Sunday, June 24, 2007

Driving More Web Traffic: The Community Effect

I was at a wedding this past weekend and I was talking to a 10 and 12 year old who were avid "gamers" (video game players). As a side note I equate gaming with gambling as they both can be costly and are ridiculously addictive. I myself am not a gamer but was recently handed a free Xbox (the old one) and couldn't help playing a "few" games. I was feeling confident that I could speak to these tweens on how I'm down with gaming - boy was I wrong.

During my conversation I got the low down on "what's in" these days which includes RPG games (don't know what that is? Come on, what's wrong with you? :) ) and playing with your friends online. This is where gaming is like gambling. Like a slot machine, Xbox (Microsoft) makes you not only shell out for the system and the games but if you want to play online, you need an Xbox Live subscription. If you're a parent you probably know all about this. How does this relate to driving web traffic?

Gaming - The Online Community of Youth

Besides Facebook, MySpace and other web 2.0 online communities, my wedding table guests explained that they spend a tremendous amount of time playing online Xbox games. Why? Because it's a chance to play with your friends online which is far away from reality, parents, school etc... Did your parents ground you? No problem, you can still hang with your friends in a make belief world. It's no wonder that one of the more popular games is called "Fable" as this is a fairy tale world. These games are addictive as it's no longer the challenge of just you against the computer - it's also you "against" your friends. You now have a type of peer pressure to keep you coming back and spending more money and time online (with Microsoft).

How do You Capture the Online "Gaming" Effect?

This is the big question. Today, there are many articles out there on "marketing conversations" like this one called "Conversational Marketing" by Diane Hessen. What is the "social glue" that will keep people coming back to your site, opening your emails and buying your products and services? A great example of this is MarketingProfs Know-How Exchange. This is almost like gaming for marketing professionals (almost - there is no sniper fire or three pointers).

The Know-How Exchange allows small to mid-size businesses to post marketing questions on a wide variety of topics and the community provides responses. These questions are sent to the community daily via email. Points are awarded to the people with the best answers by the people who asked the questions. These points are called expert points. You now have a rating that you can compare with others. I have responded to 13 questions and had 8 of my answers accepted. I've accumulated 501 points and I have a batting average of 615 - not bad! Watch out A-Rod! The key item here is that very little engagement is required by MarketingProfs as the community drives itself.

The Know-How Exchange really works. It's a free service that allows its members to have their say (the ongoing conversation effect), it provides real answers by real professionals (usually) which gives it authenticity, it gives companies the chance to win new business by finding opportunities and it demonstrates that MarkingProfs is the place to go for marketing resources and thus promotes its premium memberships. This is really win win at its best.

Does it have the peer pressure effect? Yes as it lists the "experts" that have accumulated the most points overall which is like a video games high scores that everyone is trying to beat. It may not be the same as playing a collaborative video game but it's close as many of the regular experts tend to way in on the questions.

How can you Start Your Community?

This post was more to get your mind thinking of the possible and how communities can work. A few easy ideas on starting conversations in your industry is to have an "ask the expert" knowledge exchange. You can start this off by asking your customers for questions that they may have about their industry. For example, I work in the online marketing world so clients may ask what is the average open rate for software companies that have revenues over $500 million. Get the conversation started and use your team to answer these questions (perhaps the service component of your business). As this concept grows, you will start to develop a repository of resources that you can use to post on your site or your blog which is great for new content (think SEO). You will also start to grow a core group of members. As this idea grows, you may want to move to a format where you bring in advocates of your products and services. These may be clients and partners that may already have blogs and websites that support your cause. You can then move to more of an online community effect where the content is no longer solely dependent on your company.

I hope that you have found this informative and I wish you luck on building your online community. Remember to ask yourself what is the social glue that will keep your community together. If you can't answer that then you're not ready to start an online community.

Chad H.

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Image is from (Microsoft - please don't sue me)



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