• How To: Online Community Management at Compete.com

    Community Conversations

    This morning I rediscovered this (previously unpublished) transcript from February 2008 in my archives.

    I was Product Manager of Compete.com at the time, and it goes into how we managed and thought about our user community at Compete, a critical component that helped us surpass 1 million monthly unique visitors to Compete.com very quickly. I’ve carried much of this thinking over to Shareaholic, a tool that has been used by over 1 million people. At Shareaholic we obsess over our users, always putting our users first.

    Hope you find this to be a useful read. Enjoy!

    1. Who do you work for, what do they do, and what is your official job title?

    Compete, Inc is a competitive web analytics company. We have a diverse sample of over two million U.S. internet users that have given us permission to aggregate and analyze all the web pages they visit and ask them questions via surveys. We believe that web analytics means analyzing what consumers do across the entire web, not just what they do within a particular site, and that marketers can use this rich information across the entire company, not just for online media planning or site design decisions.

    We’ve been doing custom web analytics work for big brands such as Verizon, Chrysler and Wells Fargo for over 7 years now. Just over 13 months ago we launched compete.com. Compete.com is targeted towards the millions of people dependent upon their website/online presence to drive their business. Up until the launch of compete.com there really was no affordable, reliable and consistent source of competitive web analytics for the average marketer.

    As for my own role with Compete, I’ve been with the company for just over 3 years, and my official job title is – Product Manager, Compete.com

    2. Now that you have experience actually doing it, what does community management mean at Compete?

    We won’t be satisfied until compete.com is the go-to industry source for the most precise competitive web analytics data available. For this to happen, we need to build a large community users that regularly use, trust and recommend Compete data – our advocates.

    Generally, communities do not build themselves. They need some nurturing. I like Chris Brogan’s description of the role:

    “The people gathered before you aren’t an orchestra and you are not a conductor. At best, you are a jam manager. You are the person helping bring about the experience, but with your hands as far off the overall end results as possible.”

    At Compete, community management/evangelism translates to encouraging and supporting early users, enabling two-way transparent conversations about Compete, looking for and enabling people who might be interested in what we do, listening and responding to feedback (the good and the bad), setting up and managing user expectations, integrating user feedback into product roadmap decisions, being the customer’s voice within Compete, and generally being available, easy to reach, and responsive.

    3. If a community manager does their job well, what happens as a result?

    We hope good things 🙂 In all seriousness, in my experience users tend to feel a greater sense of ownership of the product. This leads to our users being happier, they engage more with the product, tend to talk more favorably about their experiences, and give us more (constructive) feedback in return. They become our advocates.

    4. What is much more of a challenge than you originally anticipated?

    As Product Manager of Compete.com, community development is not my only focus. I wish there were more hours in the day! (well, doesn’t everyone?) Balancing the two roles simultaneously is a little bit of a challenge as community management can be a full time job in-itself.

    At Compete, we made sure product and community go hand in hand. Our users heavily influence product direction. I love being close to our users, and I am also lucky to have great colleagues who also love interacting and cultivating our community, and they do a fantastic job at it.

    5. What technologies do you use to interact with your community?

    The Compete Blog (wordpress) is used extensively to educate our users on how to most effectively look at and analyze Compete data. We use Technorati to monitor incoming blog links, and our local analytics package (IndexTools – now Yahoo Analytics) to monitor non-blog mentions like Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, etc. Shareaholic to spread and seed content on social media sites. We also use twitter, email, im, newsletters, mybloglog, facebook and field regular feedback surveys. Twitter’s “track” feature in particular has proven to be very effective. Google Alerts are also great to monitor conversations about Compete.

    6. What specific metrics (if any) do you focus on for success?

    We focus on unique visitors to compete.com, repeat visits, registrations, feed subscribers, incoming links, and the quality and frequency of blog and press mentions. We track these metrics on a daily basis, and make them available to the entire company weekly. We also field a user feedback survey at least once each quarter, in which we ask our users to rate our performance, and whether they would recommend us to a friend or colleague (Net Promoter Score) — we track this closely.

    7. What is the most important skill to have as a community manager?

    Listening skills, humility, being attentive, inquisitive and responsive. Community management is a constant process of listening, sharing, and enabling.

    8. What are the best/worst parts about being a community manager?

    The best part of the role is connecting directly with people who use Compete.com, and those who are just waiting to be converted! As Product Manager, learning how the products are actually being used is invaluable. The job can also be very different every day, which is exhilarating.

    9. Let’s imagine that there was a company directive to “increase engagement” with your customers. How would you, in a community management role, go about doing that?

    The end strategy would depend upon how “engagement” is being defined and end business goals. At a high level – at Compete.com we have the luxury of over 700,000 monthly unique visitors, and over 70,000 registered users that are quite active on the site. I would likely first reach out to them, followed by people who are already talking about us (positive or negative). I would ask them how we can improve our products, create the most value for them, and knock down the most roadblocks.

    As we engage the community more in such conversations, and as we start incorporating their feedback, overall user engagement should hopefully increase.