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Talk about serving your audience on Facebook.

Couple that with capitalizing on customer interests and an upcoming holiday and it’s hard to deny that  T.G.I. Friday’s® has a winner on its hands with the new Buy a Beer App.

As someone who is constantly encouraging clients to push the envelope with   Facebook and brainstorming  new ideas to get them motivated, I enjoy learning about new endeavors and following their success. It keeps me on my toes, expands my thinking and keeps the ideas flowing.

So, I just couldn’t let the day go by without acknowledging what I believe is a great idea. Here is a blurb from their official press release:

Any Facebook user 21 years and older can buy their Facebook friends up to five beers simply by “liking” the Friday’s fan page and placing an order through the custom tab. Recipients receive an electronic gift card to redeem in restaurant. The purchase price is set at $5, regardless of the recipient’s regional location, and is redeemable for any beer of choice, non-alcoholic beverage or food item at any local T.G.I. Friday’s.

You can absolutely argue that this isn’t rocket science. But who says it has to be? I’m sure that T.G.I. Friday’s will generate a lot of buzz and grow its fan base with this one, which I’m sure is one of their goals.

Right now, the T.G.I. Friday’s Facebook fan page has 580,370 likes. I plan to check back in a few weeks to see how they’ve fared.

As you begin to make resolutions for 2011, please don’t add a line item to your list about “building relationships online” or “engaging with customers through social media” without putting some real thought into how you will do it, and most importantly how you will sustain it.

But even before doing that, think about why you want to do this, what you’d like to accomplish and how you will know if you’re doing a good job. In other words, make it make sense for you, and give yourself some goals.

I continue to see so many abandoned efforts that turn out to be a monumental waste of time in the end because there was so much energy and enthusiasm at the onset that waned quickly because the results weren’t instant.

And many times, there were no real expectations for results, at least not justified expectations rooted in reality. Just pie-in-the-sky numbers and stats created on the fly, or a series of guesses based on what someone “thinks” is acceptable.  Again, reality not included.

Any outreach or engagement efforts you start online should be for the long haul. And because overnight success stories are few and far  between, you need a plan.

So allow me to make this recommendation for your checklist:

“Develop a short and long-term plan for connecting with customers online. Define my goals and determine who I want to engage. Commit to spending some time out of each day to work toward this goal, and if I don’t have time to do it right now, revisit in 30-days.”

Yes, that was a bit long, but the idea is simple. Commit, or leave it alone until you can.

Read this out loud, print it, tape it to the cork board in the cafeteria, post it on the intranet, e-mail it or send it via direct mail:

“In 2011, we will decide if we really want an online community, which requires commitment and true engagement, or just a bunch of fans and likes. And we will stop acting as though they are one and the same. “

If you need help with this, I am more than willing to chat.


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The tide is turning.

People are finally realizing that the online communities they’ve left abandoned could probably use some attention. I don’t know if this is due to frustrations with Facebook or mounting concerns over the fact that they’ve put all of their eggs in someone else’s basket and not enough in their own.

It seems logical to try to build your community on existing platforms, especially when you constantly hear about their size and the same old case studies about the success of company A or company B and how you too could be capitalizing on all of these millions of people waiting to interact with your brand.

The reason I say the tide is turning is that I’ve been tapped quite a bit recently to help with engagement tactics and to provide successful methods for attracting new members for several online communities belonging to large organizations. I couldn’t be happier about this renewed interest. I think it’s important and smart.

I don’t believe that any one community can change peoples habits but I believe strongly in the power of niche communities that provide people with something they don’t get elsewhere. There are still many opportunities to hone in on a niche, provide amazing value and watch your community grow as a result. It just takes commitment.

If you have an online community gathering dust, it’s time to give it another look and consider breathing new life into it. It could be a long road depending on how long it’s been sitting there unattended but the payoff could be great.

I am happy to help people figure out how to do this, look at their communities up close and make recommendations on how they should proceed, because I truly believe in the power of online communities that are managed and maintained.

I hope this trend continues. Yes, there are infinite choices online and yours is one out of hundreds of thousands but it deserves a chance to succeed and thrive, and it’s time you give it just that.

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Its one thing to charge someone with growing your membership, but quite another to truly understand what it is you’re asking.

No one can effectively grow and maintain a community without the resources to make it happen.

What are those resources you might ask?

Well, the most important is time. They need time to nurture the community, seed it with content, create discussions, build relationships and interact with the masses.

But wait!

They can’t do any of that if they don’t know what the users want. And if you can’t tell them then you need to give them more time to figure it out so that the community can thrive and grow.

There is so much competition out there, so your community has to become a destination. It has to fill a need that isn’t being met elsewhere. In other words, people need a reason to come.

Sometimes your brand is enough to get them there. But oftentimes it isn’t enough to get them to stay.

It is frustrating to see people deem this as an afterthought. If you are building or maintaining a community for a client, you need to be paid for the time it takes to do it. And you need to make sure they understand that this does not happen overnight.

How many ghost towns have you seen lately? How many LinkedIn groups with no discussions, abandoned Twitter accounts and empty Facebook pages have you visited in the last month? (Remember this report released four months ago that found that over a third of all FB fan pages had fewer than 100 fans?)

The problem is everyone wants to be everywhere but they have no strategy for making any of it a success, and that, in my opinion is crazy.

The point here is this: If you have goals related to increasing membership and engagement levels of any online community regardless of the platform, you have a hard job.

So, you’d better make sure that you aren’t the only one aware of that fact.

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I’ve received quite a few emails over the last year about some of the nuances of community engagement. It is also something I’m often asked after speaking engagements.

People wonder how much time they should put into their communities and what it really takes to keep people interested, engaged and coming back for more.
I think it is important for every community manager to spend time communicating with members publicly and even privately through email when warranted.  It keeps you in touch with the masses and makes it an even more personal experience for members. It also helps you keep your finger on the pulse of the community, whcih is extremely important.

I’ve gone through some of the comments I’ve posted in my community and picked out a few from the last 2-3 days to share with you here.  Some may be out of context since you are only reading my side of the conversation but the goal is to illustrate the personal approach I take with community members and how I work to blend right in, and not necessarily come off as the intimidating all-knowing person in charge. Enjoy!

“Woman, you are the biggest animal lover I know. Love the photos of your newest family member. Need to find a spot on the home page for that face!”

“Wonderful. A new beginning in time for the new year. All the best to you!”

“Hey there poohperson: How long have you been on this voyage to getting in better shape? If you have lots of posts I can create a gallery putting them all in one place. I think people would like a series…”

“I’m with you TIMBO. I was born and raised in Detroit and it is easy to understand because it makes sense. I’ve lived in some places that have no rhyme or reason. I do think Cary is a bit of a wild card though…”

“Okay, I have to give you that one. Detroit is notorious for road construction and detours that can completely screw you up and ruin your plans. I can see how you had a hard time.”

“Good morning. I think you have a great blog and I posted it on the GOLO homepage. BUT, I changed the picture because I didn’t think that was a good photo for the top slot of the homepage. I also included a link to the other blog you referenced in the post.”

“You know, I see my profile in the abuse queue every once in a while and for some reason it cracks me up. Have a great afternoon.”

“Another great image gallery! Happy Holidays, OR.”

“Yes, I do love shoes. I did a blog about Coach shoes with pictures to boot! I didn’t buy them though. I think my dad would want me to have them for Christmas though so I need to revisit Macy’s.”

“Yukon my friend, we HAVE to meet this time so let’s see if we can get you here to the station for a visit, okay? My holiday was low key with just the four of us. Last year I had a house full of family…”

“Hi there. I read your blog. Sometimes the people who comment on those stories are the great MINORITY. I know it can be disheartening to see so many comments and it’s easy to think they represent the community…”

“Irish, I got your email with the info and have forwarded it to the BBB. Thanks to everyone for the advice and information.”

“I am adding this to my favorites to read the next time I get a scathing email deeming me incompetent. I like to have nice stuff to read on the tough days.”

“What an amazing deal on Snuggies! I wish I’d known about that!”

“Hi Quagmire, yes that was great of target. I went there last year and bought a lot of DVD’s but it was crowded. They didn’t have coffee either. Did your son get a laptop?”

“And how do you even eat a hog’s head? Do you just bite a big old chunk somewhere between the ears?”

“Thanks, everyone. Oh and I will enjoy those collards. My kids don’t like them so much but this is one time I don’t care because that leaves more for me. I used my grandfather’s secret recipe.”

This is just some food for thought heading into 2010. Kick your engagement levels up a notch and see what happens.

Oh, I devote an entire chapter to this concept in my book, 18 Rules of Community Engagement. The chapter is called, “Make it Personal.”

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It is with a bit of trepidation that I post this presentation for what may or may not be your viewing pleasure.

It’s the presentation I gave at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism a few days ago.  I have not viewed it in it’s entirety because if I do, I’ll never post it. You know we are most critical of ourselves and I have to admit,  I could use some work in the speaking department.

So here you go. This is a message I delivered to a group of reporters, editors and bloggers, on December 2, 2009. I hope you get something out of it.

Here’s the Link to Engaging the Audience, by Angela Connor

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Have you thought much about how you will take your community to the next level in 2010. I’ve been giving that a lot of thought and I’m not sure that it’s new features for me. We’ve done that and I think our users like what we’ve offered. I’m thinking more in terms  of content and by content I mean multimedia content that adds value to their lives and what they indicate is interesting to them through their behavior in the community.

So when I received the latest briefing from Trendwatching.com, my wheels started turning. Instead of viewing it as merely a list, I am thinking more broadly. If these are trends for 2010, how can I be ahead of that and what can I do to bring that to the community?

I will share the list with you here and come back over the next few weeks as 2010 approaches and share what I think I can do to integrate this new list into my overall community strategy. You do the same.

Here it is:

Ten Crucial Consumer Trends for 2010 (Trendwatching.com)

  1. Business as Unusual
  2. Urbany
  3. Real-time Reviews
  4. (F)luxury
  5. Mass Mingling
  6. Eco-easy
  7. Tracking & Alerting
  8. Profile Myning
  9. Maturialism

See the full report here and further definitions here.

There is easily three on the list that should give you ideas right away. What do you think? Does this approach make sense to you? i say we try everything because with communities, you never know just what will stick.

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I launched a new feature in my online community today.

It’s nothing more than a recorded interview with a member, but the feedback was amazing. People LOVED it. I typically do these interviews over the phone and transcribe them on my editor’s blog but decided to do something new and see if there was any interest.

All I did was record the interview using Blog Talk Radio, downloaded it…imported it into our CMS, and posted it on the site.

Never underestimate the little things. Remember, you have to take risks because you never know what might stick.

If you’re interested, here is the 15 minute interview with a longtime member.

Community member interview

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The results of a new study are pretty telling in regards to the  influence that brands engaging customers through social media platforms are actually having on customers. Women in particular.

Information gleaned from the study, “Women & Brands Online: ‘The Digital Disconnect’ indicates that 75% of 1,000 women queried are uninfluenced by social networking channels when it comes to making purchases.

And this snippet is even more telling:

While exceptionally engaged, they are overwhelmingly uninfluenced, and often “turned off,” by brands in this space.

Wow. So you could be highly engaging with your nice offers, coupons, info on upcoming sales and information about the product and still have little to no influence on what is purchased. So what’s a brand to do?

Here’s a quote from Matt Wise, President of Q Interactive:

“There lives a growing impetus for marketers – especially those working with Fortune 500 CPG brands who enjoy a majority female customer base, to build a better connection with women in the dynamic social media landscape. “We know women are social creatures and highly active in mediums like Facebook, where they now outnumber men.”

Here are some additional results of the study:

  • 75 percent of women are “more active” in social networking than last year
  • More than half (54 percent) visit social networking sites at least once per day
  • Yet 75 percent share that social networking sites “not really” or “not at all” influence what they buy

They are being engaged, however and to me that is a good thing because a connection is being made based on a conscious decision to associate with the brand in that particular space.  The preferred results could come later, and I wonder what kinds of ideas will emerge to build that better connection Mr. Wise suggests.

The complete study findings are being presented today at Ad:Tech Chicago.  I wish I was there. If you come across any video or presentations related to this study, please share.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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