I'm currently working on a new book project on digital strategies. This book is going to encompass my two decades of experience working with the web, and digital technologies. It will cover every aspect from marketing, technologies, communities, social, seo, analytics, and more.
I'll be drawing from my experience running large corporate websites, to my own projects like running the Jonas Brothers fan site with my daughters that grew to be one of the top 5000 sites on the web with millions of visitors, and over 300,000 registered users.
The following is real-world experience on motivating your community site to motivate an outside channel, in this example it was MTV.com.
Your Community Can Impact the Larger Web Space
Community can have an impact on external events, or sites on the Web. For example, in the real world, large communities like cities, can have impact on state laws, and even national laws, and policies. If a community is rallied up to support a cause it can help promote an agenda of the individual or company running the community.
For example, say you have a software product and an industry site is having a contest for folks to vote on the best of class for your particular solution. You could rally your community to participate in the vote and have your product noticed, or win the contest providing your company or product with industry recognition.
When people are frequently participating in a community, they tend to be passionate about the product, service, or offering that community is centered on. From my own experience, this passion can translate into a cause. And to motivate a community you need to provide some emotional context that they can relate to and get behind. It may be bits and bytes on the web, but the driving force behind it are people. Whether you’re looking to promote your product, or support some cause, an active community can become a powerful tool for that goal. Since it is a powerful tool, as a community manager you need to be able to channel that response in a productive way, as it can get out of hand. The following story is an example how that community passion was used on my particular fan site example.
The Jonas Flood of 2008
Back in 2008 the Jonas Brothers were trying to make an impact on MTV’s Overdrive, which was an online competition to vote for their favorite music video. Fans were desperately trying to get the young boy band recognized by MTV, and their music video “When You Look Me in the Eyes”. Being the technical/community manager for the fan site, my daughter approached me with the problem. We had this large community of fans on the site, as I said over 300,000 registered fans, and more who just browse. How could we channel this in order to get MTV to recognize the band?
There were a series of blog posts over days, and weeks, trying to build up the community to vote. MTV was built up to be this big bad guy who ignored this group of young guys just trying to break into the music business. Fans voted throughout the day, but really that just spreads the load around. One thing server administrators do notice however is a denial of service (DOS) or flooding of their networks. Knowing this, I recommended rather than having fans vote throughout the day, post a blog post having them hit the site at one specific time, and since the band had a song called “7:05”, have all vote requests hit the site at that time. This would cause a flood of traffic to the MTV.com site all at once.
In order to really get the fans rallied behind the voting effort, it was named “Jonas Flood 2008”, and to top it off, we needed to provide some emotional context, so the blog was written in order to generate a response. Essentially, the blog set MTV up as the bad corporate entity that constantly ignored the fans, and had it out for this young growing band out of New Jersey. No longer would fans stand for this and would rally behind the band and do this flood. Individual efforts weren't working so all fans sites devoted to the band needed to come together and rally behind this effort (the fan site space is very competitive, but once they were challenged by the leading fan site, they couldn't ignore it). So this rally cry went out across the Internet and every fan site, social network outlet, and even YouTube videos were created to support this cause.
Did it work? It worked well enough for MTV to not only write up a blog post, but to even have a spot on their TV network talking about this. MTV discounted that their network couldn't handle the load (even though it came to a very slow crawl), but they did recognize a fact that this flood uncovered an error with their site. From their blog at: http://buzzworthy.mtv.com/2008/03/13/jonas-brothers-fans-and-the-nonviolent-adorably-aggro-assault-on-mtvcom/
“JB fans, while you didn't totally "pone" us (also, isn't it "pwn" or "pw0n"? Regardless…), you did manage to uncover a glitch on our site. What happened was, you posted so many thousands of comments that as new comments rolled in, the total number of comments began to be displayed in negative numbers -- it was kinda like our own personal Y2K, if Y2K had actually really happened -- thus instituting the need for our tech dudes to fix the way mega-volumes of comments work”
This shows you how you can channel a community to further some goal, but beware it does need to be channeled. As the Spider-man’s Uncle Ben says “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Which is one thing we learned quick, and in a hurry.
Channeling the Wave
As I mentioned MTV recognized this fan rally on TV, and they did by interviewing a participant in the flood. This girl posted a YouTube video showing how the fan site made this rally cry, and how she responded to it. During the interview, MTV overwhelmed the girl, and it appeared as if she coordinated this effort on her own with no mention of the community that was the driving force behind the effort. This was quickly caught by community members, who flooded the forums with their objectives. This soon turned into anger against the poor girl who was interviewed. “How dare she not mention the fan site!” They would decry, and an online bullying campaign was spawned against her. All this emotional drive was still there, initially for the campaign it was positive, but quickly turned negative against this girl. This girl even posted a video to the community to apologize for the TV spot.
Immediately we had to address this, my daughters, being the face of the fan site, and peers that the community could relate to, posted a video on YouTube telling the community to be happy for this girl’s time in the spotlight, and the goal was for the band’s recognition, and not the fan site. That video was quickly posted on the website blog, and the wave of anger quickly subsided.
To motivate a community there are a few things that you can do in order to have a good response:
- Make it a campaign, give it an identity - In this case it was "Jonas Flood 2008", this was something the community could rally behind, and it even became a sort of battle cry.
- Give them something to relate to - Here we have personalities that are associated with the campaign, my daughters. They were seen as peers of the rest of the community who were primarily teenage girls.
- Provide an emotional context - This is truly a motivator. Emotional context can generate a strong reaction and drive people to do something with a passion. It's probably the hardest piece of the puzzle, but if you can generate it, then it can do some pretty amazing things. In this case, MTV was the big bad corporate guy, and the Jonas Brothers were the poor underdogs.
- It's never about the community, it's about what it is centered on - This campaign was never focused on the community, it was about getting MTV to notice. Because of this other fan sites jumped on board to support the campaign. The goal was larger than the community.
- A campaign can become out of control fast, you need to guide that passion - As mentioned, this campaign was really pushing the emotions of the fans, they became passionate about the cause. This passion doesn't subside quickly and can turn in another direction. As the community manager you need to guide it to keep it positive.
- Get a larger entity to recognize your community - In this example, MTV. Not only were they large, they were credible, this gave notice to the fan site and helped build it's credibility.
Keep an eye out for the book for more stories, use cases, and information to help you build your digital strategy.