When Google+ first introduced communities, I jumped right in and started a community myself. It suddenly made G+ a lot more relevant for me and seemed like the perfect platform to enable in-depth dialog around a specific topic. I haven’t been let down — Google+ is proving to be a fantastic place to meet interesting, smart people from all over the world and have targeted, coherent conversation. Pin it now!
The re:DESIGN community I started is focused on smart design intersecting with business strategies to reach, engage, and inspire people to action. We have had countless conversations around all things design, creativity and innovation — and Google+, with its great way of handling images, has enhanced the community with beautiful images that continually illuminate the topics we share. So if a post isn’t inspiring enough on its own, those big, luscious images sure do the trick!
Of course, running an online community isn’t as easy as it sounds and there are some very important things to keep in mind when starting a G+ community to ensure its success. There’s nothing worse than a community that stagnates with no engagement.
Follow these 12 points and you’re sure to rock your Google+ community!
1. Community focus and organization
Let’s start right at the top, since these are important factors that will be critical to the success of your G+ community:
• Topic focus — what will you talk about?
• Name — what will your community be called?
• Tagline — how will you encapsulate what you’re about in just a few words?
• Introduction — how can you tell a little more of your story?
• Categories — what subsections will fall under your main topic focus?
• Type of community — will it be public or private?
Your topic and focus should be crystal clear and hopefully different from all the other communities out there. Keep the name short and add a compelling tagline. You can tell a little more about your community in the introductory “About this community” section. The topic categories you choose will also play a part in how clearly people understand what types of discussions take place and help encourage engagement. Making the community public or private affects how people can join and what people can see — it’s a decision only you can make based on what you’re trying to accomplish. Careful though, because you can’t change this setting later.
Taking #1 a step further, use the profile photo to create a brand image that will stand out and express the feeling you want your community to have. The profile image will be the welcome mat every time someone visits your “home” and function as a little ad as well — so spend some time on this. It could either be a photo or a total branded image complete with a logo. It’s a visual world, and Google+ is highly visual — doing this right will encourage people to join and visit more often.
3. Set rules and establish protocol
The “About” section is a great place to establish some basic ground rules right upfront. I include things like “no link dropping” and that people should include a thought or opinion when posting to encourage dialog. After all, conversation and building relationships are the whole point of having a community.
4. Show up
It’s important to be visible in the community you run. People will take your lead — if you are active, they will be active. If you’re MIA, it sends the signal that you don’t care so nobody else will either. As community owner, you also become de facto model member, so it’s important to always exhibit the behavior you want to see in your community.
5. Post good stuff
It all begins with good content — and good content spawns more good content. So it follows that if you desire to build a community with rich content, make sure you start by posting good content focusing on quality, not quantity. A strong, well-run community will post more good content than a poorly run one.
6. Enlist moderators
You can start right off by designating moderators to help run the community or wait until later — but once you grow to a certain size this becomes very important. Moderators can help keep things moving and relieve some of the daily tasks of monitoring spam and approving/greeting new people who join. It’s always good to have another set of eyes making sure everything is running smoothly. Cheryl Bochniewicz is doing a wonderful job helping me with the re:DESIGN community! I knew she would — always attentive and supportive with smart things to say. Moderators also help post content, especially during slower times in the community — Cheryl does this too.
7. Be encouraging
Generously +1 people’s posts and comments. Do it often — show your community that you care and appreciate their contributions. Everyone is busy and there are lots of other places people could be spending their time, yet they chose your community and took the time to engage. Welcome them enthusiastically and thank them. There are lots of ways you can do this, and if you really like something that was posted, don’t forget to share it outside the community too!
8. Be friendly but firm
Nothing will kill a community quicker than a stream full of links with no engagement, or other undesirable behavior. If you’re not careful, this can happen faster than you think. So while a positive, friendly demeanor is important in any community, do not hesitate to enforce the community rules — repeat offenders must be bounced.
9. Pump it up!
You can instill new life in your community at any moment. So do it! When you’re really “feeling it,” that’s a perfect time to engage and communicate your enthusiasm at its authentic best! People will know it’s real and be motivated to respond with their own enthusiasm. Maybe you’ll even help turn someone’s bad day into a better day. It works!
10. Post reminders
Every once in awhile, it’s a good idea to remind people of the little things that will make the community better. We post reminders about selecting the correct category when posting to keep the community’s content organized, and things like asking people to introduce themselves if they haven’t done so yet.
11. Google+ Hangouts
There is great benefit in deepening online relationships by going offline too — and video is the perfect bridge from online to offline. Google makes strengthening the bonds of a community easy with Hangouts.
12. Invite relevant people
OK, since you’ve made it this far, here’s a little tip that I’ve tested and refined to achieve about a 40% conversion rate when inviting new people to the community: create a circle of people you think will best fit your community. If they’ve also proven themselves to be active G+ engagers, so much the better. Then with one fell swoop, invite that circle to your community. Google limits this to inviting 150 people at any one time, so keep your circles to this number — but you can create multiple circles and repeat this as much as you like. That’s plenty of “pre-qualified” potential for sparking your community!
Like any successful venture, it’s the little things that matter. I hope I gave you a bunch of little things here to consider so that you can get your Google+ community off to a rocking start!
Are you planning on starting a Google+ community? If you have one already, what do you do to rock yours? Let me know in the comments section below.
So after 30 days of anticipation, parading out a different logo every day to generate excitement, Yahoo had the “big reveal” of their new logo. We are not only uninspired, we are yawning. And stunned. Stunned that another major company could take such an embarrassingly amateurish approach to their rebranding.
Now let me be clear, I’m not one for logo bashing — I think that’s way too easy to do and it becomes a kind of blood sport for a lot of people whenever a new logo is announced. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon to rip something apart rather than build it up. I much prefer the latter, when it’s warranted.
I held out hope for Yahoo, even during the 30 days of bad logos that they decided to roll out. I did harbor serious reservations about that strategy which in my opinion, created more brand confusion than it did excitement. Skeptical, yes, but I kept an open mind to see where they would take us.
Well, the logo would have had to be pretty damned impressive after all that buildup for it to have any hope of working. It was worse than I imagined. Not only is it uninspiring, it is technically bad in that there are just so many design no-no’s that scream “amateur hour” to any professional designer worth their salt.
Unfortunately, the video demonstrating the “science” behind its creation left me unimpressed and unpersuaded — in fact, it feels like a lot of smoke and mirrors to convince us in mathematical terms why it works and why we should like it. Such BS. In the end, it still looks terrible! Check your pockets folks, you’re being swindled.
But the clincher was CEO Marissa Mayer’s Tumblr post, where she explains the design process in her own words. After the first few lines, I honestly thought I was tricked into reading a satirical piece from The Onion or something. But no… here are some tidbits: Pin it now!
“Our brand, as represented by the logo, has been valued at as much as — $10 billion dollars. So, while it was time for a change, it’s not something we could do lightly.”
OK, fine so far.
“On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)”
Wait, what? Uh oh, not liking where this is going. Why is the CEO of a $10 billion dollar company talking about Adobe Illustrator? The tools of design creation are so far down the pipeline from what she should be discussing… I am… well, let’s wait and read some more…
“So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish…”
Holy crap — now she really lost me.
So the logo for this $10 billion dollar company was created over a weekend with a team that included the CEO and an intern? Perhaps Saturday was also spent with a tutorial of how to achieve bad kerning in Adobe Illustrator?
Nope. That was real, folks. It really was Yahoo’s CEO discussing in her own blog post how they went about rebranding a $10 billion dollar company.
I’m sure she thinks this was a radical move, with a take-charge CEO working down in the trenches on creating something in an inspired fit to reinvigorate the masses. But as CEO, you would think she would spend more time explaining the strategy and rationale behind the new branding — perhaps there just wasn’t too much more to say there. Instead, she chose to discuss the actual design.
Now, I know Ms. Mayer has an MS in computer science and was a software engineer, but as far as I know, she never had any design training or professional experience, other than playing with various shades of blue at Google. She fails to see why the new logo is so insipid and does nothing to inspire the feeling of “whimsical, yet sophisticated; modern and fresh” that she portends in her post. She explains the playfulness of the big “O,” fine — but any professional designer sees that there is no balance to the spacing between the letters. The kerning between the “Y” and the “a” is downright horrible. Close up that space! And then the spacing between the “o’s” is too tight. The exclamation point doesn’t look right either — it’s too wimpy and looks like it should be pulled down a bit. The whole thing just looks disjointed and unbalanced — which in the right hands could work — but here, just looks like something that a CEO with no design experience and a summer intern helped create.
Other companies have had similar branding fails in recent history, one of the biggest being the GAP logo fiasco. What has happened to branding? Why is it now treated so lightly that people just toss around junk in such a trivial, jovial manner, with all those contest-driven and crowdsourced activities that come with it? Logo design is not a beauty competition, but in the end, it is the professional designers and design agencies that will make it beautiful! And relevant. And on target. And effective.
For my money, rebranding a business, let alone a $10 billion dollar global corporation deserves more. What say you?
And if you need a logo or rebranding for your own business, contact me and let’s discuss how we’ll get it done the right way.
An engaged online community or digital tribe is the path to real business success on social media. Anyone who has been on social media for any length of time recognizes that the old school way of broadcasting messages is beyond passé at this point and that engagement is the key. The way to propel this activity is by either creating or becoming part of a relevant online community that learns to trust you and that will support your activities and interests, hyper-spreading your endeavors globally.
There is strength in numbers. But there is power in numbers that actually know you!
Individuals acting independently of each other will not have nearly the same impact.
It is becoming increasingly important for brands to get on board with this concept of community in the new social order. Indeed, the potential for developing a community of brand advocates that freely shares your content and spreads the word about your company on a consistent basis, perhaps even with passion, is nothing less than the Holy Grail of social media.
Fundamentally, there is really nothing new here — we have always networked and seeked to develop trusted reputations — but we could have only dreamed to do it on the massive, global scale that today’s social networking platforms enable. Over the past few years, I have learned a thing or two about what makes a digital tribe tick. I run a couple of online communities and play a leading role in others. One of these is the re:DESIGN
community on Facebook
, for those who value all that strategic design can do for business and innovation.
I have also gleaned a lot of insight from the global writers’ community I run with Peggy Fitzpatrick
at 12 Most
. What could have easily been a disjointed effort of haphazardly posting guest posts as they come in, has instead grown into a very organized, respected community of professionals — one that produces fresh weekly content with a broad readership — all while enjoying each other’s company and supporting each other every step of the way.
We are a digital tribe that is greater than the sum of its parts, because of what we have been able to foster through social media and a deliberate, strategic effort to build something special. I am sure that our readers respond to this too, as they enjoy the content we provide and feed off the energy of our social interaction and in the comments beneath our posts as well.
Following are some of the things that are critical for building a successful online community:1. Passion with a common purpose
Having a passion for the mission and values of the tribe is vital. It is what inspires others to be passionate too and share in the journey. Defining processes and clarifying expectations facilitates a healthy, vibrant, principle-based community. It is also handy to have these and other community guidelines to point to when necessary — publicizing them demonstrates transparency and shows that these principles go for everybody. We state right upfront what we are looking for in the re:DESIGN
and 12 Most
communities — it is the only way to attract like-minded people who share similar passions.2. Leadership
Any large group that aspires to work together toward common goals requires leadership to establish a focus, keep things properly aligned and get things done. It’s the only way to harness the power of the people, efficiently and effectively. The vision and community values need to be established upfront — and then someone needs to make decisions in the end. It is the only way.3. Establish forums for people to get to know each other
A “safe” haven where people aren’t afraid to share and be themselves is vital. Good news, bad news, anything — it is where strong bonds are developed. Even if your primary presence is a public one, it is important to have a closed group forum as well. It is also where sensitive matters can be handled with discretion. At 12 Most
, we have lots of different places in which to interact, both online and offline: our blog site with blogging and comments, a Twitter account and hashtag, a Facebook public fan page and a closed group for writers, a Google+ page and circle of contributors, a LinkedIn group, emails, Skype calls, phone calls, and even several IRL meetings.4. Nurture a sense of responsibility and commitment
Cultivating a community where people feel compelled to live up to expectations, even if for fear of letting the others down, is a sign of a strong tribe. Over time, it creates the glue with the stickiness that keeps people bound together for the long haul.5. Be the example, be available and provide timely responses
Model the behavior you want to see. Acting as the model community member is a living example of what is expected of all community members. If a mistake is made, admit it and fix it. Simple as that and it establishes trust. This goes for internal interactions as well as the external interactions of your community. A lively, engaged community where the light is always on and people feel heard is where meaningful conversations and deeper engagement happens.6. Establish a strong brand identity
This is often missed, but it is as important to your community members as it is to your public awareness, for it provides something tangible for people to rally behind. We established a strong brand image for 12 Most
that people take pride in and proudly display badges on their websites. It also created a visual cohesion through all our various media touch points, so rather than several fractured, disparate entities we present a family of properties that speak with one voice — and one for which we are recognized.7. Share what others are doing and tirelessly advocate for each other
Whether it is something new you discovered, a post from someone’s blog you enjoyed or a simple retweet, it is said that “sharing is caring.” Put enough people together around a common purpose who care about one another and “viola!” — you have a community.8. Celebrate victories and draw attention to a job well done
Everyone likes a pat on the back or being recognized for an accomplishment that is publicized without provocation. When this becomes the norm rather than the exception, you know you have something special.9. Be positive and have a sense of humor
Nobody likes cranky communities. Groups that gripe a lot don’t last. The best communities I have belonged to also know how to have a good time — we certainly do at 12 Most
. And where there is wit and laughter, there will be more smart, funny people willing to join and share in the fun. Positive people create positive energy where positive things can happen for everybody. That endures. And that is fact.10. Discipline
In any large community, someone will eventually cause a stir, acting outside the bounds of the welfare of the tribe, or spreading rumors or acting trollish in some way — decisive action needs to be taken. Make your wishes clear and perhaps give another chance, but if the behavior is allowed to linger, it can quickly compromise the basic well-being of your tribe. People will exit quickly if they sense friction and drama in an online community — even worse, your community’s good reputation could be tarnished in the process.11. Consistency is key
Repeating these steps day in and day out is no easy task, particularly when people have other responsibilities and are separated by distance. But dedicating yourself consistently to these behaviors is critical for nurturing the kind of culture of which strong digital tribes are made.12. Stay nimble
Communities evolve. Things change all the time in today’s online world. If your community is thriving and growing as you build something great together, it will certainly require flexibility and making adjustments as you go. Keeping the tribe on course through these shifts can take some deft handling, but it is critical for making certain that your community prevails.
I recognize that a lot of these points are basic leadership fundamentals for managing and leading any large group or business. Online is really no different than offline, so some of these basic tenets should not be overlooked. In fact, the virtual nature of online communities in many ways requires even more attention to these things, as they establish the guideposts for what is not always felt to be as “real” as are meetings in conference rooms replete with cozy swivel chairs and bottled waters. But believe me, digital tribes and online collaborations are definitely real, and following these points can result in healthy, vibrant, and productive online communities if done right.
Bringing this all together is no easy trick — it is difficult and takes the right mix of talents and personalities for sure. Self-important, self-serving, egocentric personalities don’t work and they are found out quickly in this environment. Digital tribes are largely self-policing like that — those who don’t fit will find their way out soon enough.
It is incredibly gratifying to build something together with great people and without limitations of geography. The talent and networking pools are endless! I believe we have built something special with both re:DESIGN
and 12 Most
— and it was only possible through the awesome power of amazing online communities. We make each other better which makes our personal endeavors better — and that makes our communities better.
Are you a member of an online community or started one of your own? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked so well? Let me know in the comments — I’d be interested in seeing what you have to say.
The time has come. Little children were shot dead at their elementary school this week. This follows a litany of other horrific acts of senseless violence over the last several years. If we don’t realize now that something is seriously wrong in our society, we never will.
John Lennon, ever the peace activist, sarcastically sang Happiness is a Warm Gun. The ad below ran after he was killed at the hand of one of those warm guns over 30 years ago. I am afraid to know what that ad would look like today.
Our guns are too warm. Our tempers are too hot and the temptation to take sides rages through us like an inferno.
This needs to stop. The time has come to work together and it is up to all of us to make sure this ad looks very different in the next 30 years.
There is no black and white here. Taking sides means we’re both right and we’re both wrong. As usual, a multi-pronged approach is required when we try to solve complex problems. We need to deliver on smarter, safer gun laws AND we need to place more attention on the mentally ill. We also need to become better educated and more aware as a society of recognizing the warning signs before someone snaps.
Our media needs to take more responsibility too — we cannot deny that it feeds the frenzy by packaging events like this into a numbing cacophony of graphically-hyped violence. The result of that is only a sicker society and promises of fame to the next twisted perpetrator of the next horrific act.
It starts with us, working together to come up with a plan that puts all this together and delivers a solution. We should all demand that our leaders and Congress do the same. Let’s put our energies there.
Photo courtesy of Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.
I also discussed this topic on Bruce Sallan’s #DadChat on Twitter > 9:00–10:00 pm EST / Thursday, February 16, 2012, co-hosting the show Sparking Creativity in Our Kids along with my partner, Peggy Fitzpatrick. We also appeared on The Bruce Sallan Show—A Dad’s Point-of-View, broadcast on KZSB AM 1290 in Santa Barbara and via live stream. Listen below…
So many kids these days seem to look elsewhere for fun and excitement. You know what I’m talking about: all those Xbox’s, PlayStations, movies and so many other things, not to mention all the false heroes.
Alone time is considered “boring.” It seems kids just aren’t comfortable in their own skins these days, constantly looking outward for stimulation and gratification. Little time is spent with only themselves, creating the quietness conducive for introspection and true creativity.
When my children were young, I took advantage of the time I had with them before they would be old enough to protest. I knew those days wouldn’t last forever… when they were a lot more open to my way of doing things, instead of everything being “me, me, me.” I thought if I “brainwashed” them young, they’d be good to go when the teen years hit.Well…
The teenage years hit… and I only met that hunch with limited success. But my wife and I did do a few things right and I think our kids are the better for it. One of the things I always made sure of, was that we look at things together — I mean, really LOOK!
I exposed them to beautiful design, wonderful storybooks and “adventure” drives where we would make our fun as we went, being open to serendipity and continuously pointing out everything along the way.
It is also important to nurture dreaming and the imagination — we would make up your own stories together, especially at bedtime beneath the glow-in-the-dark stars covering their bedroom ceilings. Holidays are another great opportunity to dream. For Halloween, we would invent costume ideas and do sketches to plan the pumpkins we would carve later. Everything should be part of the creative/learning process. Even a breakfast with Cheerios was turned into a game. There are so many ways to nurture creativity in kids and a dozen of them are discussed in this other post I contributed to, 12 Most Loving Ways to Spark Creativity in your Child
Once kids truly show an interest in something, I think it’s extremely important to go with their passions. Rather than dictating what they should like, or pushing certain talents we think they possess but they show no interest in, it is much better to nurture what they naturally gravitate towards instead. And then feed those interests by always having the supplies they need at the ready, from simply having enough drawing paper available to buying the right creative software that fulfills their needs. Fight the good fight
Although we can’t determine what it is exactly our kids will show an affinity for, we can still influence them. And while it may be a thankless job many times, I believe our kids are better off in the long run for the encouragement we provide, enabling them to follow their passions. It is the way to a rich, enjoyable life and offers a myriad of alternatives to the ready-made ways of having fun that are always so prevalent. Forming this foundation for creative thinking is important to establish early on, so children grow up with a creative outlook where possibilities are endless. It can even alter the brain itself as the post, Pondering: Brain Overload
, discusses so nicely.
There is plenty of time for the world to try and put its own restrictions on things. Most schools do little to encourage individualism and place limits on it by a one-size-fits-all mentality that does little to foster creativity in our children. Companies do the same, where toting the corporate line and appeasing one’s bosses largely keeps the boat from being rocked and provides the best chance for a good review.
But our leaders of tomorrow will be those who see things differently, for innovation never comes from the status quo. Successful companies will depend on them. So will whole societies and the world at large. Bigger populations fighting for a smaller piece of turf will naturally increase competition substantially — successfully navigating this and coming out on top will require even more crafty ways of doing things a little differently and a notch above everybody else. Likewise, the many challenges we face in the world will increasingly require inspired thinking to get us out of trouble. It all begins by raising creative children.
Why is nurturing the creative spirit important to you
? I’d love to see what you have to say in the comments section below!
Artworks by Wyatt Biedermann with photography by his father, Paul.
Businesses will need to stir up their creative juices if they’re going to succeed in the coming decades. Innovation. The word is everywhere and is the necessary ingredient for businesses to stay vibrant. The status quo just won’t do it anymore, and actually hasn’t been working for quite some time now.
In order to ensure innovation, the best leaders will be creative thinkers who know how to inspire teams to produce the best new ideas. A new mindset will be required, where people are encouraged to take risks and aren’t afraid to fail in pursuit of something special. This will be the only hope for busting the doors open to capitalize on new opportunities in an increasingly competitive world.
For far too long, companies have played it safe, enabling a culture of mediocrity. Annual reviews, the way they’ve been done, have proven nothing. New leaders will take calculated risks, because playing it safe won’t cut it. That’s not the way the game is played anymore.
Increasingly, 21st Century leaders will be those who can build teams of diverse people that brainstorm and grow ideas together, recognizing which ideas to capture and which to discard. Then, they will make the best ideas happen.
Companies must now foster creativity up and down the entire organization. Nothing great, I mean truly great, has ever been produced without risk. It’s time to either put up or shut up.
Throughout history and now again, even with the most amazing technologies readily available at our fingertips, one thing remains consistent: the best ideas still start on a napkin.
Featured image and doodle Copyright © 2011 Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.