Communities Get Noisier When They Grow

As I’ve mentioned before, I manage a Facebook group with over 1800+ people in it that discusses the DC tech & startup community. It’s been fascinating to watch the dynamics of the group change as it adds more members to its ranks.

Now that its bigger, it’s much harder to get real in-depth conversation about any one topic. There’s so many people from different backgrounds with different personalities. Everyone wants to take it in their own direction. The group becomes more about broadcast.

Well if you want that in-depth conversation, the key is that you have to divide & conquer. You want to find a subset of that bigger group that has the people who can talk in-depth about the issue you care about and keep that group focuses on that topic.

The bigger group is important.  Everyone needs to know what’s going on across all the sub groups but you need the smaller groups so that people can have more intimate interactions.  For the DC Tech community, we have sub groups for everything from community leaders to user experience pros to people looking for co-working space.

Customer-Facing Employees Need To At Least Have Manners

I met Lauren at her office the other night so we could ride home together. She asked me to run into UPS and drop something off for her.

So I went into UPS and the guy behind the counter never looked at me. I always wait for someone to look up & acknowledge me. When he talked to me, it was in a barely audible tone. It was kinda rude.

If you’re going to hire someone to be a customer facing employee then I think you need to hire someone who’s at least polite. A good prospect is friendly and makes me feel good about the service they’re going to provide.

Isn’t this common sense?

I Miss MyBlogLog

mybloglog-new-recent-readers-widgetRemember the web app company MyBlogLog? It was a widget that you’d put on your blog that’d show the face of other MyBlogLog users when they visited your website.

When using it, you really saw first hand how writing about something brought people to your website. When you write about someone, if they’re tracking where they’re talked about, that person might/would actually come to your site and read what you wrote.

I’ve been talking about the advantages of social media with a number of colleagues. Seeing stats from Google Analytics or AddThis are great but it misses the context of who that person is. For example, you might only be getting 10 visitors a day to your blog BUT its the right 10 people. That was something MyBlogLog did really well.

Most visitors to a blog or any online community aren’t going to actively contribute. There visit is they way of passively participating. There needs to be a way of making that visit more meaningful.

When all you see is the traffic from Google Analytics, it’s too easy to get discouraged and quit. Most do.

Make It Easy For Me To Quit You

Haven’t been using my gym membership lately so decided it was time to cancel.  Instead of paying $70/month to be able to exercise, I decided I could just run outside.   Funny thing is that it’s free to run outside.

Figured I could just stop by Washington Sports Club and cancel.  Nope.  It’s not that easy.  They handed me a piece of paper, which gave me instructions to cancel over the phone.

So, a few times I had a few minutes and figured that I had a few minutes so I’d call their member services line.  I get the hold music.  After a few minutes of hold, I gave up because I had other things to do.  Lauren had a few minutes today so she called for me and had to wait 10-15 minutes on the phone before she got to someone and actually cancel my account.  It was ridiculous.

It shows a solid principal that it’s worth underlining.  If you want me to trust you with my business, you have to let me easily stop using your service.  The fastest way to lose my trust is to make me feel trapped when patronizing your business.  Let me get out as easily as you allowed me to get in to the relationship.

What I’m Reading – Monday, November 19th

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately…

What I’m Reading – Tuesday, November 13th

Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Starting a community requires patience

In the social media age, everyone wants to start an online community about every topic and for every product you can imagine. The reality, like with most things, is that 90% of them fail. The biggest reason these communities fail is a lack of patience on the part of the person starting the community.

You need patience because for the participant putting yourself out there in a new community is scary. It’s a bunch of people you don’t know. You don’t know how they’ll respond. Most people are pretty guarded.  They don’t wanna take the risk.

The best thing you can do is to be patient and be consistent. Continue to participate in the online community and get your close friends to participate. You need to set the example and tone for what you expect within the community. Everyone else will follow your lead.

Even then, you’re only going to get a small number of people to really contribute. The rule with online communities is that 10% contribute and 90% just consume what the others contribute. But keep patient.

I started the DC Tech Facebook Group years ago. I kept a steady hand throughout and now it has 1800 people. I never have to worry about it going stale because we’ve hit enough of a scale where there’s always someone posting something.

Once you hit a community of that scale, there are people that’ll wanna use its platforms as a way to draw undue attention on themselves but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Using Social Media for Stealing Your Competitors’ Customers

Technology like Twitter has brought customer service into a new age. Now I can tweet about a brand and usually get customer service faster than if I were to call them. Everyone has tweeted at @ComcastCares at least once. Their example made Twitter-based customer support a common place within most companies.

Well, what can be used for serving your customers, can be user for stealing your competitors. Just do a search in Twitter or setup a Google Alerts for your company’s competitors and you’ll find a litany of voices sharing their disappointments. Your competitor’s customers are sharing their disappointments hoping someone will care.

This is an opportunity. You can care. Care about your competitors customers and offer them a discount to come use your service. I did this all day long when I was at AddThis and competing with ShareThis. Actually won a few BIG customers this way.

Last night, Lauren needed the car to run some errands before a party that I was going to meet her at later in the evening. I had bought a membership to the smart car sharing service car2go and saw this as an opportunity to try it for the first time. I tried to unlock the car with my membership card and got an error. Called their customer service line and they said my car was defective. So, now what am going to do? This is how I was getting to the party. Ended up taking the bus to a spot where a friend could pick me up.

While waiting for the bus, I took the opportunity to express my disappointment with car2go on Twitter. Instantly, I got a tweet from Uber reminding me that they had cars on the road that’d love to pick me up. If Uber wasn’t considerably more expensive then I probably would have taken them up on the offer. I guess I was just impressed that someone from Uber was that on top of their Twitter accounts.

Why doesn’t every company do this? Watch your competitors’ users tweets and then offer them a discount or special offer to switch. Out care your competition.

(Photo by cote)

Where are all the DC hipsters hiding?

Today, Lauren and I went to the Crafty Bastards craft show put on by the Washington City Paper. This year it was being hosted at Union Market in DC’s up in coming NoMa neighborhood.

There were 2 massive tents with booths occupied by handmade creators from up and down the east coast. (I wonder how many were from DC.) You could get everything from jewelry to bath products to tshirts to leather bags.  Everything is made in small batches by hand. It’s like an offline version of Umba Box.

And… It was packed. Not just crowded but annoyingly packed.  It was hard to get up to some of the booths because there were so many people.  AND… everywhere you looked there was plaid and a beard.

It made me wonder. Where are all these hipsters hiding? When you think of DC, you think of the government and people in suits. When you think of creativity, you think of Brooklyn or Portland. Does DC have a burgeoning creative class that’s just about to explode?

6 years ago a handful of folks felt a hunger for a technology & startup community and look what happened.

(Photo by Jason Rosenberg)

What I’m Reading – Tuesday, November 6th

Here’s some of what I’ve been reading the last couple days…