Archive For: January, 2014

Don’t Let Trolls Bring Down Your Community

Don't Let Trolls Bring Down Your Community

Community managers know all too well what a troll can do to a forum. While sometimes a bit humorous, a troll can easily be a disruptive force to your community. As this infographic from Get Satisfaction outlines, there are a few steps you’ll want to take when dealing with online criticism.

The best place I can start would be to quote someone who totally gets it in my opinion. I recently read a post called 10 Tips of Dealing with Online Criticism by Rachel Held Evans, and in the article she talked about how she would often dwell on that lone negative comment, ignoring the vast majority of comments that were not only positive, but personal as well.

In other words, she was investing more time in the troublemaker versus those who are her fans.

Don’t do this. You need to focus on the people in your community that are there adding value and enriching the experience for everyone involved.

That doesn’t mean you can just shake off negative comments and hope they’ll go away. You want to tackle the problem head on, but your plan of action is critical. Not only do you have to analyze the situation and try to fix it, you also have to do it in front of the internet’s watchful eyes.

Just remember…

You want to take the time to assess the situation. Don’t let emotions move you to respond right away. Determine if it is a legitimate complaint, and get to the root of the problem. You want to be professional, and take every opportunity you can to leave on a high note. If you are dealing with a real troll though, follow the tips above.

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Why You Should Build Your Own Forum Vs. Starting A Community Elsewhere

Why You Should Build Your Own Forum Vs. Starting A Community Elsewhere

The benefits of hosting your own community, versus starting one on LinkedIn or Facebook are tremendous. While it may seem like the slower road to having your own discussion group, creating your own forum pays off in the end, with traffic and rankings.

Let’s get right to the quick of it: when you spend time building a community on a platform you do not own, you are not in control. If the platform you are creating your community on decides to discontinue the service, or it falls out of popularity, the work and time you invested is lost.

The Importance Of Community

Community has become essential for online business. A community shows that what you offer is trusted. It’s more than social proof, it’s a referral network and word-of-mouth rolled into one. Having a community will also increase your authority and influence, not to mention help your business bring in more leads and sales.

Social Networks — Forums, Evolved (Sort Of)

Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are great sites to connect. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, but in each you are limited in some way. Every one of these sites give users the ability to create topical groups, where they can moderate their community and have discussions.

From my experience, having serious serious discussions, or active conversations on a single topic, is a bit of a headache. Perhaps more so if there are a lot of people joining in. It just becomes too difficult to filter through what’s going on, and in the case of LinkedIn, finding your old comments can be a chore in itself.

You Should Own Your Community

Perhaps one of the greatest disadvantages to creating a community on a social network, versus going the DIY route is the fact that you do not own the content that is being created. Wherever you have built your community, at the end of the day, they are in control. Should they decide to discontinue the service, or drastically change it, you and your members are at the mercy of their whims.

Now, if you built this community yourself, using a self-hosted platform like XenForo or vBulletin, not only would you be in absolute control, you would also benefit from:

  • Search traffic reaching your site
  • Ranking for long-tail keywords
  • User generated content
  • Increased domain authority

That is only one part of the picture. You are also free to monetize your community how you see fit, and build it into a web property that can funnel new business and customers.

Have you ever thought about building a forum? What questions do you have?

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The Benefits of Forums for Community Engagement

The Benefits of Forums for Community Engagement

Community. Engagement. Thought leadership… buzzwords or guiding principles? The true question is: are these a part of your business?

The internet has changed. This didn’t happen yesterday. It’s been happening for a long time. The social web is here. I imagine you are already know that.

No longer are impersonal websites and lackluster social media efforts acceptable. Customers — and people, for that matter — have come to expect more. With the adoption of technology, brought the birth of a connected world. This connectivity sped up conversation, and with the amount of time most of us spend online it’s easy to see why “community” is such a hot topic item these days.

People are more interested in the people behind the business.

They want to relate. Customers want personal treatment. No one wants to feel like a sale.

4 Key Benefits of Forums for Community Engagement

A forum is one of those places that can serve as a springboard to growing a loyal community. Social networks have their place, but if you have ever used Facebook or LinkedIn Groups — and to a lesser degree Google+, it’s easy to see the limitations. While social networks can be a great place to share information, there really isn’t as much room for serious discussions.

Forums are great for community discourse.

Forums offer an easy way to collaborate and discuss anything and everything. Any user can start a discussion on the topic of their choice (within the guidelines of that particular forum) and gather ideas and insight from others.

Forums can bring in killer traffic with long-tail search queries.

The type of dialogue that occurs in forums is usually highly specific. Usually, when someone asks for advice in a forum it is because the answer is not easily found online. This can lead to highly targeted search traffic. It also can make your forum rank in Google for these long-tail searches.

Forums offer valuable insights into an industry or niche.

Think about how much concentrated knowledge and information an active forum has. I’m sure you can see the big picture. When you have participants sharing their knowledge, over time you are able to build a very respectable resource for people interested in your niche. Any good resource keeps people coming back, plain and simple.

You don’t have to do all the talking.

Another benefit of running a forum or message board is you do not have to do all of the talking. When you have a blog, the minute you stop posting the conversation is over. With a forum, your members are the ones steering the conversation. This is called user generated content. What are the benefits? Not only will contributing members eventually build up content that becomes an excellent resource for your niche, but user generated content means less work in terms of building up content for search traffic and rankings. Your members are constantly contributing to the success of your site.

Is A Forum Right For You?

If you are interested in building a community around your brand and want to interact with people that are interested in you or your business, a forum can be the perfect choice. You might recognize the name Neil Patel. Neil is the founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar (look up), Quicksprout, and KISSmetrics.

Neil has adopted this same strategy for his business model by creating a forum on his personal blog QuickSpout. You can see an example here. He uses the forum to connect with his audience, which builds greater loyalty with him and his brand.

If you want to bring your audience closer and create your own platform for dialogue, you should definitely launch your own forum. Just keep in mind that you still have a bit of work to do if you want your audience to stay.

See what goes into building a forum here. Ready to launch your own? We can help you set it up.

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Let This Year Be The Year You Build Your First Website

Let This Year Be The Year You Build Your First Website

Let This Year Be The Year You Build Your First Website

It’s Wednesday… but it’s a little bigger than that. It’s a brand new year. 2014.

We made it.

As is the habit around this time of year, it’s time to start talking about what plans we have for the year ahead. Why not make this year the year you finally do it?

You know, build that website you are always talking about.

Now, I won’t say it will be a walk in the park. There is certainly a learning curve to building a website, much like anything else. Building a website is a labor of love, and if you are finally ready to make it happen, I’ll gladly walk you through how to get started.

So, I guess the ball is in your court. Are you ready to go for it?

Step 1: Choose a domain name

Your domain name is the identity of your website, so you will want to think carefully about the name you choose. You can either choose a domain name that describes your product, or you can choose a domain that is brandable. Either way, the choice is yours. Here is the perfect guide to choosing which option is best for you:

How To Choose The Perfect Domain Name For Your Business

Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when choosing a domain:

  • Make sure the domain you choose does not infringe on any trademarks.
  • Choose a domain that is also available on popular social networks.

Social media plays a big role for promoting your site, so you want to make sure that all of your usernames will be available. This is important as it will help you stand out and make you easier to find online. You can use services like Knowem or Namecheckr to check domains and multiple social media sites in one search.

Step 2: Get a hosting plan

If you are building a brand new site, chances are you won’t need a VPS or a dedicated server. Starting with a small shared hosting plan is the best choice. It’s more economical, and because your site won’t be seeing much traffic just yet, you won’t need a lot of bandwidth. Also, shared hosting plans typically come with a free cPanel license, which will make managing your new site even easier.

Get 30 Days Free WordPress Hosting — Use Ecode ‘30FREE’

Step 3: What type of website will you build?

This is where you have options. The decision you make will largely depend on the type of site you want to build, as well as, your skill level and budget. Fortunately, our shared hosting plans come with 200+ one-click installs that allow you to publish a forum or blog with a few clicks of your mouse. There are also plenty more options, from ecommerce sites to free message board software.

Here are some compelling reasons to choose a blog or a forum:

7 Reasons You Should Be Using WordPress For Your Small Business

The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

Step 4: Customize your new site

It’s easy to think that you need all the skills in the world to build a beautiful website, but the reality is there are a lot more options out there that are not only affordable, but highly professional. You can find a huge selection of themes for whatever type of site you are building, whether a forum or traditional website.

A good place to start looking for a fresh design is Themeforest. You can find WordPress themes and a nice collection of forum skins for vBulletin, SMF, and phpBB. There are plenty more theme shops and developers that offer professional themes, so do your research until you find something you want to settle on.

Start A Forum With A Small Budget (And Still Stand Out)

Step 5: Create content for your website

Now is where things get a little bit more complicated. You are going to have to figure out what type of content and information you should include on your website. This can be a difficult process if you are just getting started, so the best way to decide on what your site needs is to go look at other websites.

Keep in mind that duplicate content is a no-no. You don’t want to copy content from another website. This not only reflects poorly on your brand, but it can also get you in trouble with Google. You don’t want your new site blacklisted, so it is important to do this right.

First, what you are going to want to do is come up with a list of example websites, with features that you like. Next, create a list of at least 10 of the most popular competitors in your niche. You can uncover quite a bit and set your website off on the right path by making sure you understand your competition. This tutorial from Moz will get you started.

You will also want to make sure that you are structuring your pages and posts with SEO in mind.

Your Content Should Attract The Right People

Step 6: Add Google Analytics

You want to track your progress, right? The only way to judge if what you are doing is working is by tracking results. Before you begin promoting your site you will want to add Google Analytics. This is a free tool by Google that allows you to track visits to your site and see where your traffic is coming from.

Next, just to go the extra mile you should verify your site with Google Webmaster Tools and Bing. This will allow your website to begin getting indexed faster.

Step 7: Setup your social media accounts

Now that you have made it this far you are going to want to create social media accounts to promote your website. While there are a ton of options, the most important ones you can set up for your new website is Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Be sure to add links to your website and add a design that matches the look you are going for.

Step 8: Start promoting!

This is the step that never ends. Once you have your site ready to launch you will want to market your new website in a variety of ways.

In other words, the journey just started. = )

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