Understanding and building an online community

Building an online community

Build an online community


Building a community is not easy. Everyone has their own personality and it’s ruddy annoying. The emotional trauma you potentially open yourself to can be hurtful, demoralising and painstaking (not literally!).

But hang in there, kid. It’s worth it in the end.

After all you have opened yourself up to the ‘Twitter Tax’. Two-way communication is brilliant, but you have to listen and take ALL feedback on board – yes, that means not deleting negative ones, but turn that hindrance into a moment of sheer joy!

Do it. And do it well. And you will reap the benefits. Below are some useful to tips to get you on your way. If you’re anything like me, you love learning – so learn from mistakes, celebrate the successes, and influence those who can influence you and your company.

1.      Look before you leap

Research. Research. Research. And I will even say it again, research! Find the pockets of people who are excited about your products and services. Build a database. Know who these people are and ensure you build the messages for them to share. This immediate feedback is brilliant and ensure those who run your company know what it is. Best of all this stuff is free. No paid surveys, no awkward focus groups, but unprompted feedback to use to build your services.

2.      Get to know your users

Use Twitter. See what people are posting about you and your company. Become relevant and see what your competitors are saying. Use this to follow people and start a conversation and engage. This builds relevance from the ground up. Getting building that community, it’s out there somewhere.

3.      Have a personality

The most important. Be a person. Be personable. And response like a human. Use active, not passive, language. Drop the corporate messaging, and make it that everybody understands. Look at your favourite brands, and build your own voice. You will enjoy it more, as will your community.

4.      Leverage any and all connections at your disposal

Bring a friend. Bring several. Communities rarely start-up as one-man bands. Use those you can engage with and build organically from there. Email lists are often overlooked as a central means to build a community. Go to conferences and build partnerships and join in the conversations. It will come naturally.

5.      Build social into your product

If you want people to share “stuff”, make it really easy for them. Ask them to follow you on Twitter and Like You on Facebook as part of the on-boarding process. Suggest opportunities to social share and you will be amazed how many people will take the step and share.

6.      Think in terms of advocates, not just numbers

Followers? Shollowers! The number game is not important. Think about building a community of quality followers and build a fan base that is engaging with and sharing your content. Use these advocates to spread the word.

7.      Expect it to take time

Real community doesn’t happen overnight. It will be awkward to begin with where conversations will be a little forced, but people do not initiate conversations on their own. It will pass. Trust me. Keep building one-by-one. The returns on your efforts will increase when you build that real community.

8.      Connect and help your community members

Be a matchmaker, too. It’s the fun stuff. It’s good to engage with your users personally, but that’s tricky with limited resource. It’s more important to connect them with each other.

9.      Take chances and experiment

Small communities can be a blessing. It gives the scope to try out new thing without fear of failure. Risk while the risk is low and you could be on to a winner. Especially with online, it’s important to be ahead of the curve and try new things. Go on, I dare you!

10.   Track everything

For any business or any individual, ROI is vital and imperative in the progression of social. Track the numbers and make sure it is of benefit to your strategy and goals. Data does tell stories, so make sure you’re listening. A vibrant community will help attract new users, keep user engaged and provide valuable feedback.


Remember a retweet or a share is a victory. Keep fighting those battles.

What do you think? @StevenWoodgate

More bad PR > Anfield: the victims, the anger and Liverpool’s shameful truth

Anfield and Liverpool FC need to get back to producing some great community engagement and relations

Anfield and Liverpool FC need to get back to producing some great community engagement and relations

This excellent piece by David Conn from the Guardian shows that the lack of transparency can ultimately cause great distress and bad PR. With the world becoming social and more two-way than it’s ever been, it would be difficult to sweep anything like this under the carpet.

Fans are generally long forgotten in the great scheme of things, but this adds more woes to Liverpool’s overworked PR department.

As this has happened across three regimes of ownerships, it would be hard to pin who is to blame. Hopefully, they will come up with an appropriate response and get back to producing some really good community relations.

Get creative and get transparent.

What do you think?

Let me know: @StevenWoodgate

#Engage2013: The Highlights

[View the story “#Engage2013” on Storify]

Like Cycle, Jeremy Waite

Jeremy Waite from Adobe shows off his ‘Like-Cycle’


This all-day event not only included top speakers from companies such as Twitter, Nestlé, KLM, SAB Miller, Adobe, it also promised to be a real learning experience for attendees. It did not disappoint.

Storified by · Wed, Apr 24 2013 09:16:14

Twitter is the shortest distance between you and what interests you #engage2013
This year there were many hot topics including the shift from desktop to mobile marketing, the power of local content marketing and social customer care, metrics that matter. Have a look through this Storify link to see the highlights and insights of the day.
You need to understand why your customers are behaving the way they do #Engage2013 pic.twitter.com/lC2Nz7oZ4yBAHIA
@socialbakers Twitter conversations are 4X effective as non-Twitter ads. Our gaming research from #engage2013 twitter.twimg.com/ukgamingQ213Bruce Daisley
What is a social brand? – Headstream’s 3 principles: Win-win relationships, Active listening, Appropriate behavior #engage2013
Be sure to check out helpful insights from our #Engage2013 speakers here: bit.ly/17UjYjB pic.twitter.com/Ug8VIZRiodSocialbakers
Social Personality Discovery. Are you an explorer, sage, humorist or creator? #Engage2013
What do Starbucks measure on social media? @jeremywaite from #engage2013 pic.twitter.com/VzoJVNNkJ8
Momentum Factor
Social media marketing = “turning your customers into advertising”, not “talking to customers in social channels” #engage2013
Mat Morrison
Paid Media, Owned Media and Earned Media

Paid Media, Owned Media and Earned Media

#Twitter is #PR medium rather than advertising medium. But boundaries between PR & Advertising are quite blur. @BruceDaisley #Engage2013
Social is the only area of business where you don’t need to outspend your competitors #Engage2013 #thebizlinks
Catherine Jones
Businesses open themselves to ‘Twitter Tax’ when opening accounts. It’s best feedback businesses can get. @AndrewGrill #engage2013
The #Engage2013 panel debating Earned, Paid, Owned Media. @jowyang’s report is a must-read: slideshare.net/Altimeter/the-… pic.twitter.com/o0BW7fqVSY
Paul Papadimitriou
My phone has more computing power than all of @NASA had in 1969. NASA sent man into space. I sent birds into pigs. #engage2013
“Social media needs to get out of the marketing suite” @andrewgrill (pictured right, @jangles on left) #engage2013 pic.twitter.com/hCCaqInKYc
Rachel Miller
Starbucks' Simple Social Strategy

Starbucks’ Simple Social Strategy

LIKE > “Social media is not a platform anymore, it’s integrated into our organisation” says @kundreu from @KLM #engage2013
Social media is a reflection of real life. Content needs to be timely relevant add value to conversation #engage2013
.@papadimitriou, founder of Digital Intelligence: “Companies are social animals & are hardwired to be engaged” #Engage2013
Brands spend 3-5% of budget on social media. Most successful spend between 12-15% #Engage2013 @jeremywaite
Jay Perkins
Social ROI = Revenue gained – investment/investment x 100 @jeremywaite #engage2013
So glad that at #engage2013 we are starting to address the need to become a #socialbusiness and that demands real culture/org change
Andrew Grill
“Science is like sex: it has practical uses, but it’s not why we do it.” #Engage2013
The shelf life of a tweet is between 6-7 minutes @jeremywaite #engage2013
Leigh Gower
“Service is sales. Be cool to hang out with. Don’t push. Create stuff worth sharing.” Lionel Laselle #engage2013
Like-cycle by @jeremywaite at @AdobeSocial. #Engage2013 pic.twitter.com/pkZjffZbfL
Tim Grimes
66% of all brand engagement on Twitter is mobile. #Engage2013
This is why organisations should be more concerned about their engagement rate than number of likes: #engage2013 pic.twitter.com/h3MN1uCoSu
Lydia Bartlett
Positive tweets about a product/brand can influence purchase decision. It’s easy. #Engage2013
“@Shusmo: “50% of people use #SocialMedia to waste time” @JeremyWaite @Adobe @spcialbakers #Engage2013 @zainjo pic.twitter.com/KoUT2BQ2FG”
RT @MomentumFactor: % of fans that may not see your content in 3 months time #engage2013 pic.twitter.com/xmyI2MpJLz
Impossible = I’m Possible. #engage2013
@SocialBakers Thanks for making me and @Adobe the most mentioned / cheered talk of the day. Was fun #Engage2013 pic.twitter.com/8NQiqBefrf
It was amazing day and a truly worthwhile experience. Many thanks to everyone who spoke and everyone I met.

Time for Millwall to show some Authoritative Leadership

It’s been a tough weekend for sport: so many statements and apologies, and not enough sporting action.

These mindless idiots above need to be sanctioned, sentenced and slapped, but unfortunately, Millwall, the club, will no doubt get caught in the cross fire.

In the Guardian today, in Barney Ronay’s piece, the club was summed up rather perfectly:

“And for all its urban location this is still a strangely isolated club, buried in the industrial inner suburbs, hard to get to, detached from gentrified new-build London. It must also be said there was a sense of isolation, almost a weariness to the club response immediately after the game. The manager, Kenny Jackett, claimed not to have seen the incident and stopped short of condemning anybody for anything. Millwall’s media officer made it clear, in not so many words, that there are those who might point the finger at the police for not intervening quicker. The Millwall chairman, John Berylson, mused that you can never be sure who’s sitting where on these occasions. Perhaps proximity to such things frays the nerves and dulls the reflexes, but given the genuinely shocking nature of the violence, something more is required. There will be calls for fines and bans. A greater show of backbone from those in authority at the club would be a good place to start.”

Nail on the head.

Communication is the biggest factor, and this blog has mentioned it before, true leadership is needed. Perception and reputation has followed Millwall everywhere, and they lived up to their battered stereotype.

It’s understandable that the club is not directly responsible, but more needs to be done to investigate who comes to games. Imagine these marred events every weekend in the Premier League when Big Brother’s eyes are constantly watching. It would horrific. These people are Millwall’s cancer.

Having Millwall in the Premier League is probably the FA’s and League’s biggest worry. The PL is the most watched league in the world, and imagines of in-fighting, blooded noses, and shoes flying everywhere would cause colossal damage.

Groups of 30 men of varying ages throwing punches and kicks is not an image of football and is certainly not condoned in society. The absence of police is almost as laughable. The ‘stewards’ are not bodyguards and if they were expected to get involved to split up the trouble, I would expect the FA to pay them more than the £7 per hour they currently get.

The problem needs to be prevented. A big issues management brainstorm needs to be sanctioned. There are ways these troublemakers can be found, and if the right tools were used, and the right messages displayed, the trouble would certainly cease  – somewhat.

Social listening is one method. Look to social media to find out who these people, the repeat offenders, are and ban them immediately and make examples of them.

Those in the club can pick up trends, find out who the key troublemakers are and pass them over to the authorities. Simply working with the police is not enough, those in-charge at Millwall need reputation building and to be seen as authoritative leaders of condone such scenes and not stand for it. It may cost Millwall fans, and money, in the short-term, but longer-term they will reap the benefits.

Their run to the FA Cup semi-final is a remarkable story. But it’s all ended in blood, stolen police hats, and young girls crying. The shame.

It is no good the FA fining the club, banning them from games, but they need to work together and come up with a plan to cut the problem at its root and not simply firefight.

What a strange, and awful, occasion it turned out to be.

By the way, congratulations Wigan Athletic on a fine win.



Unlock your greatest asset: the ability to think

Thinking is good. In fact, thinking is ruddy good. People don’t do enough of it.

According to the Daily Mail (clearly taken with a pinch of salt), British people spend NINE HOURS a day staring at screens and spend more time online than any other nation in the world.

That works out to be 30 years of our lives. 30!

These screens include computers, mobiles, televisions and tablets. Not only this, but increasingly more people are watching television with a second screen.

Technology has transformed the way we do things. It makes processes quicker, it is always convenient, and it doesn’t answer back when asked a question – unless you have that pesky git, Siri.

Jobs, including mine, heavily depend on the use of screens, second screens and mobiles and it appears the rate of creativity is increasing, and innovation has never been so thriving.

After having a day’s workshop with the brilliant business coach Nicholas Bate, he simply said ‘think more’.

It’s crazy, right? We ‘think’ all day solving problems, replying to emails, having meetings, deciding what lunch to eat, etc.

With so many technologies available to us, all of which we can consume in a different way, we don’t have to think as much.

Bate claimed that walking regularly to think will help with problem solving, productivity and building a better mood to really excel.

Following his advice, I stopped catching the bus and walked to work instead.

It takes roughly 35 minutes and that’s a whole lot of thinking. I made the conscious decision not to get my phone out, not listen to music, but to simply think.

You know what? He’s right.

By thinking without distraction – par the ducks quacking along the river – I have managed to solve problems quicker, thought of ways to deal with difficult colleagues and customers, and came up with some really cool ideas.

At lunchtime, I head to the gym and treat myself to a listen of music, but stay well clear of screens.

Not only it’s been good for your heart and lungs, but it’s remarkably good for your brain, too.

So I urge you, and challenge you, to spend 15 minutes a day to ‘do nothing’. Get out of the office, walk to the shops, take a stroll around the block and think.

Leave all technology behind and when you come back, you will be better, refreshed, thoughtful and have put some of those problems into perspective.

Working in PR and community management, where there’s so much pressure for response times, replying to emails and calling clients, spending a few minutes to ‘do nothing’ will help more than you could ever imagine.

Not only I feel I’ve improved the standard of work, I come back refreshed and more assertive, with not only work but with building better employee relationships too.

Working long and hard causes the body to seek refuge in reptilian or fight/flight behaviour as its suspects the worst.

All well and good but our greatest asset is then lost: our human ability to think and make thoughtful, clear choices. Take regular, real (no technology) breaks and get fresh air.

Work smart and unlock your greatest asset: the ability to think.

Let me know how you get on, especially as we’re approaching the summer. Hopefully.