Community Building, Blogs and Forums - WMW Conf 7
Roger Dooley from Compstar was first up. He brought up two books, Into Thing Air and Touching the Void. He discussed how these books received lots of good feedback from online reviews. 40% of American's participate in online communities, that is a big number. Types of the communities include, "shared interests", "commerce", "social business" communities, etc. He then put up a cartoon saying "Aren't you a little old to have imaginary friends", Web communities have real world impact (we are at this conference, aren't we). Online communities include, reviews, forums, blogs, email lists, chats, and wikis. Forum community benefits include; (1) communicate company message, (2) first hand customer feedback, (3) content and traffic, (4) community and "fans" (apple customers are fans, sometimes obsessed). Forum Communities Costs; (1) time and effort to built critical mass in a forum, (2) frank feedback cuts both ways, (3) inevitable criticism, (4) legal issues (5) continuous management (24/7 year round). Build your community; (1) establish a mission for your community, (2) review internal strengths and determine what to outsource, (3) allocate adequate resources, (4) keep expectations in check, and (5) monitor and adjust course. If people who are building the community are not having fun, then it wont work. Is there a formula for a profitable forum? He then put up a long mathematical equation, which got a laugh - but it was a real formula from MIT.
Next up was Jennifer Slegg, Jenstar Mod at WMW. Building a community requires; finding and choosing mods, getting members, encourage quality posts, avoid empty forums and stop spam. Getting good mods is one of the hardest things to find she said, I agree. One thing she also said about mods was to find mods that are unbiased - it helps. And you need at least one mod who you can trust, so you can leave the keys of the forum to that person. Ways to keep moderators happy;pay them, free advertising, moderator only perks, involve them in the decision making whenever possible, discuss the goals of the forums with your mods, and avoid stepping on their toes whenever possible. What type of power should you give the mods? Those are things you need to think about. Finding members, to do so, make sure your forum is spider-able, you want to make it easy for new members to view and post in threads, encourage word of mouth referrals, advertiser your forums. Avoid the empty forum syndrome by keeping the number of forums low at the beginning, have easy post threads, pad the forum with multiple user names, keep threads on topic, and offer posting incentives. Setting initial ground rules, make sure your faqs are clear.
Amanda Watlington was next up, she spoke at the SES San Jose session on this topic. So far it looks like the same info, so view my coverage of that session named Web Feeds, Blogs & Search. She showed some stats of how much traffic some blogs get. There are many blog tools; blogger, live journal, typepad, diaryland, movable type, aol journals, etc. Which one should I use? Depends on the features you need and your technical background. She explains how RSS works a bit and showed some RSS reader examples. Blogs are great for link building. She said blogs increase perception of thought leadership within the community, deepens customer relationship, boosts media relations and enhances your relationship with your committed audience. She then rants on some poor blogs and talks about some good blogs in regards from an SEO view.
Finally was Jeremy Zawondy from Yahoo, he is referred to as one of the most famous bloggers out there. He quickly showed how the Web changed over time. He shows how blogs are growing incredibly, something like 12 blogs a minute or so. He then shows a chart on "Weblog posts per day" and you see if major things happen in real life, more posts are on that day (see the US conventions time lines). Big Media vs. Blogs, they looked at inbound sources and you see that blog penetration is huge. Comment spam has been crazy in the last year or so. Comment spam is killing the community aspect of the blogs, because people are adding moderation systems and closed communities. Content quality is all over the board, so it is kind of a bad thing. Weblog traffic; he splits it into two groups. (1) The regular reader (subscribers) and they visit often, daily. (2) Search engine referrals; which takes a few days (not immediate), the searchers have very specific goals, he said product reviews are his most popular blogs (check my sunbeam review at my rustybrick blog, i must have 50 comments). Advertising; there is a decreasing resistance to commercial messages (product endorsements, comments get hairy with ads, contextual ads are spreading) and link exchanges are not popular.