Social Community

Starting your online community

Social CommunityTogether with my team, I see my role as helping to make sure that your community grows and thrives.

In this blog series, I’ll share with you a series of tips that will enable you to get more out of PeepSo and help you to turn your users into a real society.

That’s the goal: not just to build your membership but to build a community in which people participate and to which they return.

Let’s start by talking about your very first members.

Choose them carefully.

It’s tempting when you’re building a new community to try to bring in as many people as possible. That’s the wrong approach.

They’ll arrive, they’ll look around, they’ll see nothing happening… and they’ll leave.

Before you throw open the door to the masses, build a small community that other people will want to join. Invite the movers and shakers of your topic into the community. Ask them to contribute content and get them talking to you and to each other.

When other people can see that a party filled with interesting people has already started, they’ll want to join in. They’ll also see that joining the party means participating, not lurking.

Quora succeeded in a Q&A space that had beaten both Google and Yahoo because its early members were VIPs. Choose your first members with the same degree of selectivity and you should find your membership and your engagement build naturally.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions or comments do feel free to post them on our community page here. In the next post, I’ll be looking at the differences between the various kinds of communities publishers build and what those differences mean for you.

Interview: Bridie Amelia Designs

Bridie has been working with WordPress since 2011, and is really passionate about the platform; her website includes an entire page devoted to explaining why she thinks people should use WordPress, and the advantages it has over other web design choices. We interviewed her to find out more about what she does, why she loves WordPress; and in keeping with our Women of WordPress theme, we also asked who she looks up to in the world of WordPress and how gender has impacted her experience.

bridie amelia designs

Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do.
I’m a web + digital designer/developer with an extensive graphic and print background. I work closely with SMBs and digital marketing agencies on a freelance/contract basis, and provide services such as WordPress websites, print collateral, and animated banners to fulfill marketing, design and online presence needs. I’ve created e-commerce, membership and e-learning WordPress websites, and my focus is providing a smooth user experience for all users of the sites I create.
When did you start working with WordPress?
I did the classic seachange and moved north from Sydney when my firstborn was 2 months old. After my second child was born I moved back into part time work, and found how much the world of design and web had changed. I mean seriously, before having chidren we were making websites with frames and animated GIFs were an acceptable inclusion on a homepage! WordPress wasn’t even around.
In 2011 I inherited a client from a colleague who had a WordPress site. I’m what is now known as a digital native, having used computers from the age of 8 – our first computer at home ran on DOS, and had 40Kb of RAM! – my brothers and I used to type in BASIC games from a book, then play them. So diving into a new platform didn’t faze me – I learnt as I went, and haven’t looked back.
How has your experience as a WordPress professional changed over time (what’s different now to when you started)?
From a design and user experience perspective, template styles have changed immensely. In 2011 there were still a lot of skeuomorphic styles (when a design mimics real life, like a calculator interface that looks like a real calculator) were still pretty common. Since then trends have moved towards flat design, parallax, and minimalist. It’s also  absolutely essential now to have knowledge of responsive design and mobile device prototyping, as users commonly visit websites first on mobile devices then complete their tasks on desktop. There are some great responsive WordPress frameworks out there – Bootstrap is my preference.
 
What’s your favorite thing about the platform?
WordPress is so accessible, and open source, which means there is a great developer community and lots of free options for those starting out. As you move into more complex developments, there are also some great premium plugins that are well supported, like Paid Memberships Pro (PMPro), Gravity Forms and Woocommerce. The successful ones, which have a good market share, often have excellent integration with each other also.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
I absolutely love learning, and believe it’s the secret to staying young – in mind at least! – but as with any digital field, if you’re going to work with WordPress, you’ve got to understand every job will have a learning curve. My most exciting – and challenging at times – project so far has been developing a groundbreaking organisational change e-learning site, 12 Steps for Business (12SFB). This has been a pretty complex project that’s already been through three or four iterations – it brings together e-learning, membership and forum functionality to deliver something quite unique for small businesses to large corporations.

Do you think your gender has impacted your work or sense of professional community in any way?
I think as women we do tend to being more intuitive, and approach tech in a different way. I guess I’m very approachable for female business owners, and I understand that how a person feels when they visit a website is as important as ensuring a website functions correctly. You’ve got to assure a user when they visit a site, and this is a core aspect of user experience.

Who are some other WordPress women who have influenced or inspired you, and why?

@messica (Jessica Oros) of PMPro knows her stuff, and has been a fantastic help in some gritty custom PHP dev I’ve implemented for 12SFB. Michelle Shearer of Mamabake is just bloody inspiring (can I say that?) – not only is she a fellow fan of 90s riot grrl bands like Bikini Kill – but she’s (almost) singlehandedly built an online community of over 24,000 women using WordPress and Facebook.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to get into working with WordPress?
Don’t be intimidated – learn the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. Start playing around with a wordpress.com site to learn the ropes, then move across to a self-hosted site. The more you try, the more you learn. Make use of developer forums – there’s so many out there, such as groups on Linked In and Google+, as well as support on wordpress.org. If you’ve got technical aptitude, check out Udemy or Lynda.com for basics in PHP and CSS. When you start working out your own solutions, don’t forget to post them to a relevant forum or thread for the benefit of others.

What Everyone Can Learn From The Ashley Madison Hack

In July this year, a group of hackers claimed that Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate affairs between married individuals, retained users’ data even after they’d paid 19 dollars to have it completely scrubbed from the database. They released a small sample of the data they claimed to have stolen, and said they would release the rest of it if Avid Life Media, the owner of the site, didn’t take it (and its companion site, Established Men) down. Avid Life Media said it was a bluff, and Ashley Madison stayed up.

ashleymadison

Today, a 10GB torrent file was released on the dark web with the following statement:

“Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men. We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.

Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95 per cent of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters.

“Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”

A number of sources have claimed the validity of the data; Per Thorsheim, a security researcher, was able to confirm the validity of some of the details included in the dump (his own, from a profile he created while researching dodgy dating sites, and that of one of his sources). He was also able to verify that other information in the file matched up to users he’d viewed while investigating the site. Microsoft MVP for Developer Security Troy Hunt said that there are too many things in the file that couldn’t have been faked – or would have required an enormous amount of effort to fabricate.

While it would be easy to see the moral of this story as “don’t cheat on your spouse”, it also highlights just how careless people can be with handing over their personal data. 73% of people admit to not reading website terms and conditions before handing over their email address, if not their full name, date of birth and other valuable data. Of those who do read the terms, only 17% say they understand them.

When you’re signing up for an online product or service, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why do they need the data I’m handing over?

2. What are they going to do with that data (including, but not limited to, how long will they be keeping it in their system)?

3. How would I feel if this data were released to the public (by the website, or one of its users)?

For the most part, handing over your credit card details to a website that’s planning to store them for future use (eg, ongoing automatic billing) isn’t a huge issue; if your card details get released, you cancel the card and hope you don’t end up out of pocket. If your name, date of birth, address and/or phone number are posted, you might run into some issues with stalkers or identity theft (the likelihood of that depends on your profession). If there’s something you don’t want your friends and family knowing about (your sexuality, gender identity, hobbies), think carefully about who’s on your friends list (because you never know who might take a screenshot), make sure you understand your intellectual property rights, and if you really don’t want anyone seeing your posts, messages or knowing you’ve bought a particular product or service…maybe it’s better to avoid it altogether.

Ashley Madison lied to its users, and asking for 19USD to completely scrub a user’s details (whether they did it or not) is very thinly veiled extortion. For the most part, asking yourself the above questions will help you keep your information safe online; particularly if you belong to a private social network, where you know the owners/moderators and can trust them to remove your data if you ask them to.

 

Turning Brands into Communities

In his book How Brands Become Iconsmarketing theorist Douglas B. Holt puts forward that you need three types of consumers to sustain your brand; followers, insiders and feeders. Followers are people who connect with the brand’s story, and incorporate it into their own sense of identity (think people who’ve grown up drinking Coke and feel a loyalty to the brand, people who choose to drink Heineken because their father did). Insiders are people who influence other people to buy (the cool kids at school, people who are “famous” on mainstream social media). Feeders use the brand to say something about themselves (people who choose Android to seem less “mainstream” than Apple users), and are the most fickle as they tend to abandon the brand as soon as it’s no longer socially relevant to them. 

logos-brandingIf we take Holt’s suggestion to be true (which, given his experience and credentials, we probably should), incorporating a private, self-hosted social network into your marketing strategy can be an important step toward long-term success.

Private social networks are ideal for followers. By creating your own social network, you’re encouraging and fostering the idea that your brand is something they’re a part of. For people who feel (or are inclined to feel) that a brand is part of their identity, something they’ve fully embraced, social networking is a great way to connect with others who feel the same way and want to share about their experiences.

Insiders are the Pied Pipers of marketing; people follow them because they want to be wherever they are, regardless of the destination. If an insider recommends your site or product, you might see a short-term spike in visitors and sales. If an insider joins your social network, their followers will likely join as well and once they start participating in the conversation, you have a much better chance of converting them to loyal, long-standing customers.

Feeders use brands to make statements; and if they’re part of your social network, that’s a much more powerful statement than just using your product. You’re creating a space in which they can fully explore the reasons they’re choosing to use your product or service, and the part of their identity it affirms.

On top of catering to all three groups, having your own social network is the ideal way to identify which of these categories your (prospective) buyers fall into, and which you’ll need more of to sustain your brand over time. You’ll get much clearer information and insights than you would from a page on one of the mainstream social networks; people won’t be swayed by how they want to be perceived by family and friends they’ve added on Facebook, and there’s no algorithms that will prevent people from interacting simply because your post didn’t show up in their newsfeed.

In short: having your own social network is one of the best things you can do to cultivate the audience you need for your brand’s long-term success.