This Week In Tech: SFCMGR Visits Prezi!

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We love SFCMGR, and not just because our very own Lucy Bartlett is a co-organizer. It’s a wonderful group of people who come together once a month to discuss the ins and outs of online community. This month’s event was held at the San Francisco Prezi Office.  They provided four wonderful speakers, all who have different backgrounds within Prezi, but work toward the common goal of creating an online community of happy Prezilians.

Jana Hanavan, Prezi’s mood coordinator, opened up the series of presentations with some background on the organization, thus setting the stage for Ashley Whitlatch, the 8th U.S. employee who developed and launched Prezi’s successful college ambassador program. She informed the audience of 5 tips to build a community of college ambassadors. They are- focus on those who love you, help them set their own goals, provide feedback, listen to their ideas, and provide useful takeaways.

When looking for people who are passionate about your product, find those who already actively support you. Once they’ve become an ambassador, it’s important not to set stringent goals for them, but rather collaborate to decide what you’re working towards. After all, an ambassador knows their peers better than anyone else, that’s why they’ve been selected. The college ambassador program wouldn’t have been beneficial to anyone if it simply included passing out fliers. Prezi encourages ambassadors to create online groups and A/B test new products, both enriching the experience of its ambassadors as well as the community they’re present in.

Zsofi Goreczky was once upon a time what Prezi calls a Champion, someone incredibly active in the Prezi community answering other’s questions and sharing best practices.  A few months after becoming a Champion, Prezi asked her to officially join their team. She’s now the Operations Manager for Support. Zsofi explained the importance of the Championship program and other methods that encourage peer-to-peer support. Although acknowledging these key factors of building a supportive community, she also stressed the strong influence of support reps, promoting good answers, monitoring frequent questions to modify content pieces accordingly, and archiving out-dated issues. The combination of Prezi employees and Prezilians supporting the community has proven to be the most effective way to support their online community.

The last to take the stage was Prezi’s Social Media Coordinator,Susannah Shattuck who helps to manage Prezi’s global community across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and beyond! When she first started at Prezi her main focus was to get as many “likes” and “followers” as possible but soon realized that didn’t result in engagement. Rather, a smaller, targeted audience creates higher interaction amongst followers. To best amplify your company’s voice and convert users into advocates, Susannah suggests meeting your audience where they are, listening to what they have to say, and empowering them to share their stories. If you are able to successfully follow these three tactics you will drive traffic to your website, which is critically important when trying to explain the ROI of social media.

We hope all that attended this month’s SFCMGR meeting learned as much as we did! It was wonderful to hear about community from three different departments of the Prezi team. We hope you’ll join us next month for another round of networking and insightful talks from industry leaders. Stay tuned!

Check out the great Prezi they made for SFCMGR!

Written by Hanna Fritzinger

ForumCon 2014 Highlights

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Last week was our annual conference, ForumCon, and what a conference it was! Here are the most important takeaways from each of the day’s sessions.

What does “Mobile-Optimized” Mean for Communities?

In the opening session, moderator John Boitnott led panelists Tyler Smith, Zach Hobbs, Craig Dalrymple and Howard Steinberg in a discussion on increasing Internet consumption via mobile devices and the effect that is having on forums. The panel emphasized that forums will need to adapt as users increasingly use mobile devices to consume forum content but less so to create new content. Developing countries in particular have many users who access the Internet solely through their mobile devices.

The Lean Community: Simple Tactics for Building Thriving Communities

David Spinks spoke about his first experience in building an online community that was centered around Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. David argued that forums are far more likely to succeed if they are built as an outlet for an existing community, rather than an attempt to build a new community based on corporate interest. Additionally, David informed the audience, despite conventional wisdom, debates between community members could be key to developing stronger community bonds.

The Top 5 Forum Insights that Changed Our Business

Crista Bailey emphasized the importance of encouraging community members to openly  share their content. As the CEO of TextureMedia, Bailey has built the largest online community for women with curly hair. If TextureMedia weren’t an environment where women in this historically-marginalized community felt comfortable sharing their stories and pictures, the brand would not be what it is today.

Moderation and Management of Your Community

Dan Gill moderated the talk about managing online community with panelists Greg Childs, Justin Isaf and Patrick Clinger. The panel members had important insights about who ought to be responsible for electing community managers. One great example was, if someone asks to be a community manager, they probably aren’t a good choice. Instead, ask an active and influential member of your forum to be a manager. There’s a good chance that they are the type of member who plans on being a part of the community for an extended period of time.

Conversation about Online Community

Conversations about Online Community gave attendees the chance break into groups and answer assigned questions. They then chose their best insights to share with the entire ForumCon conference. Attendees made a series of clever suggestions such as, making sure that each community manager receives individual attention and emphasizing the importance of randomized checks on manager decisions. There was also plenty of discussion about whether to remove “downvote” features altogether.

ForumCon Tech Fest

This year’s ForumCon featured the first ever Tech Fest competition with a series of entrepreneurs pitching their products to a panel of expert judges. Each of our presenters had a great pitch, but Panjo and their advertising marketplace for forums ultimately prevailed.

Using Proven Science to Create Highly Addictive Communities

Attendees had the opportunity to learn about proven methods that increase their community’s retention rate from Richard Millington. One of his most interesting pieces of advice was messaging someone right after they join your community might not necessarily the most effective use of your time, especially if your goal is to get them to contribute to the site. Instead, Millington found that responding within five hours to a new member’s first contribution resulted in a 53% increase in the chance that they would contribute again. Additionally, responding within the first hour increased that figure even further.

The Future Discussion of the Web Panel

ForumCon’s final panel was moderated by Nellie Bowles and featured Jeff Atwood, Josh Miller, Daniel Ha and Thomas Plunkett. Our most forward-looking panel spoke about the need to encourage civil discussion online and some of the ways previous efforts to do so had fallen short. For example, insisting that users login through Facebook doesn’t seem to have any effect on their being civil to one another. What’s most important is for people participating in online communities to realize that even without face-to-face interaction there is someone on the receiving end of their comments.

How Purposeful Design Increases Engagement

Courtney Couch explained the power of purposeful design (the holistic approach you take to your site). Couch suggested that every design decision ought to be evaluated on the basis of its benefit for users and not simply because it “could be done” or might look “cool”. His talk tied to previous comments made at ForumCon that the most successful forums are very basic with user-friendly designs.

Thank you to all of you who came and a special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: FORUMS.net, tapatalk, Vanilla, BoardReader, Panjo, Internet Brands, Hi-def Ninja, Vbulletin, Verticalscope and Topix.  Other great wrap-ups have been written byJessica Malnik and Evan Hamilton. You can also check out a great collection of content from the ForumCon Storify and visit our blog for videos of the sessions.

Written by Hanna Fritzinger

ForumCon has it’s own Forum!

Thanks to one of ForumCon’s wonderful sponsors, Proboards, we now have our very own forum! We know… Finally! It will be our a year-round platform for you, our community, where you can find the latest ForumCon news, learn innovative approaches from your peers, and start networking with everyone joining us this year. Do come and join the fun!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager at VigLink and chief ForumConer

Ever wondered what ForumCon is?

Ever wondered what this amazing thing called “ForumCon” is, that we have been talking so much about?

Well, know we have our very own promo video to explain it. Happy watching!

PS. You might just recognize a few familiar faces…

If you fancy joining us for what promises to be a day full of learning, networking, and most importantly lots of fun. Please use our special VigLink registration link to receive 25% off. You can also check out the full agenda of amazing speakers and activities here.

See you on Thursday 19th of June!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager and chief ForumConer

In 2014, Turn Your Forum Into an Ecommerce Media Giant

Cross-posted from the new ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business and future of forums  and community management and will be held this year in San Francisco on June 19. Follow this link to join us for the day and get a special VigLink 25% off discount!

Written by Chad Billmyer, CEO, Panjo

Businesses purchase forums based on trailing revenue and traffic growth. Do you want more revenue and more traffic? Evolve your forum into an ecommerce media giant.

In the last few days, VerticalScope agreed to acquire PBNation.com for $1.38M (a paintball vBulletin forum) and Freelancer.com paid $3.2M for Warrior Forum (a digital marketing vBulletin forum). You can grow the value of your community higher than that. To quote the Sean Parker character in The Social Network, “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool?” A billion dollars.

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According to BuiltWith, the number of forums powering the top million sites on the web has declined by 33% since 2011. In the face of the decline of Web-based forums, you can still grow the value of your community. Now is the time for you to evolve your community into an ecommerce media business.

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Ben Lerer, founder of Thrillist.com, explains, “Now we’re at the beginning of Commerce 3.0. Every day you surprise and delight people by showing them interesting things, and then you layer on great storytelling on a daily basis…. People come to your store more often because they never know what they’re going to find and what they could discover. When they get there, they spend more money buying the basics that they actually need. It’s been four years since we acquired JackThreads, and we’ve gotten really good into making a reader into a shopper and a shopper into a reader. We will do more than $100 million in revenues this year, and I believe we can be a $1 billion business.” [source]

This past March, Lerer spoke at the South By Southwest conference in Austin. You can find the slides from his talk, Content & Commerce: The Digital Cronut, on slideshare. There is an excellent recap of the presentation in Publishing Perspectives.  In summary, you have thousands of enthusiasts frequenting your site. You have earned their trust. You need to move beyond advertising, subscription, events, and licensing. Says Lerer, “you’ve got to actually physically sell something to that consumer” to have a chance at that billion-dollar goal.

Through his research, Michael Brito, author of Your Brand: The Next Media Company, found that successful media companies shared five characteristics. He shared the five characteristics in an interview with SocialMediaExaminer:

  1. Storytelling

  2. Content

  3. Relevance

  4. Ubiquitous

  5. Agile

Perhaps the sentiments of Lerer and Brito are a bit too theoretical or macro for you. You are in the trenches, building and moderating your community and keeping sponsors happy. What is your next step?

  1. If you don’t already have a content management system (CMS) attached to your forum, add one.

  2. Create a plan for the creation of compelling, original content. Focus on storytelling.

  3. Identify the ecommerce opportunities within your vertical. Who are the entrepreneurs, small businesses, and major vendors who want to reach your audience? What is the best way for those partners to sell product through your web property. What ecommerce platform will you use to power that commerce?

To help you execute on the three steps above, you can turn to tools and services like RebelMouse, Contently,DivvyHQ, SingleGrain, Panjo, Magento, and others.

Returning to the topic of valuation, let’s break down the valuations of the aforementioned forums. Warrior Forum’s $3.2M acquisition price means that Freelancer.com paid…

  • $4.36 per registered user
  • $0.44 per thread post
  • $2.62 per monthly organic search inbound visit for the trailing month
  • $1.23 per monthly visit for the trailing month
  • $4.36 per email address

CrowdGather purchased PBNation in 2011 for $2.4M. [source] PBNation’s recent $1.38M acquisition price, a decline of over $1M, means that VerticalScope paid…

  • $2.08 per registered user
  • $0.02 per thread post
  • $6.40 per monthly organic search inbound visit for the trailing month
  • $1.66 per monthly visit for the trailing month
  • $2.08 per email address

Usually, forums are bought and sold between two privately held companies and there is little or no public information about the purchase price. These recent transactions involved publicly held companies and as material transactions, required public disclosure.

Forums are not bought and sold based on the metrics above. As stated above, forum acquisitions are based on traffic and revenue. Do you want more traffic and revenue? Evolve your forum into an ecommerce media giant.

 

Community is War

Cross-posted from the new ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business of forums  and community management and will be held this year in San Francisco on June 19. Join us!

 

We were delighted to co-host SFCMGR last week and bring along two very special guest from the online community world, Lane Becker and Thor Muller, co-founders of Get Satisfaction. They brought down the house with their very honest and unique take on the business of communities, likening the experience not to the happy, smiley, fields of flowers often portrayed and rather to ideas of war and conflict. They shared their stories from their time in the community “trenches” including some of our most favorite nuggets of “wisdom”, which are all helpfully wrapped up in 140 character snippets – thanks to everyone who attended and tweeted:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my most favorite nugget from the night, that you must(!!) go and check out.

 

SFCMGR is heading to Pinterest next month. I will make sure the most interesting insights are shared out live via @ForumCon and on the Facebook page. Please check back here a few days after for the round up of all the evening’s best findings!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager

World’s Shortest Online Community Quiz

Cross-posted from the new ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business of forums  and community management and will be held this year in San Francisco on June 19. Join us!

Pop Quiz

Does your company “get” online community? Here’s a simple test:

What do you call it when somebody complains about your product or service in an online community?

a.) A problem

b.) An opportunity

If your answer was “b,” congratulations. You get it.

It’s amazing how often people forget that an online community is a group of real, live people. Imagine you’re at a gathering  — let’s say you’re at a cocktail party — and some guy says something bad about your company. In response, you quickly hustle him out of the room, then return, wave your hands around, and insist everybody forget what was just said.

Stupid, right?

When you delete a critical comment from a forum, you’re engaging in the online version of the same behavior.

More importantly, you’re missing an opportunity.

Let’s go back to the cocktail party.

Instead of trying to cover up this guy’s critical comment, let’s say you have a friendly drink with Mr. Complainer, find out what he’s sore about, and make it right. Not only have you won over the guy that was badmouthing your company, you’ve done it in front of a room full of party-goers who now think you and your company are pretty swell.

When you see disparaging comments about your company in an online community, seize the opportunity to impress the crowd.

Generally speaking, you see two kinds of complaints about companies in online communities.

One goes something like this: “That company screwed me.”

In cases like this, acknowledge the customer’s frustration. Ask for details so they know they’re being listened to. Do what you can to make it right. Most of all, be open and honest. If the customer’s demands are unreasonable, politely explain that you can’t do what they are demanding of you and why. But if you can fix the problem, tell the customer publicly in the community (being careful to avoid disclosing any personal or sensitive information) and wow the crowd.

The other type of complaint is more vague, like “I hear that company stinks.”

When responding to comments like these, seek specifics without  being confrontational. Skip the schoolyard “Says who?!” and go with something like “I’m with the company and I’m surprised to hear that. Is there a problem or concern I can help you with?” If there is a specific issue, address it head-on. If the comment was unproven innuendo, that will become evident when the response sounds like “Well, I heard it from a guy, who heard it from…” Or when there’s no response at all.

Deleting complaints makes your company look bad. It leaves the impression that you’re afraid to engage with your customers, or worse, that you’ve got something to hide.

Don’t be that company.

Authored by the ForumCon favorite Dave Cayem

T – 2 days to CMX Summit 2014

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The first CMX Summit is taking place this Thursday, February 6th, and I am excited to say I will be going.  I will be reporting live from the event via our facebook and twitter. If you were still on the fence about joining, let me tell you why I am attending. I mean beyond the our amazing and exclusive 25% off discount we have to share! To snag yourself this special discount just follow this link and type in forumcon25. Tickets are quickly selling out, so act fast to secure your seat.

Onto the real reasons why I am attending – CMX Summit is a new conference, which is focused entirely on community building. This year CMX is bringing together unique perspectives from fields and companies like psychology, behavioral analysis, habit analysis, Apple, Lyft, AirBnB, Facebook, 500 Startups and more. I have been promised in the audience will be the industry’s leading community professionals and startup founders, who will be sharing their best tips on how to build, scale, and sustain healthy communities.

This will be a great day of learning in the long wait to this year’s ForumCon and I can’t wait to share some of the top forum and online community tips I learn on the day.

Watch this space forum owners and community managers! Expert knowledge from those in the know on way!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager

 

Now More Control with the VigLink vBulletin Mod

One of the things we’ve heard consistently from forum owners is that they love VigLink but wish there was a way to fine tune how link monetization is integrated into the community. Well, we’re happy to say we’ve just completely overhauled the VigLink vBulletin mod, adding new features and controls that make integration custom and seamless.

Now vBulletin forum owners can

  • Enable or disable VigLink Convert for specific user groups and forums
  • Enable or disable VigLink Insert for specific user groups and forums

We’ve also added support for those beta testing our link optimizer technology.

With these controls in place, configurations such as disabling link insertion for signed-in users while keeping it on for guests is as simple as a few clicks in the AdminCP.

The new plugin works on vBulletin 3.x and 4.x. The download and installation instructions are available here. For vBulletin 5, admins can add the VigLink hook directly from within the admin control panel.

 

How to Build an Online Community

Yesterday, I headed to the #OCTribe meetup to take part in an interactive discussion on building online communities. The discussion was lead by Sahana Ullagaddi from Klout, but all members of the group shared their best and tried-and-tested tips for building new communities. I tried desperately to scribble down all the nuggets of wisdom from some of San Fran’s most successful community managers, but failed miserably trying to tweet and join in the conversation. Luckily, however, everyone else was doing the same….

Here is the top advice from the meetup. Neatly packaged up into 140 character snippets. Thank you twittersphere! (Especially @thatgirlcrystal – the fastest tweeter in the west!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and I just couldn’t summarize the evening better myself…

 

 

If you are interested in community management related topics you can check out all the up and coming #OCTribe events here. They also stream and then youtube all the talks, so don’t worry if your not a SFer! You can still be involved in the next #OCTribe.

By Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager, VigLink