How to Design the Perfect Landing Page That Converts

While there are many ways you can attract potential customers to your website, the best way to get the conversion is to create a specialized landing page for each of your offerings. Directing the interested customers to standalone pages, separate from your main website, improves your results.

Simply creating a unique landing page is not enough. The quality of the landing page is also crucial to conversion. The page should be designed keeping your product as well as your consumer in mind. The layout should be simple yet provoking and the message should be clear. Here are some of the ways you can achieve that.

Attention Grabbing Headline

Whether your consumer hasp landed on your page through search engine results or social media ads, you have to keep them interested. A well thought out headline should be a part of your page to grab their attention. It is a good idea to keep the headline short and concise. It must support the link that brought the reader to the landing page in the first place. It must be relevant and should focus on the benefits of the product in an upbeat way.

Persuasive Body

Follow your headline with a persuasive sub-headline. Your sub-headline can be longer and really drive home the point as to why your product makes sense. Do not forget to add a short feature list that gives an idea about the things that set your product apart. A nifty benefit list can further strengthen your case and help persuade the reader to give your product a go. Keep your tone conversational and avoid unnecessary jargon.

The Power of Media (add video into the content)

Pictures and graphics have been shown to have more persuasion power than words when it comes to conversions. Use relevant pictures in an imaginative way without going off the message. If you are selling a tangible product, featuring it front and center makes sense. Graphics and images that enforce your message and service also deliver good results. Ensure the use of high quality and original images to have a better chance of making an impact.

Gather Information

If you need to gather some information from the visitors make sure the form you have placed on your landing page is simple and short. Most consumers do not like filling forms. Detailed information may increase the quality of your lead however entering it in the multiple fields may dissuade the consumers. 3 to 4 form fields are enough to collect information like name, username and email address etc.

The All Important Call-To-Action

Call to action button is what gets you your conversions. Be smart about it. The CTA should be unique, impactful and bold. Make it large and compelling. It must get the prime location on your landing page. Placement matters when it comes to CTA. The flow of the page and the placement of the content should be such that a viewer’s eye is directed towards the CTA. Images of people or lines and arrows can be used to get the intended result.

It is a good idea to get your CTA in colors that are in contrast to the rest of the content. You can also use multiple CTAs if your offer asks for it. However, make sure to visually emphasize your primary CTA. To really make your CTA stand out make sure to avoid generic language. Instead of your CTA saying “Submit”, get it to say something like “Get Your 30 Days Free Trial”.

Earn Their Trust

Security assurance as well as quality assurance can help persuade the user to share information with you and buy your product. Adding security seals can encourage the consumers to share private information vital to conversion. Adding testimonials from satisfied customers preferably with their pictures can help make a case for your service. Make sure the testimonials are specific and highlight the most-prized qualities of your product.

Show Your Authenticity

Adding contact details on the landing page are not necessary, however, they can help. Including a few modes for the consumers to contact your business strengthens their trust in you. When you are asking your consumers for their contact details, it helps if they have your phone number or email address. Giving a link to your website’s contact section can also do the trick. You can also add some social media buttons to further improve your chances.

Uncluttered Page

Whatever features or content components you put on your landing page you need to ensure all of them contribute to the ultimate goal, conversion. If something is not essential for conversion, drop it. Cluttering your page with unnecessary navigation bars as well details about your business goals and philosophy does more harm than good. Keep the copy brief and focus on visuals more than text.

A well-designed landing page can improve your bounce rate and increase the time an average visitor spends on the page, improving your conversion rates. Make your landing page interesting and impactful. Make it simple for the users to click on the CTA button and give your product a chance!

 

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Facebook Ads: Advanced Targeting

Facebook Ads have elevated social media marketing to a new level, integrating advertisements into our Facebook feeds. For regular users, ads may be just another set of boxes appearing on the right side of the News Feed, but for marketers, they are an opportunity to promote their product or service to the desired audience.  Luckily, cool targeting options like location, demographics, interest and behavior let you specify and choose who should see your ads.

Beside the generic options, Facebook lets you dig a bit deeper and connect with people who have a specific relationship with your brand, or find new potential leads based on their traits and those of your current (or ideal) customers. With most of the world on Facebook, you can now reach customers significantly more efficiently.

The hidden Facebook Ads gem you are looking for lives under the “Audience” tab in Ads Manager. We highly recommend you open it. There, you will find the Advanced Facebook Ad targeting which encompasses three possibilities:

Facebook Ad Custom Audience Customer File

 

The Custom Audience – Customer File option reaches your existing customers on Facebook.

  1. Email: To use this option, you need a list of your customers’ email addresses. You can upload a CSV or TXT file, copy-paste the data, or import email addresses directly from MailChimp. Facebook will then cross check those email addresses with that of its users and create a highly specific ad audience.
  2. App activity: To reach people who use your app and who take specific in-app actions, you need to integrate Facebook’s SDK for iOS, Android or Canvas. That way, every time somebody takes a specified action in your app, they will be added to the Custom Audience list. 
  3. Engagement on Facebook: This is the newest Custom Audience option, allowing you to target people who are already engaged with you on Facebook. You can segment people who viewed your Video, opened or completed a form in your previous or existing ads on Facebook, opened your Canvas on Facebook, or interacted with your page.

Custom audience targeting is a great way to strengthen the connection with existing customers. You can use it to send special offers to users who are deeper into the buying cycle, or those who already made a purchase, and now you want to turn them into returning or loyal customers.  

Facebook Ad Lookalike Audience

 

The Lookalike Audience option helps you create a new target audience based on traits and characteristics of your current customers.

To create a lookalike audience, you need to select a source: a custom audience list, Facebook pixel or page fans.

Next, you need to choose the target country and the size of your audience. Note that the size of the audience is based on the total audience in the chosen country. Smaller audience size is more likely to match your source audience, but larger audiences increase the potential reach. Make sure your source list consists of at least 100 people. The more people in your source group, the more accurately Facebook can find people who are similar to them.

There is one more advanced option – creating up to six different lookalike audiences. That way, if you measure conversion value for people in different audiences, you can separate them by different ranges of similarity to the source group, and bid differently for audiences you value differently.  

Lookalike audiences is a great option if you wish to grow the number of new leads, increase brand awareness and exposure, or even tackle new markets.

Facebook Ad Custom Audience From Your Website

 

Creating a custom audience from your website is an excellent way to remarket on Facebook to people who visited your website or linked web pages, who haven’t necessarily completed an action or left their contact information.

To take advantage of this option, you need to create a Facebook pixel to build a custom audience. This way you can focus ad campaigns only on people who are your website visitors.   

 

By creating a custom audience based on website visitors you will be able to:

 

  1. Get people back to your website and complete the purchase
  2. Utilize the custom audience to find new people, similar to your website visitors
  3. Gain additional value from new customer acquisition campaigns by excluding existing customers
  4. Measure and optimize ads for website conversion

 

You will effectively address specific potential customer’s pain points and get them to return to your website again and again, while gaining new customers.

 

Social media marketing is an important part of digital marketing strategy, with 2 million Facebook advertisers as proof that Facebook Ads connect with new and existing customers.  However, it is likely that many are not taking advantage of the advanced targeting options and strategies. Without carefully planning your targeting strategy, you may end up throwing your money away.

Luckily, we are versed in developing and employing a powerful strategy that will grow your business. If you want to grow the number of website visits, raise brand awareness, promote your product or service to new customers and bring the existing ones back to your site to complete a purchase or make a new one, drop us a line and we can help get the most out of Facebook Advertising.

 

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e-commerce conversion optimization and funnel optimization

5 Tips for Optimizing E-commerce Conversion Funnels

We work with a lot of E-Commerce businesses and while many have a standard checkout funnel, many businesses have a very custom conversion funnel based on the goals of the business. Nonetheless, the basic concepts of a conversion funnel are pretty standard and straightforward.

Obviously, at first, the goal is to generate customers into the top of the funnel, this means you need to generate visibility and awareness. Once you have gotten them to the site, you need to make it really simple to find the products they are interested in, which can be through category pages or a specific product you offer. As customers make their way through the site, it’s always a great idea to find ways to capture email addresses. Once you get people into the checkout process, it’s important to make the purchase process clear and concise, without forgetting to get key information, and convert these people into paying customers.

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7 Organic Ways to Boost Your CTR

Click-Through Rate (CTR) is one of the most important metrics when it comes to online marketing and advertising. It can be pretty difficult to increase CTR, depending on the method you use. And, increasing conversion rates can dramatically increase the revenue your business drives. These methods also differ based on the marketing channel, whether its paid or organic, or how much brand awareness you have out there. As you start to figure out what message works best for your target audience, you start to understand what makes them click, literally. Here are a few organic ways you can try:

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Reducing Bounce (Rate) Is The Key to Conversion Optimization

Most companies we talk to don’t have a ton of experience with conversion rate optimization and how to effect it in a positive way. Especially as a retail brand taking their products online, it can be overwhelming to understand things like traffic sources, conversion rate, exit pages, etc. And, even as we talk to startups, there are many situations where we find companies are frantically searching for a secret silver bullet to solve for increasing revenue or signups.

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Top 5 Conversion Metrics: How and what to track

Obviously conversion metrics can vary from company to company, but, overall there are metrics that are always important to track. Understanding where traffic is coming from and whether it’s converting will help you make better decisions about where to invest resources and dollars. At the end of the day knowing those metrics help you build and grow your business.

Knowing this, we’ve built a list of give metrics that we are always tracking, in no particular order:

1. Conversions (including conversion/tracking pixels)

I’ve walked into many situations where conversion/tracking pixels are incorrectly installed, tracking incorrectly, and in some cases counting multiple conversions per conversion. (i.e. pixel is firing >1 time for every time someone completes a transaction). These issues can lead to a complete misunderstanding of your traffic and how it’s actually doing.

Fixing conversion pixels gives you a really solid foundation. Our team usually won’t start spending money on online advertising until this foundation is solid. This usually gets some of our client partners upset because, as startups, they want to move as fast as possible, but, we’re pretty adamant about this.

Most ad channels will have documentation on how to install pixels. For example, Google has an entire guide to setting up tracking for adwords and Facebook has document on setting up their new “Facebook pixel” for tracking and conversions. (this is different from previously used conversion pixels which will be switched out in mid 2016).

Once you have this set up correctly, you can effectively understand metrics on a per ad channel basis. Furthermore, having funnels tracked across the board will give you info on all of your traffic sources.

2. Traffic Sources

While you’re building traffic to the top of funnel, you need to understand that traffic. You’re going to want to drive traffic from a variety of sources at first to see what works and what doesn’t. I tend to mix into give major channels:

– Direct & Brand: This is a mix of direct visitors and people searching for terms around your brand. For example, if someone was searching google for “visible factors” we would bucket this into direct & brand.

– Organic Search: Organic search traffic, or SEO, can be extremely important to almost every business. Understanding people that come to your site based on content, services, or products offered will help you understand your user/customer better.

– Paid Search: I keep paid and organic search separate because of the intent. Usually people clicking on the ads having a higher intent of conversion. Also, if you get a lot of blog traffic, organic search traffic might not convert as high as paid search.

– Online Advertising: I tend to bucket social ads, retargeting and direct display advertising in a different bucket than paid search as well. Again, the intent and targeting is different. In many cases, because of the targeting, our reporting will differentiate display and social because of our goals.

An example of this could be us using Facebook ads to target individuals who are interested in fashion brands so we can get them to like or convert on a client’s brand. On the flip side, we might use display advertising to increase visibility and qualitative metrics around the brand to get people to discover them. Increasing brand metrics won’t convert as high as a paid search or even paid social visitor, but, what it will do is provide an impression or someone that will pick up a retargeting pixel and convert that way.

3. Bounce Rate (per source)

Understanding Bounce Rate by traffic source is something that can help you understand your traffic better. By understanding your traffic sources and the intent of each, it better helps you understand how to speak to them. Also, differentiating different sources like organic search and organic search from a blog will help you diagnose concerns about your traffic. Blog traffic will not convert at as high a rate as direct commerce traffic and will have a higher bounce rate. A simple example of this is something I’ve seen before, a high bounce rate on a site from a single traffic source because of a mandatory email gate. Removing the mandatory email gate reduced the bounce rate, we were still able to collect email addresses and conversion rate went up. Win, win, win.

4. Return Visitors & Retention

Retention and re-engagement are important because it can dramatically drive down your customer acquisition costs. You can track this by looking at cohorts of users over periods of time. If you have some questions about this, check out Andrew Chen’s post on Cohorts and Revisit Rates.

5. Customer Acquisition Cost

Ultimately, this is the metric that is most important because, whether your selling a product, offering a service, or a content/social product, you need to understand the cost of acquiring customers and users. I usually like to have a CPA view that looks at traffic sources separately, per ad channel, and/or a blended CPA. Once you have this type of view you can understand how effective your marketing efforts are.

This isn’t the comprehensive list, these are just 5 things I think are important to consider. For paid marketing specifically, I like looking at ROAS and ROI to understand profitability of campaigns. Ultimately, we want to turn our client ad dollars into a profit. And, for social/content channels and growth, we like to look at cohort usage deeper.

Overall, as I mentioned initially, every company is different and it’s important to recognize what  metrics are the most important for you to track. Defining this really drives how you look at the items I mentioned and how you track them specifically.

Let us know what metrics are your top conversion metrics below in the comments. And, check out how we can help with Online Advertising Consulting.

Business Development Opportunities: Find and Close Them

Having spent a lot of my career doing a lot more than just SEO, I’ve had to wear many different hats. One of my favorite hats to wear is actually the Business Development one. I’m total people person and I love the sales process. The feeling of closing a deal to me is almost as good as sex. (Sorry, I had to set the bar high).

So, rather than actually sitting here and writing another useless “SEO Tips” type post, I wanted to give to put together something a little more business focused, so I came up with the idea that I would write about how I find and close biz dev opportunities.

Business Development

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Why being a strategic marketer is so important

I’ve spent the last week at my parents house in a little town in Los Angeles called LaCrescenta. It’s been the first time I haven’t been in an office for over 1 week in 10 years (side note: this is the first time I’ve been at my parents for this long for almost 5 years). It has been good to take some time and reflect on things and do a little bit of looking at things from that 10 thousand foot view. Which has led me to thinking about why it is ever so important to take time, take a step back, and think more strategically.

Looking at things strategically

As it turns out, having your head down and not taking the time to create a strategic approach to things isn’t always the best…well…STRATEGY. I’ve learned a lot about how to think more holistically and strategically over the past 4-5 years. This has created opportunities for me to truly be strategic, innovate, and lead teams, while also delivering value tactically on a daily basis.

As we all know, much of marketing and creating great products is really understanding an industry, verticals within it, the overall market, and/or a customer and their needs. The creation of the new types of media, such as social media sites like Twitter, has truly shined light on how important a customer is. You can find many posts around the web talking about engaging customers, honesty, and being transparent (funny thing is, thats all some social media people talk about, but I digress). The point is, the days of shouting at people via television ads isn’t really “moving the needle” the way it use to, and, as consumers really look to at different forms of consuming media, we have to understand the people we are looking to reach even more.

Being strategic provides opportunities to see what you might have missed.

We are all in “go mode” and trying to make things happen daily, trying to “provide value.” There are so many days that I sit there and engage in social media, work on editorial calendars, and put together plans, etc. for the companies I am working for that I don’t have the time to think strategically. This becomes a problem because a lot of things that are glaring situations or opportunities tend to pass you by.

But, the question is, when you are spinning your wheels just trying to get stuff done, are you really providing value to your organization? Your Client? and even more so, the consumer?

In my opinion, you are not. That is why being more strategic provides opportunities and more value in the long run. Being strategic means stopping what you are doing, analyzing a consumer, and finding out what they are actually looking for. Analyzing a journalist and finding out what they would write about, what they would link to, who they would reach out to. Even better, looking at data to understand patterns, user behavior, etc. that will truthfully provide value to a consumer. Which means you, as a strategic thinker is providing more value by obtaining more customers or actively engaging, re-engaging, and retaining more customers.

Set aside time to think strategically

Taking the time out daily or weekly, gives you an opportunity to think more holistically as a marketer. Take time to think about what people want. Marketing is not about pushing a message or advertising your product. Marketing is truly understand what is important in any given marketplace. Marketing is the process of creating value in an industry that will ultimately lead to obtaining customers and retaining customers.

An example of this can be a product you offer or a template that you develop for your website. Some time ago, I was putting together specifications for pages that should be built on a site. I threw them together from an SEO perspective. Title Tags, alt tags, URLs, etc…you name the technical requirement, and I had it spec’d out. The problem I didn’t think through was, am I really creating value? Am I really understanding what people want out of those pages? Would customers be happy? Would the Media? Would Social Media Users? Overall, that was the problem I was not thinking through and that is an order of magnitude greater than any title tag or url in the long run.

I hit this realization that I should not just try to get stuff done and should actually take some time to think through a problem. Now that I have, I have made sure that I dedicate time to actually blocking out periods of time to think more strategically on a weekly basis. During that time, I switch my surroundings and either go to a coffee shop, lock myself in a conference room at the office, or something of that sort.

Consultants can help with Strategy

There are three ways that bringing in consultants can help with the problem of thinking strategically as an organization:

Consultants can provide a fresh set of eyes that are not tightly integrated with your business, along with being able to be objective about features, content, etc. because they are not vested in the design, for example Discover More Here. Hiring a strategic consultant also means they will not be inundated with trying to deliver on daily traffic goals, daily product meetings, etc. They will be able to work externally, analyze a business, an industry, and the consumer and make recommendations that you can implement.

Hire consultants that are tacticians to help alleviate your daily support needs. Whether you are managing communities, doing something tied to SEO, managing PPC campaigns, etc. All that matters is that you are bringing someone in to alleviate the fact that you need free time to think more strategically. Many times, a business has learned so much about their industry that they have all the research necessary to think strategically and just needs to time and ability to step away from day to day processes to actually do just that, think strategically.

Being a consultant now at days is no longer about specialization and more about strategy. Todd Malicoat just recently wrote about being a Business Management Consultant and I think its so important to think that way now. Just being a PPC consultant, SEO or Social Media Marketer isn’t going to cut it going forward. It is the exact reason that I am happy that I have prided myself in becoming a generalist in technology and the Internet. Understanding all facets of project management, product development, ideation, marketing, etc. is so important. But, be careful, because, just like the ever so popular “Social Media Experts” that can talk about being one, but, don’t really understand it. The same goes here, being a business consultant and advising businesses isn’t just knowing a few things, it’s being a generalist that understands all aspects deeply enough to truly provide holistic feedback to an organization about their market, their product, etc.

Overall Web Strategy is crucial

Overall, it is important to start thinking more strategically as businesses start to evolve online. Being strategic, being a leader, and understanding a market is more important now than it ever was. Being a true marketer involves understanding an industry and providing value. We should all be striving to provide more value to organizations going forward.

Have you spend enough time on web strategy? Are you hoping to spend more time on it? I want to hear what people are thinking about thinking strategically overall!

Building Traction with Search and Social Media Visibility

 

Over the last few months I’ve seen an interesting cross section of startups to large brands and marketers to developers that are all running businesses. There has been one thing that ties all of these people together, and that is gaining traction and visibility to your website or business online.

If you are a large brand, you already have that visibility, but it is hard to continue to be nimble and build quickly, therefore, you are typically left behind. While startups run into a different kind of problem, they are able to create cool cutting edge products, but, does anyone see these products? Many times, they are not visible and have no traction. I’ve talked to a number of developers, product guys, and “startup dudes” that all run into that problem. The reason being:

People don’t realize that just building a great product is not going to bring you buzz, traffic, or growth, it doesn’t work without visibility.

So, what do you do to solve this problem? There are a few things that you can do if you are a startup or your just a humble guy trying to make a living off a website that you own.

Search Visibility

SEO seemed like such a 4 letter word a few years ago. And, lately I’ve had interesting conversations around getting traffic in general, where I’ve been the SEO Evangelist, talking about how targeted and the high ROI of Search Traffic. It’s been exciting talking people and businesses that understand or are beginning to understand the importance for Search Visibility.

Creating Search Visibility is created by building Search Friendly websites that are authoritative to a given Search Engine.

How do I know what people are looking for?

A lot of people jump into SEO and try to build sites and throw popular phrases into h1’s, titles, etc. It’s important to understand the industry you are in and do the research that is required to know what it is people are searching for, this is called keyword research. For example, the knowing that people search for “cars” rather than “automobile.” (yes, I know that’s a crude example, but, you get the point!). SEOBook has a Free Keyword Research Tool to do this for you.

What is a Search Friendly Website?

A search friendly website is a website that is built so that a Search Engine will index and crawl their content, while adding importance, relevance, and authority to that sites content. Many times organizations will make mistakes by building a flash site or an Ajax site that is entirely unable to be indexed or crawled by a “search engine spider.” There are tips and tricks on on how to build Ajax SEO Friendly websites out there.

Creating authority is the key to visibility!

At the end of the day, no matter how much you’ve researched the keywords and how great you’ve built out your site so it is search friendly, you need external links. Without links to your site from external resources, you will not rank nor get search traffic, bottom line. Getting links isn’t an easy job either, it is the crux of the SEO problem. (i.e. It’s why we get paid the big bucks!)

Building links is an interesting mix of many different cross-functional skills. Whether it is the sales pitch to websites asking for links, the biz dev angle of partnering with other sites or buying links (while, I would NEVER condone that, wink wink!), or the art of building buzz around your content, product, or service through the Social Web.

Social Media Visibility

Ah, Social Media, the buzzword amongst all buzzwords across the web now at days, it’s amazing how much it is talked about. Amazingly enough, Social Media has become a part of the general web presence and we are moving away from it being a piece of the business, so to speak, but rather, the a fully conversational and connected Social Web.

Okay okay, I’ll get to the point: Getting visibility via the Social Web is done by being conversational, engaging, and invoking emotions.

Social Media news sites like Digg

Creating content that creates a conversation around a particular topic, whether it is hilarious, sad, resourceful, etc. Creating content like this is all about invoking the emotions. You want to create content that a user is going to want to Digg. You want to have a page that is going to make someone stop while “stumbling” through your site. But, it doesn’t stop there is still another really important factor of gaining visibility:

If influencers within the Social Media space do not know about your content, then guess what, it is not going to be made visible. People and the masses follow the influencers (and I’m not just talking about twitter) by watching them and seeing what they are talking about, they create the “water cooler conversations.” It is similar to Search in that you need to build a site that the search engines can not only see, but is authoritative.

Create conversations and engagement about your brand

Remember those conversations that I talked about, well, pay attention, because the conversations are happening all across the Social Web. But, you can do things to create those conversations and create engagement that is tied to your brand or your site.

Be insightful, engaging, and provocative when creating a conversation

Don’t be a feed, creating a twitter account and throwing your RSS feed is not participating in the Social Web, it’s a feed and nothing else. You want to create a conversation, think of ways that you can create conversations about your brand. If you are a sports site, talk about upcoming events, like the NBA Draft. If you are a political opinions site, then you might want to ask questions on the Social Web about legislation and elections.

When you create conversations and people are engaging with you and your brand, then you are essentially creating visibility.

The Visibility of Trends

Since moving more into the Publishing and Media side of the business from E-Commerce and Product Centric websites, I’ve learned a ton around insights around trends. Understanding trends gives you insight into the topics that are “buzzing” around a certain category or vertical. You can use a tool like Google Insights to give you that knowledge.

So, you’re sitting there going, “great, who cares what is buzzing!?”…fine
, you probably aren’t. That said, this is extremely important to understand, because, creating content around these trends can create the Search and Social Media Visibility needed to grow your business.

Don’t be good, be GREAT!

Remember, your product or content will not survive on it’s sheer awesomeness (even though I’m sure it is!). Make sure that you are considering the visibility of your product and content: ONLY THEN, can your Product and Content be truly considered GREAT!

Tips for Building Communities, Online and Offline

I have been inundated with communities over the last couple years and recently it has been almost the only thing I am working on lately. I have learned so much about managing volunteer groups, creating an offline community of web geeks called “San Francisco Geek Dinners,” and in consulting roles.

There are many methodologies that I have learned over the past couple years and I am even learning all different forms daily by being thrown into it. What I find extremely intriguing is how there is no two communities or groups that function in the exact same way. This can take form in the shape of an online community that deals with technology or even travel, a group of people to manage within an organization, or a community of individuals in the offline sense, like a meetup.

So, the question remains, how do you deal with this? I truly don’t have the smoking gun nor will this article answer this all for you. Rather, I think this will get you on the path of thinking about how your unique community needs to be managed and/or gain traction. All communities have a set of common practices that are apparent within them.

Define a purpose and show you care about the community

Define the reason that the community exists and show that you really care about the community. Put some effort into this by putting a lot of grass roots effort into the planning and growth of the community. This gives the members and users of the community the sense that you are vested in the welfare of the community, which you truly are. Moving forward, the next steps are to engage community members and start having conversations with them, once again, both online and offline. Make members or volunteers feel like they have an opportunity to be involved in the overall success of an online community or organization. An example of this is as simple as providing a feedback link on your website that allows members/users to provide feedback on features, updates, or bugs that they run into. Other things that you can do is send out polls or surveys on user experience or features.

Things that I have done in the past is create user polls about new interfaces or more recent internal teams for naming conventions. Within the SEO community I have seen a number of people sending out polls/surveys about details for events as well.

Building momentum and keeping it going

Momentum is also a huge factor and keeping that momentum going is very hard to do, but once you have it, do not lose it! If you get some steam behind the community or group members, there is a great chance they will ride that momentum and want to get more involved. This is easier said than done though, as I am sure you can attest to if you have run or built a community.

Creating events and meetups for your online community is a great way to get the members or users together and even invite others to the event, thus creating Customer Evangelists for your community. Something else that you can do to create momentum is to create participation and conversations, which I will get to in a second.

On the offline community side, I have to admit, I had some great momentum with the first two dinners for San Francisco Geek Dinners. But, because I have not been able to stick with it but hope I can re-energize the momentum with the group. Granted, this is not an online community that I am working on, but, it shows that if you miss a beat with a community, you can instantly lose momentum and traction.

Creating Participation and Conversations

Just like I mentioned above throwing events is a great way to build momentum, but also a great way to start getting people involved in becoming an Evangelist for you. Members, will typically bring others along and hopefully get them involved in the community as well.

Also, give people the opportunity to volunteer and get their hands on something that they will make them feel like they are contributing. This can be as small as making recommendations or bring community involvement into the overall decision making process. Create a location for users to get together and discuss issues they are facing, let them talk it out, moderate it a bit, and you have create a think tank of your own for your community.

While building an online community, you want to ensure that the participation is staying put on your domain. Polls, survey’s, events, etc. are a great way of getting the community together. Ensure that your online community has a lot of sticky features that make it easy for people to be a Customer Evangelist of your online community. Do this by giving users all the “social/viral” features that they can use to pass things on to friends, collegues and family. Many community members want to be the first in on the news, to report it, get in touch with people, etc. From an Online Reputation Management standpoint, if you give users the opportunity to talk to you or provide feedback, it will prevent them from creating flame posts or sites about your community or brand.

Bottom line, Encourage the online community to be just that, an online community that allows people to participate and have conversations with each other.

Incentivise the community

Finally, you can create participation channels, but sometimes we all need or want an incentive to make things happen. They also give people the feeling of being rewarded, and we all enjoy knowing that we are appreciated for the hard work that we do.

In an offline community, ask the members if someone wants to run the event/meetup and I can guarantee you that there will be someone that is interested in stepping up. Empowering someone to step up and leave his/her mark on the group can be priceless. Create contests that give users/members a chance to win prizes. An example of this can be creating a twitter account for your community and asking everyone to follow you and that the 100th, 200th, etc. will win a free iPod Touch, or something along those lines.

Where do we go from here?

I think it is very apparent and we all know that we have already moved into an era of the online culture. But, that does not mean that we cannot build or leverage an offline community to help the online community or vice versa. Yes, that sounds a bit confusing, but there are commonalities between the two that can be important in building your online community like creating conversation, participation, etc. Overall, you want the community to be sticky and get members and users to become Customer Evangelists for your community.

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