Arment Dietrich

Managing An Online Community

By: Arment Dietrich | July 7, 2010 | 
40

Well, I’m three weeks into my job here as community manager of Spin Sucks. It’s an exciting position that brings new interactions with different people every day. It’s so much fun playing in the sandbox with you all that it doesn’t feel like a job at all!

As I continue to wrap my head around what exactly it means to “manage” an online community and what/who Spin Sucks’ community consists of, I’ve looked at many other sites for comparison and contrast.

One simple observation I’ve made is that there are generally two elements that motivate people to keep coming back to a site, ostensibly becoming part of that site’s community. Those two basic elements are: Information and interaction.

I’ve recently spoken with several colleagues at national and international corporations who have been charged with the task of formulating a social media plan. These colleagues have little to no experience within the social media space, but they’re young, so these corporations figure they must know something about it through osmosis, I guess.

So, taking their best shot, my friends, being the extremely intelligent marketers that they are, conjure up their best image of what social media is “about.” Instinctively, they know it’s about interaction. And, yes, interaction is naturally part of “social” media. One-to-one communication is what it’s founded upon.

At Spin Sucks we have a passion for truly getting to know the individuals who make up our community. Business aside, many of them have become great friends. Of course, we all like to support our friends, but just because my friend works at a good restaurant, doesn’t mean I’m going to eat there every day.

There has to be something more. You absolutely must provide your community with useful information. Not just interesting tidbits or funny anecdotes. Real information. Information they can apply to their lives and to their businesses to achieve success.

I get the feeling from my colleagues that the corporations they work for don’t get this part of community building. They tell their readers how environmentally friendly their new headquarters are or how they’re donating money back to the community.

That’s all fine and good, but it’s not going to keep me coming back to your blog again and again. Give me solid information that I can use and can’t find anywhere else. If I read two or three posts with that type of content, I’m interested. If I get that along with some genuine interaction, I’m now a loyal member of your community.

It’s the dedication to sharing practical information in a fun, supportive environment day in and day out that convinced me that Gini Dietrich was the right person to work for and that community manager of Spin Sucks was the right job for me.

And that’s why my mission is not just to interact in a positive way with all of our amazing community members, but also to cultivate more and better content for you to learn from. Already you’ve seen solid posts from industry experts Patrick Reyes, Courtney Dial, Jon Buscall, Paige Worthy, and Arik Hanson. And there’s a whole lot more where that came from, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, what do YOU think are the keys to building community online? Also, what types of information are you most interested in reading about here?

Daniel Hindin is community manager at Spin Sucks as well as a student in the Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School, where he’s managing director of the program’s student-run blog, Vitamin IMC. His greatest aspiration is to become Mayor of Arment Dietrich on Foursquare.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not going to happen, but you keep dreaming! I will ALWAYS be Mayor of Arment Dietrich! Bwa ha haaaa!

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

40 responses to “Managing An Online Community”

  1. Tom says:

    I really enjoy the community that has been growing here. This website is a great source of daily practical information, and I always find myself coming back. On top of that, it seems like everyone is genuinely friends, which I think helps foster a sense of community.

    I think building a community like this is based upon mutual interest, respect, and a passion for continuous learning. Regardless of the topic the community is centered around, these are key ingredients. With these three characteristics, word-of-mouth is likely to spread to others who share similar traits, and the community will continue to grow.

    Great Job!

    Tom Miesen
    @tmiesen

  2. Paige Worthy says:

    Know what I love about you guys?
    You have FUN.
    You can’t do the “social” part of social media if you don’t know how to enjoy yourself. Social means parties and jokes and not being a loser shut-in!
    And you surround yourself with other people who also know how to have fun.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Dan. Manage this community like a CHAMP and laissez les bons temps rouler!

  3. Gregg says:

    I think one piece of the soc-med puzzle that Dan didn’t mention as to why this site might have a lot of the success that others don’t is the Arment-Dietrich Army.

    On twitter Gini posts a bowel movement and 30 people re-tweet it. On Facebook she comments that her dog is tired and 40 people comment on it.

    While that sounds like I’m making fun of Gini (which has been known to happen), I’m not. I’m really making the point that part of the reason you guys are successful with your community is that people believe in guilt by association (or whatever the positive version of “guilt” would be).

    People perceive Arment-Dietrich to be influential and Gini is a beloved creature in the cyber world and real world alike, so everyone wants to think of themselves as part of that inner-circle. That’s a good place to be for Gini, Dan and the rest of that group and it’s one that I think no matter how good some of those other community types are, that has to be built with a lot of time, and a certain willingness to allow anyone into that circle.

    Oh, and Dan, for a certain price I can guarantee you mayorship of Big Teeth Productions if we retroactively grandfather your many appearances last year that Gini has yet to replicate.

    • Gregg, I don’t think the piece of the puzzle you’re talking about is that difficult to figure out.

      Gini spends so much of her time genuinely having fun with the members of this amazing community that she’s put so much effort into bringing together.

      People love to laugh, they love to smile, and they love to love and be loved. Gini gives out a lot of love, and it’s only natural that so many people would want to pay it forward.

      It’s not guilt by association (or the opposite) in any way shape or form. People in our community really and truly care about each other. It’s not about seeing or being seen (although we all know it is in a lot of other places online). It’s about real people being real. Plain and simple.

      And I’m speaking not as community manager here, but as someone who relished participating in the community long before I worked here. That’s what drew me to Gini and to want to work here. It’s not just “funness,” as Tim mentioned above. It’s also “realness.” That’s a rare thing these days, but I truly believe that’s what we have here.

      Sorry to get sappy. And I know you speak with your tongue in your cheek sometimes. But this is just me telling you how I feel straight up.

      • Tim Jahn says:

        Dan, I forgot to mention, I have trademarked/copywritten/secured/locked up the word “funness” now, so I’m going to need about $6.76 from ya every time you use that word.

        Just FYI 😉

      • Gregg says:

        Dan,

        I think you misunderstood my post. I was saying that I think thats why your community is successful where as others might not be as much because they are more about just pumping out their own agenda vs. opening and/or sharing their space as you guys do on this site.

        Don’t read what I said as negative at all – I think that if you want people to care about what you’re saying (especially if you’re not “selling” something they want to buy) you have to be interesting, funny, engaging etc. and thats what tends to go on here – generally there’s a point to what’s being posted but there’s often a silly side to it too.

        Having said that, you can’t argue with the Gini Juggernaut. If people didn’t want that association, they wouldn’t follow her around all over the web – including here.

        This is a social media success – no dig from me – I wish I had it!

        • Gregg says:

          Oh – and Dan, it’s good to see that I can still get you all riled up even when I don’t see you ever day 🙂

          Keep up the good work here.

        • Haha! No worries, my friend. Neither of us ever had a problem sharing our opinion on anything. You know I love you, Gregg. You may be onto something with this whole mayorship thing…

  4. Hey Dan – great first post. Really look forward to learning what you learn and will pass along to my clients in B2B.

    : )

  5. Kara Vanskike says:

    Welcome aboard, Dan! I met Gini at a Vistage workshop last November and have been hooked ever since. This is my favorite blog. The advice found here is always helpful and eerily timely.

    The advice you gave in this post is dead on. We’re slowly building our community and trying to find our clients out there in social land. Posting consistently, providing relevant information, and figuring out what our clients want are all part of our social networking plan. This blog has played an integral part in helping us get to where we are, but we still have a long way to go, so I look forward to all you have planned for this blog and beyond.

    • Oh, that explains it, Kara. I guess you didn’t know about those bugs Gini plants in people’s heads to know exactly what they’re thinking when they’re thinking it. Sometimes it actually works in our (the victims’) favor.

      Good luck with your site. Next time, make sure to include it in your information when you sign on to make a comment. That way other readers can click on it and see what you’re up to!

  6. Jon Buscall says:

    Gini and Dan, I’m SO excited for you guys to see how the community is taking off big time here at Spin Sucks.
    Quality content and an engaging community makes the site a winner.
    Awesome!

  7. Courtney says:

    Dan, such a fabulous post! I think interaction is so key. And what I love about the AD team is how interactive they are with each other and with their community. It’s genuine, however, because it moves beyond a blog to all types of social media and “real life”. It’s truly a community – and that is what keeps everyone coming back for more; more great articles, more discussion, more interaction! It’s a great sandbox to play in!

  8. Danny Brown says:

    So that’s why you stalk via email..? 😉

    I jest, Dan. I agree with everyone here – if your job is to foster the community, then I hope Gini is paying you handsomely! 😉

    Any agencies want to know how to “do this social media thing”, I’ll be sending them here as a reference point.

  9. 40deuce says:

    Hey Daniel,

    Nice post and congrats on the new gig.
    I actually just started as community manager for Sysomos a little more than a month ago as well and I know what you’re feeling. It’s a little strange to just jump into it with an already established brand that has somewhat of a community already.
    I’ve been spending my last month trying to get know the community around my brand. Talk with them. See what they’re reading and sharing. Trying to pass along information that I think they will find relevant. And a bunch of other things on top of all that.
    Like you said, interaction and information are key to building and keeping a community and it looks like you’re doing a great job so far. (I hope people are saying the same of me)

    Cheers,

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    • Thanks for stopping by, Sheldon. I’ve noticed you around the blogosphere lately, so I guess you must be doing a good job so far in your new position!

      It’ll be good to compare notes as we both settle in.

  10. roger says:

    whats with the Old Spice ad?

    • Thanks for the question, Roger. I’m a huge fan of the Old Spice ads and particularly the video answers to tweets that happened last week. Very cool, groundbreaking stuff.

      But Old Spice so far has shown no interest that I’m aware of in building or managing on online community. They’re not looking to start a conversation or keep people coming back to a forum that they’ve created.

      Their mission is more in the category of entertainment through media, albeit new media. They essentially want to build buzz, and they’ve done a great job with it if the never-ending Twitter talk about it last week was any indication.

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