Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Building a Thriving Online Community

We have all heard the saying “Your vibe attracts your tribe,” and know that an engaged social media community is key to online success, but how exactly do you go about building an online community? What does it mean to have a successfully engaged community?

For a brand, your community is the number one reason to join social media. Not only is your community made up of current and potential consumers, but it’s also where you will find both brand advocates and brand ambassadors – people that will help amplify your messages to their networks, so your reach is spread way beyond just that of your own. More and more, you can find studies that show that people trust recommendations from friends and family over brands, so these social media advocates are gold for companies.

An online community is simply a group of like-minded people, that have gathered together around a common interest, idea or goal. It builds as people find your content and your brand, and begin to engage with it. Engagement can take many forms, depending on the social media platform. It can be simply following you, or deepen to include engaging with you, sharing and promoting the content you put out, and talking about your brand both online and off.

Most importantly, you need to keep open two-way communication with your community. I am a huge advocate of treating online and offline relationships in exactly the same way. When you meet someone new in person, you introduce yourself and find out what you have in common, how you can relate to this person. You take an interest in them and find out what THEY are interested in. There is no difference when you meet people online that are members of your same community. If you are running the social media for your company, you aren’t above or outside any of the community members, you are one of them, the same as everyone else is.

Creating meaningful relationships online means you will be doing a lot of listening in the beginning. You want to find out what is important to the other members, what they want to know, and then you are better able to begin crafting and sharing content that provides value to your followers and fellow community members. Yes, your content will sometimes talk about your company and your product, but the focus needs to go far beyond that. You will be focusing more on the personal interactions, rather than broadcasting information or talking AT people. You will need to be able to respond to all comments and questions that come from members of the community, not shying away from anything negative they might bring up. In fact, sometimes negative feedback is the best way to learn and grow! At first your followers will be just that – people that have gathered because they heard about your brand, or want to learn more, but if you nurture each relationship, they will turn into loyal community members.

What’s next? How do you keep your community interested and engaged?

Here are some of the tips I have learned:

1.     High Quality Content: The most important tip I have learned is that is not ever about you. It’s about the community. You want to consistently provide the highest quality relevant content possible. Content varies. Sometimes it takes the form of a how-to, or it can be something inspirational that will resonate with your community members, or something written or shared to entertain them – the key is to listen and talk with people long enough to find out what they want to know, and then provide that to them in a unique way.

2.     Consistency: How often do you post? Do you disappear after posting an article, until the next one comes out? You want to build trust and let people see that you are someone to use as their go-to for information, so being consistent in your messaging and responses is important. Consistency goes beyond posting schedules. It means that all your messaging is the same, no matter who it comes from in the company. It means that you do what you say you are going to do and always follow through. You are credible and build trust through being who you portray yourself to be.

3.     Honestly Care About Your Community: What if suddenly everyone in your community jumped ship and went to follow a similar brand? You would have no company any longer. The people in your community are your brand’s life blood and if you look at them that way, it is easy to be grateful for each and every one of them. So let them know! Respond to each comment or post. Remember that people have millions of choices of what brands to support and they’ve chosen YOURS! We’re all busy, but they’ve taken the time to chat with YOU! Show people your gratitude. Maybe that means reposting a blog post they have written, or asking about their day when they’ve posted about having a tough time. Again, this is no different than how you would treat an in person relationship with a friend. Say thank you when someone shares a photo or a post. A simple acknowledgment can be makes someone’s entire day.

Remember that all relationships take time. There is no overnight success when it comes to building, nurturing and growing an online community. There are ebbs and flows and sometimes people leave. Prepare to work really hard at these relationships, but know that the time spent will be worth it.

What are some of your tips? Tweet me at @lucyrk78 and let me know!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Facebook Says Relax: No Dislike Button Is Coming

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t quite break the internet, but he may have broken some people’s hearts Tuesday. During a Q&A session at Facebook’s headquarters, Zuck said, “I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it….What [users] really want is the ability to express empathy,” Zuckerberg added. “Not every moment is a good moment.”

Previously, he has been adamant about not offering a “dislike” button alongside the “like” button, for fear of the negativity it could (and most likely would) invite. Is this truly something being given to the users because they (we) have asked for it? Or, is this new button going to be offered so Facebook can find out more information about it’s users?

It should come to no surprise to any user that Facebook is based on a series of algorithms that curate your News Feed. Each time you go to Facebook, the algorithm shows you top or “most recent” posts from your friends and brands you have liked, in order of what you’ve told the site you want to see most – what you “like” most. Posts that receive the most likes are shown higher up in your feed, because that is what the algorithm has determined will attract the most user engagement. What throws this off, is all the posts that express emotions you don’t want to necessarily be seen as “liking.” Think of the time your friend posted about something sad – you didn’t know what to comment, but you wanted that person to know you felt for them – wouldn’t some sort of empathy button have helped?  Perhaps you didn’t even see that friends post, because the algorithm had already buried stories of that sort, from lack of likes.

This new button that for now, we seem to be calling the “dislike” button, would help you balance out those posts that would be odd to “like.” I imagine that what Zuckerberg and his team is working on isn’t a “bully” button, to hate on people, but will be a way to still interact with posts you don’t want to hide, but also don’t want to “like.” These sort of posts will still be viewable and come up high in your News Feed, and you won’t have friends coming to you weeks later inquiring why you didn’t mention anything about their father passing away.

Who does this help the most? Us? Facebook? This early on, I’m still a bit divided in my own thoughts. I think this will give us a chance to see more of what is important to us and our friends, at the same time giving Facebook the chance to keep us on their site longer, and find out more about our feelings, which leads to more ads and more dollars in Zuck and Facebook’s shareholders pockets.

What will this new button look like? A thumbs down would provide the yin to the yang of the thumbs up “like” button, but that doesn’t seem to be what Facebook wants to portray. Perhaps what would be more helpful would be a button that signals to the person that put up the post “I saw this,” or “I hear you.” In my eyes, that would be more of an empathy button, whereas a thumbs down button (and we do not yet know that is what this new button will be) gives off more of a judgmental feel.

However, will hitting “dislike” really show empathy? Or is it the lazy man’s response? Will it be more of a show, like “I want people to see that I don’t like this. But I can’t take the time to write out a true comment or express my feelings, so phew! I’ll just hit this button.” Liking something doesn’t actually equal engagement. Sorry, but it’s true. Actually engaging, sharing thoughts and feelings – that is what creates engagement, not the push of a button. Even the most perfectly placed emoji seems to create more engagement and has the ability to show more empathy than a “dislike” button push.

Honestly, I think it’s too early to start hating on this new button just yet. I don’t think Zuck would take the chance of alienating the 1 billion users by giving us all something that could offend and hurt people, or turn the site into a negative Reddit rabbit hole. We just don’t know what exactly is being created right now, and it seems too judgmental to fully express opinions on it without having all the information.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spaghetti Squash Zucchini Casserole

I used to really love cooking. Living alone now, I tend to cook more for my dog than I do for myself, however. Though I hate to admit it, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to making my own meals. I will spend four hours making chicken, sweet potato and carrots for my dog, but will settle for a microwave dinner or something easy to grab for my own dinner.

Last week, someone was at my house and said, "You have such a pretty kitchen." So I decided to start using it! I'm back to running daily and it makes less and less sense to not eat well when I'm treating my body better.

So! Healthier eating starts today.

Spaghetti Squash Zucchini Casserole

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp. garlic
1 bottle spaghetti sauce
1 large tomato                                                                      
3 medium zucchini
1 package light shredded mozzarella
1/2 package shredded parmesan


1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Poke spaghetti squash all over with a knife and cook in the microwave for 9 minutes, or until soft.
3. While squash is cooking, add garlic and zucchini to a non-stick pan and sauté over medium heat.
4. Once squash is soft, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and with a fork, scrape the flesh. It will come out easily in long strings, like noodle spaghetti.

5. Place the spaghetti squash "noodles" into a casserole dish.
6. Add the cooked veggies, diced tomato, sauce and most of the cheese. Mix well.
7. Sprinkle leftover cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is bubbly.
8. Let cool slightly, serve and ENJOY!


Sunday, September 6, 2015

7 Tips Towards Building Your Personal Brand

Until recently, the word “brand” only referred to companies, to businesses. However, in today’s world, we are more aware that every one of us has our own personal brand. I liken each of our own brands to what we used to call our “permanent record.” Remember how scary it was to hear “This will go down on your personal record?” With the internet and especially with social media, that personal record is no longer a mythical list of our wrongdoings – it’s searchable and at anyone’s fingertips at all times. Your digital footprint is available to future bosses, spouses, trolls…

Whether or not you are actively building your personal brand, it is still being built up with every tweet you post, every selfie you take, how you dress, what faces you make when people speak to you and every email you send. It’s up to you if you choose to nurture your brand, or let it be defined for you, without you. More and more your reputation is the most important part of you, and your personal brand can craft, to an extent, how people see you.

Here are a few of my own suggestions on how to positively contribute to the growth of your personal brand:

1.      Start with an audit: What is the current perception of you? How do people feel about what you share, how you act, what you say? Before we can begin to better strategize on how we’d like to be seen, we have to understand how we are seen right this second. What comes up on the first page of a Google search for your name? Ask other people how they would describe you, what they think are strengths you possess, and what they would suggest are areas you could work on.

2.      Figure out what you stand for: It takes a long time for some of us to truly “find ourselves” and perhaps even longer to really understand ourselves. You have undoubtedly seen people on social media that seem to change their views often, perhaps in an effort to gain favor from thought leaders, or garner attention from people they look up to on social media. You want to have a strong understanding of what YOU believe in, what you stand for, and be confident enough to publicly make those views known. Your beliefs will guide your action.

3.      Be YOU! Authenticity is the key to each of our personal brands. This isn’t something we can fake our way through, nor is a personal brand a persona. In time, people will see through that, and you will have a pretty steep mountain to climb to change perceptions. The essence of your personal brand is all the parts that make you, you. What do you like? What don’t you like? Where do you like to eat, shop, spend time on weekends? Authenticity also means that you do what you say you will do. You walk your talk.

4.      Identify your goals: What are you goals in your personal life? In your professional life? What is it you would LIKE to be known for? Once you define your goals, you can develop ways to then go out and grab them!

5.      Find ways to add value: Social media is often referred to as “noisy” but have you ever found someone that helps you annoying, or talking for the sake of talking? I haven’t. I try to be of service both online and off, and would like a big part of my personal brand to be someone people can rely on.

6.      Show people what you’re good at: The best way to do this is through content marketing. Write blogs or articles, or use Twitter to become a trusted resource within your community on topics you have expertise on. When people want to find information on something, rather than immediately going to Google, they go to people that they trust and those people that have helped them in the past…become that person for at least one other person! What differentiates you from everyone else that studied the same topics?

7.      Take it offline: We don’t all live solely online. When I see someone that has a strong personal brand, it is because they are the same online as they are offline. There are always ways to network offline – all industries have meet up groups you can attend, and if you can’t find one, you can host your own Tweetup. I find Facebook Groups to be the most meaningful parts of that platform for me and my own personal brand, to meet more like-minded people.

Your personal brand isn’t going anywhere. Just like you yourself are, your personal brand is ever evolving. Building your own brand takes time, but it’s infinitely worth it. The more I stay mindful that everything I do contributes to my personal brand, the more I find I learn about myself.

What are some additional items you would add to this list? What has worked for you in building and nurturing your own personal brand? Tweet me @lucyrk78 and let me know!