Tracky Blog

2 simple tips for building an online community

  • By jennifer
  • |
  • Friday, September 12, 2014

Digital communities allow you to interact with your customers beyond a casual social retweet or like. An online community will benefit your overall marketing strategy, but that shouldn't be your primary goal. Learning should be. Community is about gathering information from customers so that you can improve and build better products and services.

If you're thinking that it's time to elicit the voice of your customer, first ask: are we ready to engage, listen and become a customer-focused company? 

If you're ready to jump into the deep end and kumbaya with your customers, these two simple community-building tips can help you get started.

1. Determine the general theme that you'll be asking people to rally around. 

Model your target audience's reaction to the theme. Will they prefer to interact with you, the brand, or other users? Will you be asking them to share their written thoughts or media as well? Will most users be accessing the community via mobile or desktop? Will you reward engagement? If so, how?

Build rapport with potential early adopters of the community. They could very well be existing customers that can leverage the new format to more publicly share their passion for your brand, ideas and strategies.

"Loyalty means nothing if it is independent of a community. Community is nothing if
not occupied by loyal members.
Community begets loyalty, and loyalty is
a derivative of community."

- "To Nurture Business Customer Loyalty, Foster Community," by Mark Woollen,
Sr. VP of Product Marketing for Sales Cloudat SalesForce

Ideally, you'll implement a loyalty campaign and reward the little actions like signing up, making a comment and sharing your content.

2. KISSS it: Keep It Simple and Scale Slowly.

keep it simple scale slowlyIt takes time to grow true loyalty within a previously disparate group of users. Don't ask too much of them to start. Seed conversations with a couple of simple topics and encourage your early adopters to get involved.

As the conversations take on a life of their own, measure your community's effectiveness through analytics and user feedback. Remember, this is where the two-way conversation becomes a trusting relationship. You asked for input, so now you'll need to show your users that you genuinely intend to do something with it.

Regularly discuss community feedback within your department or company. When appropriate, implement tweaks, build new products and let your community know they're making a difference in the evolution of your brand.

Finally, grow judiciously once the initial campaigns have garnered enough engagement. You'll have worked out the kinks in terms of encouraging user involvement, moderation and rewarding your community for their engagement.

6 Simple Life Lessons from the Internet

  • By dj miller
  • |
  • Monday, April 14, 2014

The Internet is a wide, wonderful, and sometimes very weird world. It's an infinite source of information, a steady stream of entertainment, and an incredible communication tool, among many other things. Taken philosophically, the Internet can teach us a lot about ourselves, the people around us, and the spinning globe we call home.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you click around one of the greatest inventions in human history.

Image via

Collaboration is Everything

No one person invented the Internet. In fact, it's hard to pin down exactly when the first shred of this stunning technology even began. Was it in the 1960s when various government and scientific computer networks began communicating over vast distances? Was it in the decades prior when the likes of Allen Turing and other mathematical geniuses laid down the very foundations of computer theory?

Maybe it was before that when ancient Greek thinkers wrote down some of the earliest math texts, or even the prehistoric humans who had the first ever mathematical thoughts. The point is, we have this technology because of a lot of intelligence and creativity across many cultures. When we work together, we do great things.

You're Not as Alone as You Think You Are

Before the Internet, it was easy to assume that you were alone in your hobbies and interests, especially if they were strange or obscure. Today, it's only a small matter to find an entire web forum dedicated to the exact thing you love and thought nobody else understood. For instance, do you spend your leisure time creating fine art with a classic, spring-based toy? Yeah, that's been a community since 2005.

It's Never Too Late to Reconnect

It may make 10-year high school reunions less relevant, but social media has made it all too easy to find people you knew way back when. All you have to do is ask to be "friends" and you'll have as many updates, conversations, and reminiscing chats as you want. The Internet makes this reconnection easier, but it was always possible. The people we once knew are still kicking around, living their lives, and changing the world.

Never Underestimate the Young

Speaking of social media, let's remember that a lot of the most widely used platforms today were invented by people when they were in their 20s and early 30s. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a billionaire roughly around the same time he became eligible to rent a car in many states, while the founders of YouTube and Twitter were newly minted professionals when their companies hit it big. Given a technology of infinite possibilities and an attitude of persistence, young folks in the age of the Internet are doing some amazing things.

It's Good to Accept Change

One of the most complex, involved battles in the post-Internet world is the debate over digital entertainment content. Though TV networks, movie studios, and record companies spent the first decade of widespread Internet availability resisting the digital distribution model, today it's easy to get your favorite movies, TV shows, and music legitimately online with download and streaming services. This has also changed the way we use the Internet. Where once a fast connection was a luxury, today high-speed service is essential for all of that digital content.

Think Before You Speak

Rushed emails and other online messages sent in a moment of passion, be it positive or negative, have become such a common issue that there are applications designed just to ask, "Are you sure you want to send that?" People have had to be careful about how they express themselves ever since the invention of language, but today it's all too easy to say (or type) something you'll regret and transmit it to the world. More than ever, it's a good idea to use your best judgment before hitting the "send" button.

The Internet is a great teacher, not just of hard facts but of philosophy and social interactions as well. It encourages us to explore, self-examine, and keep others in mind, not to mention adopt more sympathetic understandings of those around us.

DJ Miller is a gadget geek, writer, infographic-maker and lover of Mystery Science Theater. He is also a novice comedic who spins humor into advice columns on his personal site.

3 ways technology assists your personal productivity

  • By dj miller
  • |
  • Friday, March 7, 2014

3 ways tech help you be more productiveTechnology is great for a number of things. Streaming video, sharing photos,  connecting to social media, and free-to-play games are all excellent time wasters.

When it comes to actually getting the job done, though, most people would argue the contrary. It's often blamed for crushing productivity levels. Of course, these arguments are valid. Social media and mobile gaming apps are notorious for gobbling up hours upon hours of time. But really, technology can actually help you boost your personal productivity. You just have to channel the technological potential of your devices and your personal aspirations toward your goal. Read on to find several ways it can help.

It Keeps You Organized

Too often, one of the biggest concerns for those who have trouble reaching their goals and getting the job done simply need to organize their lives. Smartphones and tablets all come with integrated calendar and email apps that you can sync together to help you keep appointments, due dates, and general reminders in place.

Tracky, of course, is a personal productivity solution since it's hosted in the cloud and allows you to manage your life and your work in one digital home. Plus, its mobile-friendly design makes it accessible from any internet-ready device. You can even email reminders, documents and tasks into Tracky with your own Tracky email that will post directly to your personal account.

Evernote is another resource through which you can combine everything that's important to you and organize it in a way that makes sense to you. 

It Helps You Sleep

There have been a lot of studies about the importance of sleep to overall health. Being sleep deprived — even if it's just by an hour — can greatly reduce your productivity and emotional well-being. Even so, 60 percent of adults report that they have problems sleeping a few nights each week. Using certain forms of technology before going to bed can have a significant impact on quality of sleep. Other technological developments are designed to do the opposite.

Philips Wake-Up Light

This innovative alarm clock mimics the effect of the sunrise each morning, gently easing you out of your slumber, and making you better equipped to take on the day. Some models even come with an iPod/iPhone dock, which allows you to use music from your iTunes library as your wake up tone. It comes with an app that tracks your sleep routines too.

Sound Oasis Sleep Therapy Pillow

This pillow has two ultra-thin speakers built into it that help drown out distracting sounds that keep many people awake. Simply connect the included audio cord to your device, and play your favorite tunes or meditation music as you drift off into dreamland.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock App

This ingenious app uses the accelerometer in your iPhone to track your sleep patterns and wake you up while you're in the lightest portion of your cycle. The result? Less morning grogginess. Simply place your T-Mobile phone face down on your bed when it's time to go to sleep. It will record your movements and compile easy-to-follow graphs that show the effectiveness of your sleep routines. This app makes it easier to pinpoint your problem areas and improve them.

It Gets You Where You Need to Go

The world of technology has come a long way when it comes to personal navigation devices. Gone are the days when you'd have to print out turn-by-turn directions from Google or Yahoo Maps to get where you need to go. There's nothing worse than getting lost on your way to an interview, or spending half your afternoon looking for your destination when you could be running errands.

But the advent of the navigational and GPS tracking systems we know and love today don't just come in handy for picking up the dry cleaning. It's used by all kinds of industries, some of which include airlines, shipping, government, cable companies, and more.

It's most certainly true that technology can swallow up hours of your time that could be better spent doing other things. Realistically though, it can only do so if you let it. With a little will power, the right technology can help point you toward a higher productivity level, and a much more fulfilling life.

DJ Miller is a gadget geek, writer, infographic-maker and lover of Mystery Science Theater. He is also a novice comedic who spins humor into advice columns on his personal site.

5 Quick Ways to Stay Healthy In Spite of a Busy Schedule

  • By dj miller
  • |
  • Thursday, February 13, 2014

Don’t think you have time to stay in shape? Take a look at our tips on how get healthier without turning your busy life upside down.

Exercise over Lunch


Image via Flickr by familymwr

It only takes ten minutes to do a few exercises in your office. And if that works for you, that’s great and you should do them. The same goes for taking walks over lunch, especially if you can get a coworker or two to join you. However, don’t dismiss taking your lunch break to do some more serious exercising. Check the mile or two around your workplace to see if there is a gym you could walk or drive to in just a few minutes. Then, look to see if there is a workout class during your lunch hour, or get a coworker to join you in daily trips to the gym. Worried about fitting in a good workout and getting a good lunch? There are plenty of great guides on how to use your lunch break to exercise.

Quit Drinking Soda


Image via Flickr by Vox Efx

You know you’ve heard this one before. And you should really, really do it. Why? Studies are finding that soda really is absolutely terrible for you. For example, even if you eat healthfully in every other way, you will still gain more than fourteen pounds per year simply due to the excess calories in sugary soda. But you aren’t off the hook with diet soda either. In fact, people who drink diet soda tend to be heavier than those who drink regular soda. And just on its own—diet or not—the caffeine and sodium mixture of soda has a dehydrating effect, which wears down on all parts of your body’s systems and can be especially hard on the heart.

Drink Water Instead of Snacking


Image via Flickr by dodongflores

Did you know that drinking water can help you limit how much snacking you do? In fact, you may discover that what you used to think was hunger is actually disguised thirst. Water makes up 60 percent of the human body and 93 percent of your blood. And when you don’t drink enough water, your body is forced to pull water from your body’s tissue and skin. Not only does this make you look older, it also stresses your body out. By rehydrating your cells, you give them back their natural ability to repair and duplicate. Drinking enough water also dilutes the presence of any toxins in your system and allows your body to flush out any other contaminates or waste.

Don’t Just Drink Water. Purify It


Image via Flickr by Snap

For the best results, however, don’t just drink water. Drink purified water. The water from your tap can still contain chlorine, chemicals, heavy metals, potential allergens, and other toxins. So start drinking bottled water, or better yet install salt free water softeners in your home. By drinking pure water, you can lower the toxic load on your body. A whole-house filtration system will keep those toxins for seeping into your system through your skin, too.

Switch Chips for Veggies


Image via Flickr by Loz Flowers

You need a snack, and you really don’t want something that requires washing, cutting, or preparing. In fact, the greasy crunch of a potato chip couldn’t possibly sound more appealing than it does right now. But you don’t have to give in! Companies are packaging and marketing vegetables in new ways that make them as convenient and easy to eat as junk food. So switch out whatever salt-covered carbohydrates you were planning on eating for some baby carrots, or get a bag of pre-cut pre-washed celery that you can eat straight out of the bag. Oh, and also? Eating veggies is cheaper than chips.

Half the battle of living a healthy life is substituting better foods and habits for other ones. So if you’ve got a lunch break, a water bottle, and a grocery store that sells prepared veggies, you can start the transformation to an even healthier life.

What quick tips or habits have helped you stay healthy?

DJ Miller is a gadget geek, writer, infographic-maker and lover of Mystery Science Theater. He is also a novice comedic who spins humor into advice columns on his personal site.

Surprising Science-Backed Hobbies that will Help You Release Stress

  • By dj miller
  • |
  • Thursday, January 30, 2014

I’ve never understood people who said running and exercise help them reduce stress. This is partly because I’ve always turned to semi-destructive stress-relief solutions: eating a roll of cookie dough, binge-watching movies, heading to the bar with a few friends, etc. However, in an effort to turn over a new leaf, I want to slightly change my destructive behavior into something more constructive. Here are my baby steps to healthy stress-relief.

Eat After You Cook

Most of us have been guilty of turning to comfort food when we’re stressed. Whether we “deserve a treat after surviving today,” or “can’t make it through the test without chocolate,” our diets go out the window when we’re tense. This can have an equally harmful effect because we feel ill afterward from binge eating, and end up gaining weight when the habit continues in the long run.

I’m going to give you permission to eat whatever you want when you’re stressed; you just have to make it first. Are you craving something sweet? Try making homemade chocolate chip cookies. Do you need some of mom’s famous macaroni and cheese? Call and ask for the recipe.

The act of cooking reduces stress because it gives you something to focus on, builds anticipation for a positive event, and provides a reward in the end. Plus, you’re less likely to eat all of the cookies at once if you made them than if you bought a package from the snack aisle.

Binge Watch While You Knit

After a rough day at work, my favorite hobby is curling up with my TV and wallowing in despair. Like eating comfort food, you can still do that, but you’re just going to pick up a pair of knitting needles while you watch. Knitting, you say? OK, it may not be for everyone, but find another simple productive task, like ironing, folding laundry or shucking large amounts of corn (you never know) can help you remain productive while enjoying entertainment.

According to the journal of Academic Medicine, repetitive motions, such as knitting, trigger a relaxation response in the brain. Knitters only have to focus on two motions over and over again. Plus, like cooking, you will have a finished product at the end.

Check out this resource I found with different shows that match your mood. It lists out all of the genres we search for when we’re looking to ease our minds with TV. Knitting while binge watching your favorite sitcom will have you relaxed in no time – with a new scarf to boot.

Kiss and Cuddle

This is one I can really get behind. Do you hear that, gents? I need a kiss. A study of 2,000 couples found that those who only kiss during sex were eight times more likely to suffer from stress and depression. It’s the little kisses throughout the day that help.

While we’re talking about studies, another one from UNC Chapel Hill asked a group of couples to hold hands then hug while another group just sat near their significant others. When asked about stressful events, the latter group experienced higher blood pressure and higher heart rates. Taking some time to hold each other and hug is an easy way to relax. That’s science, folks.

Try to Keep a Plant Alive

Many studies have found that gardening reduces stress, but that’s not easy to do when you live on the fourth story of an apartment building. Let’s start small: buy a Bamboo Palm or Spider Plant. Buy something that’s low-maintenance but effective.

Plants purify the air but they also reduce stress. One study found that hospital patients with plants in their rooms showed lower stress levels than those without. Gardening and getting out into nature is good for your health, but sometimes you have to settle for what you’ve got.

When you choose your plant, look for something that will look nice in your home. Plants are also easy ways to solve your interior decorating problems!

You don’t need to go out and buy running clothes and a heart rate monitor to reduce stress. A healthier, stress-free you is as simple as buying a tube of cookie dough to bake instead of eating it raw. These steps are as small as taking a few seconds to kiss your hubby when you’ve had a bad day, or squeezing your toddler when you pick him up from daycare. Don’t let reducing stress become stressful. Just do what makes you feel good.

DJ Miller is a gadget geek, writer, infographic-maker and lover of Mystery Science Theater. He is also a novice comedic who spins humor into advice columns on his personal site.

Top PR pro shares her insider “Social PR Secrets”

  • By jennifer
  • |
  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014

To win at the social game, you’ve got to know someone. And we do. Lisa Buyer, longtime PR pro, industry speaker, journalist and friend, recently published her tell-all book, “Social PR Secrets,” which is chock-full of insider tips and actionable advice. Where social media and public relations {Social PR}  meet, Lisa details how to best share our stories and listen to our customers in the social, mobile, visual and search optimized world we live in today. This advice isn’t just for PR professionals, either. Almost anyone whose job involves social outreach, customer support, web development, writing and management should get familiar with the new rules of public relations engagement.

Lisa is very generous with sharing her knowledge and experience, so I interviewed her to pick her bright mind about a few hot topics in search, social and PR.

Social PR Secrets book

Search and social are BFFs and content is still king

Q: In your book, you shared the story of your first Search Engine Strategies conference in 2006 where you heard Matt Cutts (head of Webspam at Google) speak and you realized that as a PR professional, you couldn’t ignore search’s impact on visibility. In the search world, it used to be said that “content is king” and considering how important content marketing is now, is content still king? If so, what does that really mean?

content king A: Content is king but that phrase can be a little misleading. It’s such a general term that has been overused and misunderstood. In the past, web developers would build a company’s site and then leave content and search engine optimization (SEO) to the marketing and PR folks. But if those people didn’t have enough knowledge on SEO tactics, like keyword optimization and how to craft the content so that its search-friendly, their content wouldn’t easily get found. 

The place to “be seen” is in search and in social. Your customers are there, of course. Ad most brands hope to solicit unpaid media mentions, so it makes sense to be visible where journalists begin their research: Google and social network search engines. And, social is the best place to forge authentic relationships with journalists well ahead of a breaking story that you seek coverage for. But getting found isn’t going to happen overnight. You have to know a little about how search engines work and strategize what keywords, tags and links you use in your news stories, social posts and online content.

Content creation is more relevant than ever, but there is always a lot to learn. These days, SEO pros that have the tactical knowledge should hire copywriters to build the brand’s voice and story – not just fill the pages with keywords. Thus, writers should know the best practices fundamentals of SEO, such as how to write optimized titles, descriptions and metadata. Those little snippets can be very important still. And finally, most PR and marketing pros should also educate themselves on how to write those snippets.

Takeaway: Content is still the king of search and social. Basic SEO tactics should be learned by writers, marketing and PR professionals in order to optimize content for search visibility.

socialQ: Do social PR strategies differ for big brands vs. small businesses?

A: Big brands have a lot of red tape to get through to mimic the quick-moving entrepreneurial style of smaller companies and to build authentic communities. Small brands can execute more quickly. There is a lot of room for big brands to become thought leaders more than they are now. For small businesses, there is plenty of opportunity to beat out big brands, depending on the industry, because they can be flexible.

Takeaway: Social levels the playing field for brands. Big brands need to be more agile and transparent like startups. Small businesses should be courageous and creative – you just might out-communicate your larger counterparts.

Ignore mobile at your peril

Q: Mobile is one of the most important trends of our time.  What trends are you seeing for social and mobile?

A: Since social levels the playing field, you can lose your foothold if you’re not careful. Two to three years ago, brands could wait and see what happened with Twitter or Facebook. That window of opportunity is coming to mobile designan end soon with social. With mobile, brands won’t have three years to embrace it. For example, I started writing my book almost a year ago. Mobile was huge then, but recently at PubCon, Matt Cutts reported on how mobile is growing much faster than anticipated. In PR, start with the basics, like ensuring that your website is responsive design is a good place to start. Otherwise, you’ll lose business. Period.

Takeaway: Mobile-friendly design and content should be priority #1 for brands.

Should all brands be building audiences on image-based networks? 

Q: Visual content is a major trend and brands are trying to figure out Instagram and Pinterest, but not every brand has highly visual products to share. Should every brand jump into new networks, especially visual ones?

A: Strong visuals are important for every brand now. Images and text work together to tell your story.  Even press releases should include images and you should optimize them for search, along with the text. Visuals can significantly impact engagement. In fact, in a press release, embedded images and links to videos will increase engagement by about 18% for photos and 55% for videos.

If you have resources, visual networks like Pinterest and Instagram can be great outlets to connect with your audience. Before you begin, look for brands with similar audiences to gage whether they’re getting measurable engagement. Start with some test content using researched hashtags and content. if you don’t have enough internal resources (designers, photographers, copywriters), then focus on ensuring that your blog’s sharing elements allow your audience to easily share to those networks.

How to be 33% more successful in content planning & optimizing

optimize contentQ: Creating great content takes time. How can brands optimize the content they produce?

To leverage your content, you should compile the larger story first, along with a set of images. Then, slice the story into summaries for different social channels along with a specific image for that network. 150 characters is optimal for Facebook and 90 characters for Twitter. If possible, include an image that matches the content on each network.

Make sure that each summary is optimized – use relevant hashtags and keywords for that network and your audience.

Takeaway: Don’t leave content on the table. Find engaging snippets in your bigger stories and share those to social networks, along with a relevant image.

Q:  Let’s discuss editorial calendars. How much research do you recommend for planning content?

A: Editorial calendars are great guides but shouldn’t be set in stone. Develop your content calendar with a blend of topics guided by historical data (analytics), keyword and trend research and then leaving room for breaking news. Also, listen to your community.  Do surveys and ask questions. Analyze your most popular content (Was it the voice? Topic? Style? Visuals?) and try to duplicate that for future success. Your social and site analytics should tell you what people responded to.

collaborate on editorial calendarsQ: Thank you for the Tracky shout-out with regard to collaboration! As you mentioned, sharing your goals with others increase your chances of success by 33%, so collaborating with your team and contributors is a very important step.

A: Yes, and by sharing your editorial calendar somewhere, on your blog, or to your community, you give your audience a heads up on what to expect. You can then more easily source information from your audience.

Takeaway: Creating and collaborating on an editorial calendar can increase the likelihood that you’ll follow through by at least 33%. To plan content, look to your community, your site and social analytics, trending topics and leave room to comment on breaking news.

Why it’s a great time to be in social and PR

Q: A lot has changed since 2000 when your coworker asked: “Have you tried Google?” What’s your favorite aspect of being a social PR pro today?

build relationshipsA: From the journalistic side, the immediacy is exciting. We all have more of an opportunity to create, be part of and watch stories compared to the sluggish way that communication used to take place. It’s so much easier to find sources and generate ideas in real-time with social media. From a PR standpoint, you get immediate feedback when a story publishes. Plus, you can communicate in real-time with reporters, like giving a journalist a quick shout-out on Twitter when you appreciate their story. That kind of open environment makes for better relationship-building opportunities both personally and professionally.

Takeaway: Social media’s open environment makes it so much easier to build relationships personally and professionally with your customers, journalists and brands.

Advice for socially challenged brands – just show up

Q: You talk about how today’s version of the press release isn’t always published by the brand, but rather the audience – whether it’s a new product line or Instagram photos from an invite-only event. What are some encouraging words of wisdom to brands that need to initiate conversations and join their audience on platforms that they’re not familiar with? Where should they start?

show up on social mediaA:  Showing up is important! Brands need to understand that if your marketing team is being led by someone whose experience is mostly pre-digital, you’ll need to hire talent that lives and breathes social. Find experienced community-oriented digital marketers to lead the way – the right combination of youth and experience. The right candidates will makes themselves and the brand accountable for social ROI.

I’m an advocate of how social and PR work together so that Senior Marketers can understand the symbiotic relationship, SEOs can understand how valuable public relations can be and how it affects the bottom line. In my view, we can work together and collaborate into making something (that is, your brand) AWESOME, rather than everyone doing their own thing.

Takeaway: Social PR can have a significant impact on the bottom line and social is where the consumers are. Hire youthful yet experienced community managers that thrive on interactions and analytics. Show up!

Above all, be authentic and personable

Q: I love the social PR tips in chapter 8 – the art and science of social publishing. There is a lot to think about when posting a simple 100 character tweet. What’s the most important thing to remember when communicating to your audience?

be authenticA: When it comes down to it, the simplest way to connect is to provide authentic, meaningful content.  How to do this depends on your brand and culture personality. Give your brand some leeway. Then, think about where your community will be most often. Adapt your brand’s personality into authentic genuine communication on each network. Everything else will fall into place.

Takeaway: Be authentic first, give your brand leeway on social media and be adaptable. Then, learn more about the technical aspects of social measurement once you’ve connected with your audience.

Q: The 18-minute social PR day is an absolute gem. When we’re digitally connected to everyone at all times, its easy to let “all the things” engulf us. Do you find that data overwhelm is a problem for PR, marketing and community pros? 

A: Focus on measuring just what matters. Quantity is going away. It’s the quality of your connections and what’s happening on your site/blog/networks that is important.

Don’t worry yourself with too many analytics platforms, just delve into Google Analytics first. That will give you great objective overview. Gather your benchmark data, then build from there. If you’re a newb, there are plenty of videos on YouTube from Google and others on how to use the tool.

Gauge whether you are getting more conversions, more conversations, higher quality traffic (longer site visits, deeper engagement), etc. Then build upon that.

quality of connectionsTakeaway: it’s the quality of your connections that’s important. Focus on what matters and measure whether your social PR strategy is improving the quality of interactions at your website and social networks.

Q: Your PR wisdom chapter is gold. You and I share an admiration for Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness” and many of his philosophies. What viewpoint from your book do you want to leave us with?

A: “Be passionate, tell personal stories and be real.” If you’re not real, and instead are deceitful, the simplest things – e.g. emails that could be revealed that show different motivations than what you’re promoting – will get out eventually and show your true colors. You’ll lose credibility and it takes a lot to earn that trust back. So make it easier for yourself and your brand - always be authentic!

be passionate, tell personal stories, be real

(Illustration above and in the book by Lauren Litwinka of Deep Cereal)

About Lisa Buyer

Lisa BuyerLisa Buyer is a speaker, journalist, and educator on the trending topic of public relations and how it is influenced by social media and search engine optimization. She is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism with more than 20 years experience as a public relations agency owner. Lisa's experience blends the traditional fundamentals of public relations, corporate communications and branding with today's influence of digital media.

Lisa is also an editor for Social #PR Chat covering trends in Social PR, Mobile PR, Brand PR and SEO PR, a columnist with Search Engine Watch and a regular speaker at PubCon, SES, and part of the @ClickZ faculty, most recently becoming an instructor of the University of San Francisco’s online Advanced Social Media certificate program.

Why an adjustable height desk is our #1 health-related workhack for 2014

  • By jennifer
  • |
  • Wednesday, January 15, 2014

As the calendar turns to a new year, about 45% of us are resolving to make positive life changes. Sadly, only 8% of us will achieve our lofty goals and weight loss and organization are the top two motivations that will likely be quickly dashed as reality sets in.

When it comes to change, I’m all about quick wins and incorporating changes that require as little willpower as possible. If you agree, then I think this little workhack + lifehack will win you over because it’s a doozy: it can help you lose weight (no, seriously), be more productive (hello, organizing and career advancement!), reduce your cholesterol (hello, longer life), improve your energy (helping you gain resolve for other goals), and much more.

new year's resolutions

We can’t solve all our problems with a resolution, but one simple change in the way we work can make us have more resolve. Thus, I offer to you my #1 health-related workhack for 2014:

Standing up at work for 3 hours+ per day with a sit-stand desk.

Here's why.

20 minutes after you sit down, your body wrecks itself

2013 was particularly tough on us computer workers. It seems that everywhere we looked, the news that “sitting is killing us” was staring us in the face. It was kind of alarming and annoying at the same time. Thoughts like: “I KNEW that my job was hazardous to my health! Disability checks, here I come!,” coupled with “But don’t these ivory tower researchers know that some of us have to have jobby-jobs and we don’t have much choice?!” might have marred our thoughts.

Traumatizing statements abounded, such as: 

  • Sitting increases risk of death up to 40% (even if you exercise regularly).
  • Our bodies weren’t built for sitting down an average of 9.3 hours per day and it’s making us fat.
  • Calorie burning drops by 1/3 to 1 calorie per minute.
  • Enzymes that break down fat drop 90%.
  • Insulin effectiveness drops and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises.
  • People with sitting jobs have two times the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs.
  • For each hour of TV watching per day, your risk of dying increases by 11%.

I get a fair amount of exercise, eat very well and tend to be a fidgeter which are all considered healthy behaviors. But apparently, it’s not enough.  Exercise isn’t a direct antidote to sitting. Standing and moving are.

kissThus, I resolved to figure out how to incorporate more standing into my long startup work days. A new productivity and vitality motto emerged:

KISS – Keep it simple. Stand.
(For a few hours each work  day at least).

I did my research and I’m ready to share my findings and resources with you in hopes that it helps improve your work-health balance in 2014, too.  

What standing up at work can do for your life

  • 10-50% increase in productivity. Some companies, like ReadWriteWeb, have measured their before and after output and can affirm a 10% increase in productivity. If you take an 8-hour workday and estimate that you’re truly working 6 hours of that day, you’ll get at minimum an extra 46 minutes of real work done every single day. That could be career-changing when you think about it. Another reason for the productivity punch? Potentially the psychology of body language. You’re standing in a power pose, thereby decreasing cortisol (which makes us stressed, anxious and fat) and increases testosterone (which reduces stress, builds confidence, burns fat and builds lean muscle).
  • Improved focus. There’s an inherent sense of urgency when you’re standing. As a result, you’re less likely to allow distractions that will just prolong the task at hand. Sitting becomes a reward, not a park-it-perpetually proposition.
  • Better concentration. Again, our built-in psychology prompts us to get the job done so we can rest. Plus, with increased blood flow and electrical connections, our brains are more attentive to the analytical and creative work we’re doing.
  • Less hunchback. Sitting lends itself to a wide array of unhealthy postures. Standing reduces your options and creates a more ergonomically safe state for your back, neck and shoulders. Better posture also leads to more positivity and less depression.
  • More energy and less fatigue. When standing, you’re burning more calories because your entire body and mind are engaged and so, you’ll likely avoid the typical 3 o’clock crash.
  • Weight loss. By standing for an extra three hours per day, the average adult can burn off about 9 pounds of fat per year. No gym membership required.
  • Other niceties include: less headaches (better posture and more blood flow are likely causes), improved creativity, more confidence and even assistance when quitting smoking (shifting weight from foot to foot and fidgeting while standing distract from the anxiety of detox).

(Excessive) sitting might be deadly, but sitting isn't off-limits

With all that research scarred into my brain, I concluded to stand more. One caveat remained: I’m not a great full-time stander. I was born with my dad’s tender feet and my mom’s imperfect arches. I knew that a DIY tabletop solution could save me dollars but wouldn't be the ideal solution (your risk of carotid atherosclerosis and varicose veins increases with standing all the time). After perusing my options, I found my solution to the new-age quandary: to sit or to stand? Both.

My choice: the manual adjustable height desk.

There are plenty of options out there and I’ll list some at the end of this post, but I settled on a manual adjustable height option from MultiTable. A rotating lever moves like butter and I can easily crank up the height to ideal standing ergonomics within seconds. You can invest in electric if you have the dollars, but I just don’t see the point, personally. Part of the goal is to move more, so turning the crank 24 times up and down several times a day is a non-issue for me.

I tested my newfound habit at home first and since I love it so much, have made the case to upgrade our office desks early in 2014.

my adjustable height desk

I realize that not everyone can change their workplace setup, but don’t rule out a standing desk option for your home. Even if you only use it for a couple hours a day while you check email, peruse social networks, read, work on projects or help your kids with homework, you’ll gain some health and mental benefits.

For the truly fitness-motivated, walking while working is the ultimate work-health solution. However, the jury's still out as to whether it leads to more productivity. As Mat Honan of Wired of points out, walking whilst working doesn't necessarily lead to more productivity. Danny Sullivan reports that it's work-as-usual while walking. While I like the notion for walking while reading or strategizing, standing seems like the best all-around choice when productivity and focus are the primary goals.

For those that want to trial-run your standing resolution, I list some options below. You can get started for as little as $20, but you’ll have to commit to either standing full-time or assembling and disassembling your make-shift stand desk as the urge to sit calls.

Why a sit-stand desk is better than a gym membership

I'm all for working out, really. But if we're talking about investing in resolutions, I think a sit-stand desk is better than a gym membership. Creating the new habit of gym-going is going to require dozens of behavioral changes that will make reaching and maintaining that goal exponentially more difficult. If you work at a desk, and you have an adjustable height option, intermittent standing is a no-brainer because you're going spend 6-12 hours at your desk 5+ days per week. Yes, an adjustable desk is an investment, but it's something that you'll use almost every day and its proven to help your mind and body. I rather win at standing a few hours five to six days a week than potentially lose at an hour of running + pilates class + weight lifting three times a week.

Even if you stood for just one extra hour per day, you would improve your health, productivity and outlook with one simple, no-sweat change. Then, you'll likely have more resolve for other challenging resolutions like hitting the gym regularly.

For optimal benefits, invest in ergonomic-loving accessories

From what I’ve read, ergonomics and posture are just as important when standing as they are when sitting. As such, I highly recommend the following (all field-tested and approved):

  • An anti-fatigue mat. This is a must have item for standing any length of time. You will be able to stand longer and feel so much better when you do. I love my GelPro New Life professional eco mat
  • A keyboard. Better yet, an ergonomic one like this Kinesis Maxim. It can be difficult to stand and use your laptop keyboard for hours on end. It can cause neck and back problems. Boo.
  • An adjustable keyboard tray. This is an optional item but if you’re big on ergonomics, your carpal won’t tunnel anymore. Get it? The experts say keeping the elbows bent at a 90 degree angle is best. (This handy workspace planner is customizable and helps you find your best-case work setup).
  • A mouse. I know. We’re backtracking in design aesthetics here. We had these lovely little self-contained laptops and tablets sans-accessories and now we’re cluttering our workspace with more stuff. But do you want your workspace to look good or do you want to be more productive and feel great? The mouse is also an ergonomic solution to the pretty but terribly dysfunctional design of the laptop track pad. My fave is the handshake mouse. It’s a carpal tunnel ballistic missile in an ostrich-egg-looking package.
  • Good shoes. When I’m standing for long periods, I opt for a flat shoe with a supportive insole. The experts agree: heels and long-term standing do not a healthy body make. My work solution will be to store a standing shoe at the office and to wear my pretty shoes the rest of the day.

IMHO: the benefits of intermittent standing are real

I find that when I stand, I’m more motivated, more productive, happier, more confident and willing to take (healthy) risks because I tend to think more outside the box.

I was a reluctant stander, but I’ve made peace with the concept. I’ve found my balance. I allow myself to sit most of the day but I strive to stand 3-5 hours (sometimes during my evening work / catch-up time). I found a desk I love and a setup that keeps my body ergonomically in shape.

(For the record, I stood while researching and writing this post. And now that it’s done, I’m ready to reward myself with some sit time).

If you have questions about my experience, feel free to message me on Twitter. Cheers to a healthy, happy and productive 2014 to you and yours!

Adjustable Height & Standing Desk Resources

Calculate your daily sitting time, calorie burn and plan your workspace.

DIY options

Manual Adjustable Height

  • MultiTable was my choice for options, price and an amazingly well engineered base. The crank action is so smooth and easy to adjust. Plus, you can buy just the base and customize your own desk top, which is what I wanted. Bases start at $479, manual + top start at $549 for a small top. Note: I personalized my desk by buying just the base, then having a skilled carpenter in Arizona make the custom wood top to my specifications. I love it. If you're interested in getting a custom-made table top, message me on Twitter for his contact information.
  • CrankUp desk start at $649. They have electric versions as well.
  • The NextDesk is one desk with 267 possible positions for $1,500 (they also have a fixed height desk). You can try it for free for 30 days.

Electric Adjustable Height

  • GeekDesks offers affordable options starting at $749.
  • ErgoDepot features clean Scandinavian desk starting at $709.

Treadmill Desks

Desktop Options

  • Kangaroo Junior lets you adjust your work surface and monitor heights separately for $399.
  • The Stand-Up Desk Kit is an inexpensive, simple solution for adding just the right amount of height to your existing desk and is priced right at $200.

How to increase your happiness by 25%

  • By jennifer
  • |
  • Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What’s the one thing that all humans have in common? The desire to be happy.

For many, a funny thing happened on the way to being happy. It's a little thing we call life, with all its ups and downs. We reason that maybe if we had more of this or that, we'd be happy. But then we recall those folks who "have it all" yet don't seem to "have" happiness. Therefore, we conclude that happiness must not be a result of what we have or experience. So what are we be missing on successfully navigating the road to happiness?

Thanks to the research of many dedicated psychologists and researchers, we now know that how happy you are is related to how much gratitude you have.

Isn’t it good to know that happiness is within our grasp, no matter what’s going on? But what if you’re not a natural-born Pollyanna or you think that positive psychology is bunk?

When you consider that gratitude’s powerful effect can: make you more satisfied with your life, improve your relationships, give you more of a high than material things, and can protect you from depression, illness and envy, it's tough not to want to learn more.

Keep reading for scientifically proven gratitude strategies and for a very easy way to instantly increase your happiness by up to 19%. If you combine that tip with the other strategies, you should see an even larger increase in your happiness quotient.

Why and How drives our work and communities

thankfulnessConfession. Being consistently grateful is not my strongest natural attribute. But thankfully, I have a husband who "owns" gratitude and has mastered its disciplines and daily reaps its rewards. David's example has been a massive influence in my life and I've learned a mountainload from him. He's also my co-founder here at Tracky, where we talk a lot about productivity, collaboration and community.

Our goal at Tracky is to produce tools that not only help people work well together but also to help us all become better communicators, producers and contributors to our teams, families, social circles and communities. Yet we realize that HOW we accomplish our goals and WHO we are contributes more to the success of collaboration than any software application ever can.

Thus, whether you’re truly seeking happiness or just want to be a better friend, spouse, coworker or citizen, the pursuit of happiness via gratitude is one of the most profoundly impactful disciplines that you can learn in life.

The happiness and gratitude connection

Almost everyone I know is going through uncertainties and unpleasantries of some form or another. But if we rely on our circumstances to mold our moods, we’ll keep riding our emotional roller coasters, unable to grasp the very contentedness of happiness that we all crave.

Thankfully, the prevailing scientific conclusion is that you don’t have to “work” at happiness as much as you’d think if you’re focused on gratitude. Happiness spontaneously rises from gratitude and becomes a continuous feedback loop. I like to sum it up as a “gratitude attitude” and it has some major benefits.

In fact, in the book, "Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier," Dr. Richard Emmons concludes that gratitude increases happiness by 25% - or more, depending on what additional positive practices you bring online during your gratitude journey. 

gratitude increases happiness by 25%Research conducted by a bevy of scientists reveals that people who are grateful are more likely to be happy, hopeful, healthy, energetic, better problem solvers, and are less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors, whilst experiencing more positive emotions and faster recovery from disappointments. Grateful people also are more forgiving, empathetic, helpful, spiritual or religious while tending to be less depressed, envious or neurotic.

Sounds like the making of a pretty decent life, doesn’t it? Since just knowing that we should be more grateful isn’t enough, let’s talk strategy. There are literally reams of self-help books, spiritual literature, educational courses and strategies that outline steps to happiness. The following three points are just a few of the proven therapies, but I personally believe that they’re some of the most important.

Three simple steps to become a more grateful (and happy) person

  1. Think positively.
  2. Value the moment as a gift
  3. Speak uplifting words.

3 steps to gratitude

Now onto the practical application.

Think positively

To put it simply, what we think, we become. The gratitude journey begins with our thoughts because you can’t truly value time or consistently express positive words if you’re not practicing positive psychology. It would be like buying new clothes for your would-be thinner self without getting on a diet and exercise regime; its just wishful thinking.

what we think we becomeA myriad of studies and social experiments show that the diet you feed your mind – whether negative or positive – will greatly determine how you perform in life and how you perceive your circumstances. A little scary, right? But it’s also incredibly invigorating when you consider that you have the power to choose what you will meditate on, believe in and ultimately, become.

Alas, gratitude doesn’t come naturally to humans. In fact, we have a “negativity bias” – the natural inclination to dwell on injustices, annoyances and problems rather than positive events. (“Thank You. No, Thank You,” Melinda Beck, The Wall Street Journal).

Thus, to become grateful, we must first commit to altering our negativity bias. Some people have it easier, it’s true. About 50% of our temperament comes from our DNA, but the rest is learned. If you’ve always been a happy person, you’re more likely to grasp the gratitude quotient quickly. But the rest of us can, with a little mental elbow grease, become just as adept at gratitude – and thus happiness – than the natural-born sunshines. 

Here are a few examples on how to reshape your inner dialogue:

Regarding the good things in life:
Actively take note of them and recount them (daily and weekly). 

People who list their blessings have better health, exercise more regularly and feel better about their lives than those who keep track of annoyances or don’t dwell on either (landmark study by Dr. Emmons and University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).

A few strategies include:

-    Keep a simple gratitude journal.
Take this task seriously and you’ll see great benefits, but keep in mind that you’ll need to list specifics, not just broad blessings, like “my friends, my spouse, my job,” etc. Writing down “the barista remembered my usual order” trains your mind to look for the less obvious events that you’ve previously taken for granted.

-    Involve self-reflection.
While gratitude is a simple theory, it is actually a complex emotion that requires "self-reflection, the ability to admit that one is dependent upon the help of others, and the humility to realize one's own limitations," says Dr. Emmons, a psychologist at the University of Miami.

To avoid gratitude fatigue, examine your own part in society by asking questions like: “What have I given to…? What trouble have I caused? What have I received from…?” Doing this helps you realize that there are a whole bunch of people involved in your routine that you’re grateful for - even that grumpy cab driver who got you from point A to point B.

-    Try the “It’s a Wonderful Life” approach and imagine life without a major blessing. Then, specifically list why that gift is so impactful.
When college students in a 2008 study were asked to write essays where they mentally subtracted a positive event from their lives, they became more grateful for that gift than those who just focused on the blessing.

you understand me

Regarding the mundane and repetitive processes that we have to do:
Fall in love with the daily practice of life, not just the destinations. 

For example, if you want to run a marathon, you’ll have to commit to a training plan that will include diet, exercise and race education. Many of your training runs will be painful, and in less-than-ideal weather or when you’re under-the-weather. To make it to the finish line, you better learn to love the training process and practice runs.

Regarding difficult situations and painful experiences:
Reframe your perception of life’s displeasures by seeing pain as an opportunity to grow. 

see opportunity in difficultyThe people that we admire the most are generally the ones who use difficult circumstances as opportunities for growth.

In her breakthrough book, "The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want," Sonya  Lyubomirsky Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside posits that gratitude makes it easier to cope with stress and trauma.  “Expressing gratefulness during personal adversity like loss or chronic illness, as hard as that might be, can help you adjust, move on, and perhaps begin anew,” Lyubomirsky says.

Some examples include:

  • The next time you’re wronged, practice forgiveness, or stand up for your convictions.
  • When a behavior keeps getting you into trouble, grow in discipline so that you master a new, positive pattern. 
  • When you see others in need, step out to help them.
  • When you’re suffering and it’s not going to change soon, develop more perseverance.

These qualities might not seem joyful to cultivate, but their hard-won fruit means that you’ve become stronger in character. That in turn, allows you to both handle life’s future disappointments as well as make us more thankful when things are good.

Value time as a gift

I like the way that David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar, shared this worldview in this Ted talk.  In it, he distilled the pursuit of happiness into the singular step of becoming aware that each of our life’s “moments” are gifts that we didn’t earn and can’t guarantee but inherently contain opportunity. If you avail yourself to the opportunity of this moment, you’re on your way to utilizing your time well. This, he says, is a key to happiness.

It begins with slowing down. Steindl-Rast advises building “stop signs” into our lives with the simple ditty taught to children about how to safely cross the street: Stop, look and go.

  • Stop to appreciate the moment.
  • Think about how to best respond.
  • Go forward in an appropriate, enriching behavior for your own good and others.

For those who are depressed, overworked, out of work, in poor health or suffering in other ways, moments can seem like prisons, not something to be grateful for. But by focusing on being grateful for the moment, you regain power over the challenge. By choosing to grow, you reframe your perception of reality, right now.

Speak uplifting words

If you've implemented the two tactics above, you should be progressing in your personal gratitude journey. But maybe the proposition of translating thought into words doesn't sit quite right. and you’re thinking, “Why do I need to be a gratitude evangelist?” Because it’s scientifically proven to make you happier.

In an experiment by Soul Pancake, participants were asked to think of someone that positively influenced their life in a big way. After writing down all the reasons why this person means a lot to them, the researchers asked them to actually call the person and tell them what they’d written. Seems simple enough, right?

Participants were asked to take a happiness test at the beginning and the end of the exercise. Those who couldn’t call their influencers for one reason or another saw an increase in happiness of 2-4%. Those who did make the call and were able to verbally express gratitude saw happiness increase by 4-19%.  What’s more, the biggest jump in happiness was experienced by the least happy person who walked in to the experiment.

So, if you’re having a really tough go, you may need the power of positive verbal expression more than anyone. It will be tough, but it will be worth it. You’ll be rewarded when you lay aside excuses and just speak kindly for yourself and for others.

Sharing your upgraded outlook with others is the natural progression from keeping those good thoughts to yourself. Try it for a week at work and with your loved ones and see if people respond to you and to stressful situations a little better. Happiness is contagious, after all.

The #GratitudeAttitude Journey

I'm excited about gratitude because it's so much more than how happy I feel. It's about becoming a more optimistic, reflective and thankful person and letting that positivity spill into other's lives. I hope that you'll join me in your own #gratitudeattitude journey to happiness. If you'd like to share your lessons, challenges or funny memes on your way to gratitude attitude, use #gratitudeattitude in a tweet, pin or Instagram post, or tell someone you care #infivewords on Twitter. You can also save these gratitude attitude reminders via this track or this pinboard.

to be happy, be grateful

If you’d like more information on happiness, organizations like the Pursuit of Happiness have training programs for individuals and educators. Their 7 steps of happiness include: relationships, caring, exercise, flow, spiritual engagement and meaning, strengths and virtues and a positive mindset (optimism and gratitude). You can track your happiness with their happiness quiz and learn more from their free resources.

What happens when a university, a city and an agency collaborate to innovate? Something exceptional

  • By jennifer
  • |
  • Tuesday, December 3, 2013

 It's a rare occasion when people and institutions exceed our expectations, isn't it? And when we encounter “exceptional,” it makes a lasting impression that is worth sharing. Just recently, I had the opportunity (thanks to the project's visionary, Alex Lawrence) to attend the launch of Startup Ogden - the outcome of disparate entities truly collaborating beyond typical borders. The trip was a ton of fun and taught me some valuable lessons about community and collaboration. This startup and education facility was the result of an entrepreneurial leader's vision, a university's buy-in, a city's future thinking and the community's support. 

startup ogden grand openingThe project, dubbed "Weber State Downtown" arrived stylishly on the scene on November 20, 2013 with the opening of this coworking + education space. It's a two-year, $3.5 million project that was the vision of Alex Lawrence, successful entrepreneur and teacher. Alex is full of passion for helping young people succeed and for his community in Northern Utah. He’s brilliant at making things happen, and this project showcased how to translate vision into collaboration between disparate parties in order to innovate for the future.

With Alex’s leadership, Startup Ogden came to fruition due to a financial partnership rarely seen, including a university (Weber State University), a city (the City of Ogden), an economic development agency (the Governor's Office of Economic Development) and a local Chamber (Ogden Weber Chamber).

Startup Ogden is a multi-use space focused on coworking, but also features an iMac-filled classroom for development and design-oriented continuing education, a mobile apps lab, campus store, event space, café and get this - an Apple store (coming soon).

startup ogden

Startup Ogden's coworking floor

In his usual generous spirit, Alex invited some #VegasTech members (myself and David Gosse included) up to the launch festivities and its subsequent Startup Weekend. Alex has been an avid supporter of VegasTech and we've appreciated his consistent contributions in-person and from his home base in UT for our growing community. It was our honor to trek up to Ogden for his mega-launch and see what he'd been cooking for the last couple years. (For some fun outtakes, see the #SelfieTour photos initiated by Jimmy Jacobson and Porter Haney).

#VegasTech in Ogden

It's a beautiful place. The rustic modern three-floor building has been reimagined from an abandoned manufacturing facility. Original exposed brick walls date back to the late 1800's while the new hand-scraped wood floors update the look. Loads of natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows on each floor is enhanced by a glass enclosed staircase. Ping pong tables, a punching bag and conversation areas with flat screen TVs makes the old-meets-new look a definite modern vibe.

Startup Weekend’s founder underscores the imperative of inclusiveness in community

Also in attendance at Startup Ogden's launch and its subsequent Startup Weekend event later that evening was Andrew Hyde, the founder of Startup Weekend. As the 54-hour startup event began, Andrew’s keynote revealed that his original goal when launching Startup Weekend was to help build inclusive communities.

He encouraged attendees to nurture a community where everyone feels welcomed and valued. If you can do that in a weekend, you can carry over that practice to your company and city. It's hard to do a bad job when you're inclusive, he said.

That sentiment matched perfectly with the theme of Startup Ogden's launch weekend: community, inclusiveness and innovation.

Andrew Hyde and Made in Ogden

Andrew Hyde and local tech goods maker, Ogden Made, founder

When we knock down our typical walls and collaborate cross-agency/company/city/demographics/company/culture, we can create something innovative that improves our collective futures.

That’s what Alex Lawrence did with his original vision for Startup Ogden and what the founding partners did when they signed on to work together for a common goal for the betterment of their young people’s and community’s future. It’s also the aim of Startup Weekends in over 200 cities around the world. And it should be the goal for each of us in our communities, companies and families. After all, collaboration is simply defined as working with others in order to produce or create something – exceptional.

Bonus section (more photos)

classroom space

#VegasTech pals Jimmy Jacobson teaches Tracky CEO David Gosse a lesson or two in coding in the continuing education classroom.

bikes at coworking

Bikes as art? You bet. Especially when just outside are some epic trails in the Wasatch Mountains.

ogden mountain views

The 4 C's of Community and how you can use them to leverage your crowd

  • By jennifer
  • |
  • Friday, November 22, 2013

We last discussed how three important trends are changing the face of digital marketing: the visual web, socially curated discovery and superfan communities. The great news is that consumers are more willing to share your brand’s story than ever before, but only if its authentic, useful and ideally, allows for open dialogue.

Communities are the next-generation to Facebook pages and microsites, so building community right can yield you some major loyalty points with your customers, search engines (yeah, SEO boosts, baby), and grow a level of trust and authority that no other marketing strategy can.

4 cs of communityIn our research, we’ve discovered four elements to community-building and they all happily begin with C:

  • Content
  • Curation
  • Cultivation
  • Collaboration

So, are these community elements just phonetic fun or very vital to building a loyal tribe? Let's dig deeper.


You want people to come, right? For communities, content really is king. Meaningful content lays the foundation and will engage your audience, communicate your story, convey your customer's needs and fuel an effective SEO strategy.

But you don’t have to go it alone. That’s where curation tools and your superfan curators come in…


Curation is two-fold: curating content and curating the community.

Content curation: So much of what’s in our news streams isn’t original journalism, but rather curated, shared or distributed to us via aggregator apps or our niche community. To offer up a great experience to your community, you don’t necessarily have to create reams of fresh, original content. In fact, 95% of people are looking for aggregated news that is multi-sourced, fresh and free. Most of us seek trusted curators to filter out the overload of data and categorize it into topics that matter to us.  Plus, we want the option to add our commentary to the mix, while connecting with others of like-mind.

This isn't a free ticket to forsake unique content. Of course you'll need some original content based on your expertise in order to be authoritative, but many companies can’t dedicate to a full-time editorial team. But content curators are your key to winning the content game and building an army of trusted contributors. Which leads us to the next point in curation.

Community curation: The right community platform will provide deep analytics into how your audience is interacting with your content, each other and your brand. Once you know who the superfans are, you can tap into their passion and give them some leeway to curate and create content for you. Yep, I do mean that you'll have to give up some control. Understandably, that terrifies the goodwill out of some companies but with the right guidelines and platform in place, you'll still guide what's published on your behalf with little overwight.

create content that lives onPlus, why not follow the lead of some of the most community-driven brands? Community curation is already being done by companies like Sony, Sephora, LEGO and Harley Davidson.

Identifying and leveraging your superfans can mean finding your best advocates. And they’ll "work" for you because they’re passionate, not because they’re pulling down a paycheck. Since paying them would turn them into employees, you'll want to reward them in non-monetary ways like community notoriety - which will further fuel the flame of curation prowess.


Cultivation is the process of refinement. In this stage, you’ll figure out what matters most to your community members, who’s most involved, how to optimize your content, what rewards are working and  how to better leverage your superfan curators - the 1% of your community - for the good of the many.

This step in the process is remarkably fun because it means that you’ve got an active audience. Your analytics will reveal the opoprtuntiies and wins, but what the stats can’t tell you is whether you really “get” your community and whether they sincerely <3 you. Sure, social shares, likes, vote ups, interactions and inbound numbesr will give you an idea, but you’ll need to dig a little deeper. You’ll need to ask for input (polls can help), conduct A/B tests, develop one-to-one relationships with active voices and open the door to actually working with vetted customers.


This is where you ask. You listen. You implement and evolve based on your community’s feedback.

Consumers are more educated and discerning than ever. To win their attention, offering free shipping isn’t going to be enough, nor writing a few informative blog posts, nor making your product new-and-improved.

In the near future, the brands-winning-hearts-and-wallets will be going to companies who will literally give up a little control to their crowd, engage their customers and respond with authentic, positive good-for-all evolutions. Companies that do will be rewarded because a lot of times, people just want to share positive feedback (Global Trust in Advertising Survey, Nielsen).  LEGO uses their online communities to produce new ideas for LEGO sets. Now, not only developing loyal customers – a notion that is increasingly hard to come by - but it will make more money (crowd-sourced improved product = more sales).

Its not an easy migration from push marketing to collaborative customer conversations, but it will not only make your brand stronger, more authentic and help you remain competitive for the long-term.

its your community

Have questions about community building? Contact us to start a dialogue about how we might be able to assist with your community strategy. 


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