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Contents tagged with community

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Content

    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

    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

    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.

    Collaboration

    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. 

  • EpicTimes officially launches its solution-based news community, powered by Tracky

    • By jennifer
    • |
    • Friday, September 13, 2013

    You know Tracky as a social collaboration platform - a place where you can connect, collaborate and share: to-do lists, live chat, calendars, task management, social sharing, people and project discovery, cloud-based storage and more. Now, we introduce to you deeper functionality for social sharing. It’s the next evolution in Tracky as a social collaboration and publishing platform.

    We thought working with a team on content you want to push to the web should not require a separate CMS to log into and edit a new post with. Tracky users work together in groups to create content, why not allow them to publish direct from within Tracky too? We also hate bottlenecks and thought it was silly to funnel all posts through the gate keeper who controls your blog or site. So we created social publishing directly within Tracky.

    With social publishing, our purpose is to help brands build interest-based visual websites that engage and leverage their communities. We refer it to as C4, and wow is it ever explosive!

    • Content
    • Community
    • Curation
    • Collaboration

    These four C’s are the foundations of true community-building. And we have a great case study to illustrate how this holistic community strategy is revolutionizing an industry. Meet: EpicTimes, a solution-based news community founded by Jerry Doyle.

    Jerry Doyle is the host of the nation’s fourth largest talk radio show. After eight years of talking with and listening to over 7.25 million people a week with his radio show, Jerry realized that millions of people are sick of media “spin” and instead, crave real solutions. Jerry wanted to offer an online home that was politically non-partisan, yet would appeal to those who tend to be Independent, fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

    Jerry envisioned an online solution-based news community focused on putting cutting-edge news, resources, and answers in the hands of the public. While his terrestrial listening audience is quite loyal, their needs are changing to become more mobile and wanting instant-access to information that will help improve their lives.

    To satisfy his audience's hunger for holistic solutions, Jerry would need to assemble a diverse group of contributors with expertise ranging a wide array of issues. He didn't want to hire an internal editorial staff right away, so curating and publishing content had to be simple. Not everyone is familiar with content management systems and there couldn't be any barriers to creating content and engaging with visitors.

    As a busy radio host, Jerry knew he couldn’t build EpicTimes alone. Jerry approached David and myself, fellow Las Vegans and previous startup guests on his radio show, to explore whether his big dream could be a reality.

    Our team was already building more robust publishing features into the Tracky platform and shared Jerry’s vision for more intuitive and authentic community management software. Starting from an idea, Tracky collaborated closely with Jerry to build what you now see at www.epictimes.com.

    EpicTimes news community

    audience commentsThe entire site is powered by Tracky: curated articles, original stories, contributor pages, comments, community collaboration (more on this later), social leaderboard, and more. There are a couple of non-Tracky pieces, like the daily poll powered by Wedgies and product catalog company, Spreadshirt.

    Migrating a terrestrial radio audience to the web and mobile is a bold move but its already paying off. Community engagement is growing and some contributors are gaining loyal readers that are regularly engaging with their articles. The daily email serves up the latest articles and images and sees open rates of 2.5 times the industry average and clickthrough rates of 5X the average.

    We're impressed by Jerry's chutzpah to bridge the gap between terrestial radio and an online community and we're honored to work with him. He's a visionary and a "doer" that pushes aside tradition and executes on big dreams.

    In the next post, I’ll dive deeper into the features and benefits of Tracky’s social publishing tool for brands.

  • #SciChat Recap: What the Data Says About Social Visual Content Today

    • By jennifer
    • |
    • Saturday, May 18, 2013

    I love a good image in a social post, don't you? In fact, photography is one of my favorite art forms and in today's internet culture, I love a good meme. So if a picture is worth a thousand words, then should marketers write less and spend more time on expressing our message visually? That's what data scientists like Dan Zarrella of HubSpot are telling us.

    picture is worth 1000 words
    Photo by: Let Ideas Compete, on Flickr

    Today, during the weekly HubSpot #SciChat, social media scientist Dan Zarrella hosted a webinar with Tracky Chief Evangelist Sarah Evans. The webinar revealed HubSpot's exclusive data on visual content and proposed ideas on how marketers could better utilize it to engage their audiences. After the webinar, social media expert Brittany Leaning led a Twitter chat.

    A few of my key takeaways from Dan's data insights were:

    • Images significantly improve enagagement on social posts (via Sarah Evans).
    • Photos perform better than video, garnering 25% vs. 10% of likes.
    • Pinterest is largely an aspirational platform and therefore houses more buying activity.
    • Pinterest: larger images perform better. In fact, images that are 1,000 pixels or more get more repins. The max width should be 600 pixels. (Aim for vertical scrolling, not horizontal). 
    • Pinterest: repins rates are highest for descriptions between 100 - 200 characters. (Think: tweet length).
    • Instagram: including hashtags in descriptions get more likes. Reciprocity tags (e.g. #followforfollow) instigate the most likes. (But don't be spammy about this. Aim for quality follows, not quantity).
    • Instagram: the most repinnable words include food, e.g. recipe, chicken, minutes, bake, cake, etc. Takeaway - non-food businesses should sprinkle some creative in posts here and there. My tongue-in-cheek contribution using 11 of the top repinnable word: Bake up a #scichat chicken dinner in 30 minutes with a one step no mix cake recipe with chocolate ingredients included! ;-)

    For a recap of the #SciChat on Twitter, visit my Storify here. Questions by Brittany Leaning produced some interesting experiential comments by attendees.

    What about you? Do you love sharing images more than words?

  • Recap of Likeable Media post: 9 Social Media #Workhacks To Make Your Company More Likeable Online

    • By jennifer
    • |
    • Monday, April 8, 2013

    Being "likeable" online almost always involves being able to quickly and sincerely connect and communicate with your customers. But for small businesses, keeping up with the conversations across multiple networks can be challenging. That's one reason why Sarah Evans and the Tracky team are constantly scoping out new productivity #workhacks to save time and make workflows more effective.

    Likeable MediaSo we particularly appreciate the kind folks at Likeable Media for the opportunity to guest post about social media #workhacks on their blog! As a company that drives measurable results with the slogan: "We are the people behind your next social media success story," and has written a book about "Likeable Business," the Likeable team knows how to put social media to work for their clients.

    Sarah Evan's post lists nine #workhacks for being more productive in your day and in your social media communications, plus some tools and formulas you might not know about. So head on over to the Likeable post to get these valuable tips that can make your company more likeable with less effort!

    social media spend

    Source: Customer Think

  • 14 reasons you should consider Las Vegas for your startup #VegasTech

    • By sarah
    • |
    • Friday, March 29, 2013

    In early March, CEO and founder of UniversityParent, Sarah Schupp, wrote “5 Reasons You Should Consider Starting Up in Vegas” for Forbes. Anytime Las Vegas is recommended as a welcoming home for entrepreneurs is fine by me. In fact, Schupp mentioned some of the reasons my family and I relocated to Vegas, like, the weather, sense of community, fun nature, affordable living and 24-hour hustle.

    Vegas Tech

    There are so many entrepreneurs who have chosen to make a go of it as part of the #VegasTech community. Some were born and raised here, others have moved across the country to be part of something bigger.

    If you’re considering the move to Vegas, here are a few more reasons it might fit your startup’s style:

    1. Most U.S. cities with a well-developed tech and startup community are already really big. Because they’re so big, they can tend to lose the “small town coziness.” Vegas is different. It is a big community, but yet small and supportive. #VegasTech wants to succeed and so it nurtures a culture of giving and camaraderie. Come visit us on a Thursday night and check out the Vegas Jelly or hang out at the Downtown Podcast. (David Gosse, Tracky)
    2. If I had to pick ONE reason that startups should consider Vegas (there are clearly a few good reasons), I would say it's a good economic decision to be here. Coming from San Francisco, the median price for a one-bedroom apartment is about $3000 a month right now, and they are scarce. In Vegas, you can get 3-bedroom house with a pool for $1800 a month, or buy one for less than $100K. It's easy to run the math and see how you can dramatically increase your runway by cutting the living expenses for your team members. In addition, you don't have to pay your team members as much as you would in the Bay Area for them to experience the same (or better) quality of life. (Jon Sterling, Founder at Interview Circuit and Agent Findr)
    3. There's some really special about coming into a growing community on the ground level. For our team, it was clear from the moment we first heard about #VegasTech that something remarkable was brewing. After visiting twice, we knew it was the place for us. The opportunity to shape a city and tech scene doesn't come around too often. As an added bonus, the other entrepreneurs working on this common goal have been welcoming, supportive, and engaging, which is rare in other tech communities that are more established. (Jackie Jensen, Ticket Cake)
    4. The geography at implementation of our state and the resulting imbalance of resources has always allowed for Las Vegas to be the rock-star, the poster child, the ambitious youngster who gets green-lighted on all its ideas. We've made something out of nothing again and again for the last hundred years and that breeds an innate ability to be open to a new way of doing things. You won't find a stuffy "that's not how it's done here" attitude. Our settlers were trailblazers, our first businessmen were rebels, our political leaders have been innovators all in their own ways. So when you come here with a "crazy" new idea, you fit right in. (Ann Diab, Realtor, Project Evangelist, #VegasTechSXSW)
    5. Las Vegas might be cliché, but #VegasTech isn't. It's only two years old, so it lacks the cliques and traditions of an older community. The community aims to stay flexible too. Sure, leaders have emerged, but if you move into town and you want to get involved, no one is going to discourage you. In fact, innovation and leadership are very much encouraged. "Firsts" take place here every week. It's a great place for a startup to grow. If you're looking for lifestyle beyond work, see below and consider that we actually have more outdoor recreation han you might expect: Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston and Valley of Fire within 20 - 45 minutes of the city. (Jennifer Gosse, Tracky)
    6. Switch and inNEVation. Did you know that the largest and most secure data warehouse is in Las Vegas? Well, it is. And, founder Rob Roy has taken his love of technology and Las Vegas and created The inNEVation Center, a state-of-art co-working facility. It is the first public / private economic diversification effort of its kind. inNEVation brings together entrepreneurs, business leaders, mentors, investors, educators and government agencies. In other words, everyone it takes to build an economy of superheroic proportions.
    7. VegasTechFund.  VegasTechFund is a seed stage investment fund focused empowering amazing founders and startups passionate about building community in downtown Las Vegas. If you want to find out more about the fund, fill out their application. Only proceed if you: 1) Are Insanely Passionate; 2) Are Solving Awesome Problems; and 3) Like to Dance in Celebration.
    8. Summerlin. You don’t have to live on the strip to be in Vegas. There are amazing suburb-style communities located across the city.  From custom-living to parks and recreation to famers’ markets, you can have it all within 20 minutes of the stip and downtown Vegas.
    9. SXSW V2V. SXSW V2V is the newest addition to the SXSW family of events and it’s launching right here in Las Vegas. It is an extension and re-imagining of the legendary SXSW experience with an emphasis on the creative spark that drives entrepreneurial innovation. This four day event brings the startup and venture capital communities together with the creative industries that have helped to make SXSW so special.

    Don’t take our word for it. Come visit #VegasTech for yourself and see if it’s a fit for you and/or your team. Tweet the entire community by using the #VegasTech hashtag or email me at sarah@tracky.com.

  • #VegasTech Showcases at #SXSW

    • By jennifer
    • |
    • Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    Last March, it started as Gabe Shepherd’s big idea and culminated in bringing the #VegasTech community to showcase at SXSW 2013 in a very big way. Switch's sponsorship gave the idea life, and paved the way for others sponsors like Downtown Project and the community to get on board, for real. 

    Before SXSW Interactive 2013, #VegasTech was already legit. After all, #VegasTech is a two-year-old startup community with humble coffee shop roots that has grown into an oft-referred to tech community attracting national attention. But something shifted with our #SXSW community representation: to the global scene, we’ve arrived as a notable tech community with viable startups, serious talent, major corporate support, educational backers and a whole lot of passion.

    The project encompassed a booth at the SXSW trade show, a cocktail hour and a mega party.

    VegasTech
    #VegasTech startups and organizers about to hit the streets with party posters

    Perhaps best of all, we got to share the collaborative, cooperative and passionate nature of our community. With our growing publicity and infrastructure growth, we hope to attract more companies and talent into the valley in order to grow the ecosystem. But, even if we don’t, it was a bonding experience to collaborate on the #VegasTech #SxSW go-to-market plan (we used Tracky!) and see it come to fruition.

    Gabe Shepherd and David Gosse

    @tracky CEO @davidgosse and #VegasTech SxSW Organizer @gapeshep sporting VegasTech shades

    Now, the world knows about our startup community. We even trended on Mashable and other outlets.

    trending

    Thanks to Fuller Street Production, amidst the SxSW trade show noise, #VegasTech stood out.

    VegasTech sign

    Here is a little recap of what went down...

    Tracky at #SXSW

    Tracky at VegasTech booth

    First off, our corner of the booth was rockin’ thanks to Fuller Street.  Tracky co-founders David and Jennifer Gosse were booth-bound most of the show and it was hugely productive. Sarah Evans was evangelizing and producing an Innovator Series (details below).

    Tracky caps

    We hung our Tracky caps on the scaffolding and gave every single one away. (If you snagged a Tracky cap while at #SXSW, snap a picture and share it with us! We’ll add you to our “Tracky in the wild” sightings and share a little about who you are too).

    We met a ton of interesting folks from around the world. We got to demo Tracky to hundreds of people and loved the feedback that we received. What were the main complaints that we heard? Workflows are broken and email kills productivity because it's still being used as collaboration. (More on that in future posts). If we met you and we need to follow up, we’ll be in touch soon!

    TechCocktail held interviews in the booth for a couple days. It was great to see the flow of startups and thought leaders come through the space and chat with Frank, Jen, Zach and Kira. We love that TechCocktail is in Vegas now!

    TechCocktail at VegasTech

    David Gosse and Frank Gruber

    We enjoyed sharing the space with our VegasTech comrades, including Switch, UNLV, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, Alice Reception, Tabeso, docBeat, UsedGearSale, RollTech, LaunchKey, Zuldi.

    VegasTech comrades

    Oh. And we got to see Shaq. He stopped by the VegasTech booth for a minute, entourage in tow. He is extremely tall.

    Shaq

    Shaq and Rick Duggan

    Innovator Interviews

    Sarah Evans hosted the Innovator Series from the Samsung Blogger Lounge on March 12th with partners Watchitoo, Cox Blue and Tracky.

    Sarah Evans and TicketCake

    Sarah Evans with Jackie Jensen and Dylan Jorgensen of TicketCake

    Innovator series

    Sarah Evans with Gabe Shepherd - sponsored by Watchitoo, Cox Blue and Tracky

    Lounge

    The #VegasTech lounge brought together an electric crowd and showcasing startups and sponsors, with the evening’s presentations hosted by Frank Gruber of TechCocktail. Switch and Downtown Project, ended the evening with inspiring talks via Jason Mendenhall and Tony Hsieh.

    Jason Mendenhall speaking at the Cocktail Hour 

    VegasTech Party

    VegasTech party

    The community invited SxSW attendees to a big bash at Red 7 for open bar, Vegas musical talent (Jordan Laws, Rusty Maples and American Cream), big-time dancing and networking. With something like 3000 RSVPs, the venue was packed until 1am.

     Switch team

    The Switch team with David and Jennifer Gosse

    Fuller Street Productions abundantly sponsored the production materials for the booth, lounge and party at a great financial and human resources expense. Thank you. Your generosity shined.

     Daniel and Jennifer

    Daniel and Fuller Street - you represent the 1% doers movement!
     

    VegasTech buds

    VegasTech buds 


    Sarah Evans, Ann Diab and Jennifer Gosse

    Sarah Evans, Ann Diab and Jennifer Gosse all smiles at the #VegasTech party

    We Did It

    Networking and partying in Austin with hundreds of your closest friends is a great way to celebrate the two-year anniversary of our community. A heartfelt thanks to Gabe Shepherd, all the hard-working volunteers, sponsors and to all who made it happen. We <3 you!

    1% Doers

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