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Don Schindler

Executive Reputation Coach & Digital Marketer

Tag: forum

Inc Mag, Social Community, and Google

Here’s my two cents about Inc. Mag. And don’t get me wrong – I love the mag – but they are always a bit behind the times when it comes to new media and technology. I really miss Business 2.0 – I can’t believe they shut it down and replaced my 2.0 with Fortune – what a waste.

So with the article, “Tapping The Community Pool” in the latest issue, they basically talk about how Social Communities via forums or wikis or blogs are allowing customers to help answer each other questions about products. Wow, that’s so 2003.

The example they give is a pool company (www.poolcenter.com) that has a large forum with 5000 registered users. They have their techs online to answer any questions about their products but a lot of times other customers answer the question before an online tech can get to it.

I don’t know if any of you have a Treo, but Palm’s entire support is based in community forums and a lot of times you can’t even get a tech to answer you. They just redirect you to another customer’s post on how to solve a problem.

I’m a huge fan of Ning and they have two communities for support – both creators and developers. Both of these are filled with workarounds and tips from other customers.

I’ve always pushed for community development around any company’s service or product. Now I almost always get somebody who will tell me they don’t need a full blown social community – that there is too many already. The funny thing is that this is usually from someone that doesn’t use any social communities. There’s a cartoon out there floating around (I should have saved the link) showing a guy signing up for a social community network. Afterwards he says, “That’s it. I officially have more social networks than friends.”

That’s probably the case for me.

I’ve got Facebook, my church, my wellness doctor, my family, my company, my marketing network, linkedin, twitter, and this damn blog.

Maybe you think that is too many…but I don’t think so. I think we go in and out of social communities all day long – the net just made them virtual and gave them names.

A little future gazing here – but I believe that our social identities will become more and more important on the web to the fact that websites will change when we visit them depending on the profile we are using to visit them. I’m also into siteless web presence for companies (you don’t need a website as much as you need a presence on many, many websites) as well but I’ll talk about that in a different blog.

Wow, I’ve really gotten far away from my topic. What I wanted to say about the article is that they don’t mention how much Google loves forums, blogs and wikis. There’s a whole host of reasons that I’ll explain in the future but Google digs the relevant content, the new content, the old content, all the keywords and a whole host of other things associated with these communities and there’s a good chance your community will pop up before your website.

And if Google can see you, then the world can. They don’t even mention that in the article.

To prove my point, search for me on Google. Don Schindler. A while back this guy with my exact same name used to dominate Google because he was a Scientologist and he wrote a few articles. But not anymore.

So this blog is a little longer than I wanted.

Remember this though, maybe you don’t think a community is right for you now. Well, all I have to say is, imagine how hard it will be to start one five years from now. The web is in its infancy and you could build an established base right now.

And if you need help, MediaSauce (who I work for) can help you out. You don’t have to go this alone and you’d be surprised how inexpensive it is to set this stuff up.

You upgraded your website – do you need to upgrade your marketer?

No!!!!! The last thing you need to do is replace the person who knows your company inside and out and is dedicated to spreading the word about your success.

But you do need to understand that they probably need some love and attention.

For a small business, having a marketer is a true benefit. Most of the time it’s the CEO or President or the new intern who just came on board (BTW, that is a seriously bad move – the last person I would want to be giving first impressions about my company is the new intern – no matter how cute they are).

But that marketer may need some help. This is no longer a world of brochures, radio spots, TV ads and tradeshows. Or even static brochure-like websites.

Your “new” marketer needs to understand the basics of new media – especially if you, like many others, believe that the web is the most efficient way to reach new customers and reconnect with old ones.

Your marketer is used to start and stop flight dates. They are used to working hard on brochures and flowery language or a biannual magazine and huge annual report. They may not even be used rules of social networking, blogs and forums.  They may not understand what a widget can do.

So instead of shouting at them to get these new Web 2.0 components online, maybe you should be asking the marketer what kind of education do you need before we jump in and start conversing on the net.

Let me tell you – they aren’t going to get that from a one-time seminar from MediaSauce or by reading a book. They need to be immersed in it. They need to spend some time learning and USING Web 2.0 things before they start a social community or a blog or a forum.

I’ve set up hundreds of social tools. Some have done great and some have failed miserably. There have been almost none in between. What was the difference? The marketer behind the wheel. If he/she understood how to use the tools, how to listen to the audience and participate, the social tool flourished.

If you are thinking that you don’t need these kinds of things for your business, then I wonder why you are even reading this blog. There’s some irony for you.

Here’s a list of things that I believe your marketer needs to know before you go Web 2.0:

  1. Enthusiasm for the possibilities of the web – if they are not on board, don’t force it. They will sabotage the online effort and then tell you “I told you so.”
  2. Learn the nuances of social networking as a person not a marketer. Social media marketing must be authentic and subtle. If you are shouting about how great you and your product are, they will black hat you in a heartbeat.  If you want to know where to start socializing, then email me and I’ll tell you.
  3. Learn some HTML – seriously. It’s not that difficult. And it’s part of the job. If they have to hunt down the web guy every time they need something done on your website then you are wasting both the web guy’s and the marketer’s time.
  4. Experiment with different tools. There are tons and tons of great FREE resources out there. Don’t buy the first one you see or use. Never get locked into technology unless you know they are stable in the marketplace (like Google). In other words, there are ways to get things done by mashing new technologies together instead of buying a custom solution. Like for instance, this wordpress site can actually be made into a normal looking website with a great CMS tool behind it.

There are many other things that marketers need now.  Don’t expect your in-house guy or gal to be able to pull off every little marketing thing that comes along.

Prioritize the marketing list.  If you are updating brochures every couple of months and they are sweating over every last detail of the brochure, you might want to go digital so they can change things on the fly.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, right?  Well, for marketers, it makes it harder because now you guys want us to do all the new stuff and maintain the old ways of marketing.  You can’t have both unless you add more hands.

Maybe this is all wrong and most marketers out there would like to keep doing the same things year after year but if you aren’t doing social media now, how hard do you think this job will be in five years when you are just getting into it.  I personally like to learn when everyone else is.

What do you think?

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