! Seriously. Make that two “Amens”, ah wait… I’m feeling charitable. THREE amens. Yes. Three. Oh, who am I kidding? Give an “Amen” to each of those points. They deserve ’em.

Sometimes I feel TRULY crazy in my job. Building a community from a small brand is not easy— especially when there isn’t a budget for “spreading the word.” I basically have to wait until fans of the books become interested enough to check out the site (or friends bring friends, or our only ad on Neopets)… and maybe stumble into the community… we provide the welcoming tone & humor… then cross fingers and hope that the tater tots enjoyed themselves enough (or were intrigued enough) to come back again the next day.

Unlike many adult/teen communities, tweens/kids need to feel a sense of safety (you may disagree– but I’m telling you… this is the truth). Stranger danger is SOOO part of their thought process. Same with fairness & right/wrong. There have been MANY studies about the high level of moral righteousness existing in kids/tweens.

Kids may try to break walls and push limits… but it’s all about the challenge. Reaching beyond their own limitations, trying to prove (if even to themselves) that they CAN do big things… it’s all part of growing up, ya know? I once had a T-shirt with Figment from Disney’s Epcot on it saying “Think Outside the Box”. Kids need structure– they need a box to think “out of”. <– And this is coming from a post-ADD kid. I learned my “creative coopterates w/ structure” lessons over and over again, the HARD way. And it’s so true.

Basically, if you build a community based around a young, small brand, you’ve got to hold hope. As long as you believe in what you’re doing, and continue to make a positive environment filled with humor and imaginative freedom (to a certain degree) and listen to the needs of the people… then you have to just TRUST that you’re on the right path. And continue to WORK IT!! (*insert momentary “work it” chair dance*)

It’s a bit like furniture sales. If the customers come in and they don’t buy… 9/10, chances are they won’t come back again. But for me, the “buying” is when a “customer” (or future community member) integrates him/herself into the blog in a participatory way. Some kids come in, say a funny thing or tell the world they love the books/cartoons, then leave– feeling content that they graffiti-ed our space. The kids that stay want feedback/reactions/continuations of their comments. Like a sort of “acceptance.” The very definiition of a community. You can’t be a part of a community if you don’t want to (thus the definition of a hermit).

So if I were given the choice of 1,000 one-off community members (who stay for a day or one week) versus 100 regular community members (who stay for weeks to months), It’d take the 100 every time around. EVERY TIME.

I have found that limited members are soo amazing. They really, really grab hold of the space you provide and claim it as their own. The community becomes this safe-haven playground. A pocket in time that stays relatively constant. They look out for each other and play with ideas about the brand– bringing in elements from pop culture (Who knew Willy Wonka & Pet would be BFFs?).

The big difference between tween branded communities & teen/adult communities is the cyclical nature. Tweens are only tweens for a certain amount of time. They go into a “phase” and grow out of a “phase.” I can’t begrudge 12 year olds who turn 13 and decide to move on to teen-oriented sites. They always come back for a “visit.” It’s like camp. When I was a summer day-camp counselor (oh, that was a great decade), I worked with “Junior Camp”– basically kids 8, 9, 10. They come in at 8 and leave me at 10. They hate graduating from Junior camp, and they cry, and they say they’ll be back EVERY DAY. And many do come back to visit. But once they’ve left Junior camp and they’ve planted themselves in Senior camp, the vision of the world changes. It’s future-time baby. Growing up. And sure, they’ve got fond memories of us Junior-camp souls, but their eyes are on the teen-prize. Same thing with my kind of community. I never fret. Why? Because it’s cyclical. There are particular “parts” certain tweens play. The crazed one, the leader, the moderator’s pet, the mother hen, the rule-pusher, the annoying one, etc… as soon as one kid moves on, another takes his/her place and the community lives on.

Perhaps when the brand explodes upon the pop culture seen (as it should with the upcoming television show) we’ll be faced with bigger numbers and a more rapid fan base. Should that time come, my team is prepared. Why? Because we now know what quality community members act like and how to introduce the voice of the brand in a supportive, encouranging, empowering way. These are kids, looking for the pulse of the future, wanting to be recognized by the people they constantly support (through media consumption, consumerism, and evangelicalism). The LEAST we can do is listen and give support back.

And END soapbox, lol.

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  1. May 11, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I’m Denise Restauri. In January 2006, 2,000 tween girls took me on a journey. It started with my mission to give tween girls a way to see the world through the eyes and lives of other girls. Initial idea was to write books, but before we could get the sample materials out the door, the girls took me down the road to blogging. And in March 2007, we launched the only SAFE, social networking site for tween girls ages 10-15: AllyKatzz.com. http://www.allykatzz.com/page/home/.

    We keep girls safe by keeping their identities anonymous… but still giving them freedom to express what’s going on in their heads and hearts. The girls blog about EVERYTHING tween… Boys, school, parents, siblings, mean girls, bffs, emo, what makes them happy and what makes them scared. They cover EVERYTHING because it’s their site… Over 15,000 girls helped create the site. We aren’t MOS… Instead the monitoring is by college girls – better having a college girl over shoulder than mom. In fact, the girls blog a lot about what they WISH mom would or would not do. They ask for help that falls under “can’t ask mom.”

    Here’s a review of AllyKatzz.com by Family WebWatch: Tween Girls are Purring for AllyKatzz. http://www.familywebwatch.com/blog/2007/04/24/tween-girls-are-purring-for-allykatzz/

    A few weeks ago, I launched Girls Say What? a blog for parents/any adult that has a tween girl in their life… To help adults understand what girls are going through and help them communicate with their tween girls. The Blog: http://girlssaywhat.blogspot.com/

    And… I’m MoreMagazine.com’s tween girl expert. http://www.more.com/more/story.jsp?storyid=/templatedata/more/story/data/1150314440627.xml

    OK, I’ll stop now! Just trying to make my point that we have arrived. We now have 35K+ members (girls 10-15). We are building the site, brand and community one girl at a time. It’s not easy… but it’s worth it. All it takes is one blog from a girl telling other girls things she can’t tell her friends at school because they will make fun of her… or sharing an “I did it!” moment. Our tween girls may do crazy things… but that’s life… they need help to get them through these tough times. That’s that I LOVE about allykatzz.com… the girls are there for each other… so opposite of the mean girl syndrome that they live with every day in middle school.

    Denise Restauri
    CEO, AllyKatzz.com
    denise@allykatzz.com

  2. May 11, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks for the Amens Izzy

  1. May 11, 2007 at 3:10 pm

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