Guest Post: Web 2.0 Expo Recap

Note from Jake: My genius buddy Ashley Glennon from T-Mobile’s product design team was at Web 2.0 Expo last week. We were emailing back and forth about his thoughts of the event and I thought “Hey! This needs to be shared!” Ashley was kind enough to do a guest post for us. His thoughts on the event are summed up below, along with some gratuitous kindness. 

When I think of community, I think of one guy, Jake McKee.  Last week I attended O’Reilly’s Web2.0 Expo in New York and throughout the event I couldn’t help but think of Jake and all of you, ‘Community Guy’ readers.

On Tuesday evening I sent an informal update to Jake about the event and he asked if I would mind translating my ramblings into a guest post. Having met Jake when I was employed at LEGO–and seeing his strategic contributions to the social and community space ever since–how could I say no.  So here goes.  Here’s a top 10 list of guidelines for any of you who are considering starting up a new community to support your company or its products or services. 

1.  When structuring your new community, be sure to embrace what is going on with your product, service or offering already.  Chances are great that your fans will get even more excited if you give them an opportunity to share their enthusiasm and expertise with others.  And if there’s already a site that supports your company’s area of interest, embrace that site, too, but look for the unmet needs within the other site and fill that gap.

2.  When you start your site, spend the time, effort and money to do it right.  Having high quality content, forums and feeds is critically important when you launch your site, as-is the notion of filling the needs gap left by other sites.  Once the site is up for a while, your community will build and maintain itself, until then, keep injecting fresh news, insights and challenges to build momentum.

3. Get the buy-in of the Chief Marketing Officer (CM0) or members of your PR team before you launch.  Growing and maintaining a community site is a lot of work and requires a commitment of skill, money, empathy and time.  If you are one or both of these officers yourself, make sure you are committed to the climb ahead.

4.  You must make your site incredibly easy to read and post. If you can’t get reading and posting right, then don’t bother creating your site.  The same goes with registration (if you have registration).  Make sure your foundational transactions are fast, easy and simple–especially at the start. 

5.  Seriously consider the idea of having forum or subject matter expert moderators.  In today’s spam-filled, troll-mongering, flame-throwing internet, you will want to seek volunteers to filter out unsavory activities to keep your community from going sideways.  This does not mean you should prevent freedom of speech or control a point of view, it simply means have some passionate experts who can provide guideposts to keep things on-topic and/or to filter out intelligent spammage.

6.  Build a friendly yet robust set of terms and conditions.  While people may not read them, make sure you cover off on how you will remove or govern posts in accordance with the community mission.  A solid set of Ts and Cs will really help both you, your moderators and/or your company as the site grows.  The old adage, “A stitch in time saves nine” can really save you in the future so take the time to do this step.

7.  Use passionate, personalized and sincere language to engage your community–especially at start up.  You are not talking to people, you are talking to a person.  That’s right, you.  Engage your fans by thanking them for their talents, abilities and for contributing to the community.

8.  Be bold in how you measure your site’s success and give it some time.  Don’t immediately measure your site on members, page views, clicks, posts, etc, but hold yourself to an even higher goal of contributing to sales of a product, likelihood of recommending a friend or even brand awareness.  When you step up to commit to terms such as these, your Marketing department will pay attention.

9.  Be exceptionally careful of any numerical data that you intend to post or expose to all users.  Posting the number of posts that a user has made, or how many friends someone has might seem compelling at first, but in the brief history of social and community sites, these numbers can drive the wrong behaviors. Once numbers become an entrenched part of a community it will be near impossible to take them away.

10.  Never underestimate the power of the community and don’t lose touch with them. Assume your site will become the next internet sensation and along the way, don’t lose touch of your roots.  That nugget of an idea or the seed that brought the community together in the first place is the thing that will keep you together as you grow.   

– Ashley Glennon