Favorite Social Project of 2006

The year 2006 was a great year for social media projects with many fantastic projects launching or coming into their own. One of my favorites was Fisk-A-Teers: Crafting Ambassadors, a social community (not social network, let’s be completely clear here) for crafters. The site was driven by the folks at the Fiskars, and built and supported by the amazing folks at Brains on Fire.

In short, this project was an invite-only (invites are based on introductions to existing members) social community for crafting enthusiasts, especially scrapbookers. From the site description:

Fiskateer.

In other words, an ambassador for crafting. And for Fiskars.

Why do we need ambassadors? Because we want to open the lines of communication – to know the people who use our products. You are the ones who keep us in business. And we want to hear what you have to say about current and new products. Tell us what it’s like to be a crafter who’s been around the block, and how you got started. We want to know about being a crafter/mom/working woman, and how what you like about us and what you don’t. We can take it, promise.

But more than anything we want to give you a voice and connect you with others that share your love of crafting.

For their efforts, Fiskars and Brains on Fire get the highly coveted, and incredibly unknown "Community Guy Best Social Project of 2006" award. Like I said, the competition this year was tough, lots of projects coming out. Here’s why Fisk-A-Teers got my attention:

Embracing the Risk
Fiskars took a "risk" by creating this community based around their product. Any time you generate a method for consumers to talk about you, it’s "risky". (I put "risk" in quotes because personally I don’t think of it as a risk in the same way that a marketing manager who has never worked with communities might)

Then there was the risky, yet apparently brilliant design move of making this community invitation only – you have get to know a community member in order to get an invitation. Too many marketing folks today are still trying to get the widest broadcast and pull in the largest group of people, but communities work much differently. Mass acceptance is often the death kneel.

For the love of the game
How often do you realize that the company you happen to be dealing with doesn’t really like themselves, their product, or their consumers. They’ve lost the love that brought them there in the first place. This project shows clearly that not only does Fiskars the company, but Fiskars the employees love what they’re doing enough to engage on a large scale. After checking out this project, I’m convinced that walking down the hall of corporate HQ, I’d actually hear stories of off-hours crafting.

Delivery of Business Objectives
One of the core goals of this project was to remind the world that this brand is 300 years old with a rich history in crafting, as well as an interest in crafters. Ask Spike for the numbers, but let’s just say that every goal the team set for themselves seemed laughably small a short time later.

We often forget that business objectives are indeed part of the reason a company actually interacts with their community/consumers. There’s nothing wrong with this, so long as it’s clear and everybody goes home happy.

Full-time Communiployees
That’s right, I’m making up words. To keep things flowing, interesting, and fun the team found four different yet complementary community members and allowed them to come work driving this community. Not only does this help ensure that the community stays interesting, it ensure it stays real. The role of "moderator" often takes on a highly tactical ("porn vs. not porn") task list, and is often fairly disconnected from the people actually in the community itself. Hiring community members to lead the community creates a level of aspiration for the rest of the community because four people just got "the dream job".

Creating the Spark
The hands-on, yet hands-off approach of giving crafters a place to be themselves generated far more ambassadors than any mass market campaign could have. The campaign may have seen a larger bump in immediate attention, but would it have excited a Fisk-A-Teer to get license plates that said "FSKATR 3"? Not a chance.

I could go on for days, and perhaps we can get Brains on Fire or Fiskars to do an interview to follow-up the prestigious, yet completely unknown award they’re receiving today!