Session Summary: There's no doubt the best endorsements come from happy and loyal customers. So what if there was a way to build a community around your web site? A community that helped keep your content fresh, your ideas flowing and the links 'a coming. Turns out, there is. Find out the best ways to build up a loyal readership and how to get your visitors more involved from the queen of community herself, Wendy Piersall, Founder of
Sparkplugging.

What started out as a hobby turned into a thriving business for Wendy. her blog is geared towards parents who work at home. In September of 2007, she combined 7 blogs into one blog network. One of the things she recently did was to rebrand from being a site that seemed to target "moms" to a much broader range of people. Thus the name change from "eMoms at Home" to "SparkPlugging.com." The community had grown beyond moms and even dads. Now under the new brand name, the community is expanding.

Before scaling to a blog network, Wendy did extensive research. Looking at analytics, she learned what people liked the most and then ran with that. For example, she discovered that people really like the subject of "kids activities."

In laying the foundation of your community, keep in mind to access and utilize forums, blogs, social bookmarking, conversation platforms and the like. When laying the foundation, plan for scalability. For example, if launching a blog, decide which platform you are going to use, how are you going to set up your categories, etc. One thing to consider when building your community is to consider your members and what is in it for them.

Define goals for community - build product awareness, education, supporting customer base, build and monetize niche, connect members to each other, etc. Some of the things it should not be is a place to hard sale, preach or lecture, build a leads database, be a faced for a different person and post "adverquestions" and "introotisements."

Communities form around people looking for a solution to a problem or unmet need. People gather around communities because they need the following - answers, etch support, emotional support, connection and significance (ego stroking). So when building a community, define the needs it is going to meet. Those who come to your community want facts, figures and reference, are looking for ideas or want to brainstorm, are seeking advice and want reviews or ratings. They are driven by a specific question or have a thirst for knowledge.

In attracting members, remember that they are looking for what is in it for them, make sure your site is very easy to use, participate and add value to other communities, give without expecting to receive, moderate negativity and be exceptional. One note in participating and adding value to other communities - don't go there to pillage members.

Some really important things to remember:

  • People want to connect with people, not brands or companies. So be authentic, don't pitch, be as personal as possible without losing relevancy.

  • Lay out the welcome mat - create sections for new members, encourage stupid questions, make it alright to be uncomfortable, and don't make them think about it.

  • Give members a voice - engage in conversation, do not lecture, solicit feedback and suggestions, ask questions and be inclusive.

  • Make your members rock stars - reward participation, provide public recognition, create membership levels and showcase their talent.

Some good problems to have:

  • Listen to feedback and suggestions. When Wendy solicited feedback from her community on a new name for site, they were very vocal that they did not want to indicate the site was restricted to "parents only."

  • Having used car salesmen, attacks and trolls means that you have a growing community! When these surface, keep cool, have rules set in place and enforce them consistently, turn negatives in positives, mediate disagreements offline and ban members when necessary.

In growing your community, Wendy suggests to surprise and delight. You can do this by adding features, provide discounts and coupons, hold contests and/or giveaways and give them fresh content. Using Dell as an example, she shows how they empower their community through peer to peer support, they give away things to people who are top contributors, they back up talk with action and they give without expecting to receive.

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Note: These are raw notes taken while live-blogging sessions at the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference in Houston, Texas. Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors.


April 21, 2008





David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as GoGuides.org, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.






Comments(1)

You're absolutely right, and it can be summed up pretty easily: it's social, stupid.



Search Engine Guide > David Wallace > SBM Unleashed: Building a Community