ForumCon 2013: A Recap of the highlights!

With more than double the attendees of last year, ForumCon 2013 was a huge success!

What better way to share the highlights than by taking them straight from the day. Here is our session-by-session summary, from the #ForumCon twittersphere:

Speed Networking

The day started with some early morning speed networking (think speed dating but with less drinking and more business cards) moderated by our very own ‘big man with a whistle.’

 

Forum Monetization

We started the day by hearing directly from forum owners and industry leaders on their tried and tested methods of forum monetization. Moderated by Raymond Lyle, CEO and Founder of Topify, and joined by the panelists: Crista Bailey,  CEO of Texture Media; Vlad Dusil, CTO of Purse Blog; Joey DeTomaso, Founder and CEO of Plum Krazy Media; Ted Gill, CTO and Co-founder of Huddler; and Jerry Orban, VP Business Development at VerticalScope.

 

Building your Community: From SEO to Social

Next up was John Rampton, Editor of Search Engine Journal, who shared his insights into building online communities using a spectrum of tools all the way from SEO to Social.

 

Breakout Session 1: The Importance of IRL – Connecting your community “In Real Life”

Some attendees chose to join Anthony Marino, President of Audizine, to talk about adding IRL to their forums.

 

Breakout Session 2: Forum Technology: Past, Present, and Future

Other attendees witnessed Patrick Clinger, Founder and CEO of Proboards, lead a discussion with an all star panel of leading forum software providers: Yuriy Rusko, PM and Director of phpBB, John McGanty, GM of Internet Brands, and Luc Vezina, CEO of Vanilla Forums.

 

Breakout Session 3: Effective Strategies for Forum Moderation

Dave Cayem, VP of Delphi Forums ran a super helpful session on forum moderation.

 

Breakout Session 4: How to make social work for your forum

Meanwhile, Ted Rheingold (@tedr) taught us how to build a bridge between our forums and the world of the social media.

Hooked Model. Harnessing the Power of Habit.

Nir Eyal, author and Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer, followed with a thought provoking talk on the psychology of how habits can create value in products.

 

Industry Insights

The final panel of the day, moderated by Anthony Ha, Writer at TechCrunch and joined by panelists Dan Gill, CEO and Co-founder of Huddler, Stephanie Palmeri, Principle at SoftTech VC, and our very own Founder and CEO Oliver Roup. The panel started off with a bang as Anthony asked Oliver about our latest technology, link optimization.

 

Keynote Address

We closed the day with a superb keynote address from the insightful and passionate Jeff Atwood, Co-founder of stackexchange.com and discourse.org. He offered an honest and balanced assessment of the state of forum software, along with loads of very specific recommendations to improve. We can’t wait to see where he takes Discourse!

Just like @cyrusradfar, we are still feeling energized and inspired from this year’s super speakers and engaging discussions.

Although the conference is over for another year, the conversations aren’t! Start a discussion on our LinkedIn group, engage on our Facebook page, and keep the comments coming with #ForumCon. Check back on forumcon.com see all the session videos and slides as soon as their posted.

 

Community is War


We were delighted to co-host SFCMGR last week and bring along two very special guest from the online community world, Lane Becker and Thor Muller, co-founders of Get Satisfaction. They brought down the house with their very honest and unique take on the business of communities, likening the experience not to the happy, smiley, fields of flowers often portrayed and rather to ideas of war and conflict. They shared their stories from their time in the community “trenches” including some of our most favorite nuggets of “wisdom”, which are all helpfully wrapped up in 140 character snippets – thanks to everyone who attended and tweeted:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my most favorite nugget from the night, that you must(!!) go and check out.

 

SFCMGR is heading to Pinterest next month. I will make sure the most interesting insights are shared out live via @ForumCon and on the Facebook page. Please check back here a few days after for the round up of all the evening’s best findings!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager, VigLink

TextureMedia’s story – How a Forum Blossomed

We have asked the wonderful Crista Bailey back to ForumCon this year to share more on the inspirational story of how Curl Talk, the Naturally Curly forum, rose from a small community to a major media company. We re-post her blog from last year, as it gives a wonderful sneak-peak at just what a great story this is!

The ForumCon team asked me to participate in the event and they also asked, for purposes of this blog post and for context at ForumCon, to share TextureMedia’s story and how a forum blossomed into a brand connecting a community of beauty influencers with global and domestic hair care companies.

Full disclosure, first things first, before I am asked the inevitable question.

I have straight hair — naturally straight.

And I work with a company all about curly hair attitudes, purchasing behavior, discussions, products, stylists, salons, care, styling… you name it. I have learned a lot and continue to be in awe of the engagement of this community and their real life tales previously unbeknownst to me.

I embrace my naturally straight texture while appreciating what we offer, which is a forum for people to tell their stories.

  • Stories of straight-haired moms adopting children with curly hair and having no idea how to care for it

  • Stories of being called names as a child or not being taken seriously at work by bosses who equate curly hair texture with unprofessionalism

  • Journals of lifelong product journeys in search of the “Holy Grail” product that will finally help someone love their curls

  • Transitioning tales told by women who have used chemical relaxers their entire life and who have made the big decision to “go natural.”

These people talk about real and important experiences to them. People with wavy, curly, and oily hair spend a lot of time and money figuring out how to wear, care, style, condition and showcase their tresses.

TextureMedia’s members across NaturallyCurly and CurlyNikki help people better understand their hair texture, to make more informed purchasing and stylist decisions, while also giving them a forum to support, share and learn.

Below is our infographic, albeit almost one year old, that scopes the “textured hair” population and why it’s important.  Hair care is a big market (tens of $Billions), but as mentioned earlier, it’s not just about product.  It’s about self-esteem and empowerment.  There are good hair days and bad hair days, and that impacts how you carry yourself throughout that day.

Naturally-Curly-Infographic

How did all this start?

In 1998, Michelle Breyer and Gretchen Heber, two curly-haired Austin American-Statesman journalists, decided to take online their angst over the lack of hair care products and services in the market for people with curly hair.

1998. 16 years ago.

No mobile. No Google or Google Fiber. No blogs. No Internet access in cafes or in many households.

“You’ve Got Mail” was a big hit in 1998.

It was early Internet days, and a great time to start a website — being first to market with an idea and concept.  Michelle and Gretchen’s intent was more altruistic than business-focused.  They desired to create a place for people like them – curlies who were all but ignored in beauty magazines and salons. As far as revenue, they thought they would make a killing selling curl empowerment t-shirts.

The result was NaturallyCurly.com, the first online hair community via a v-bulletin board for people to share favorite products, ingredients and hair stories.

And it grew.

People from all over the world discovered NaturallyCurly via organic search and shared their hair stories too!  The early fans told more people about NaturallyCurly, and word-of-mouth marketing virally spread the word.

CurlTalk on NaturallyCurly became a true forum for discussion and genesis for other brand extensions.

Members discussed favorite products and ingredients, and even shared recipes for products they were creating at home.

The community and grass-roots product manufacturers eventually encouraged the two co-founders to sell products with limited to no distribution but that everyone was reading about — early “cult favorites”. CurlMart became an e-commerce site that moved from a co-founder’s back bedroom to the thriving business it is today, a curated boutique where products are vetted and endorsed by community before hitting its shelves.

NaturallyCurly grew beyond a v-bulletin board, adding community-generated product and stylist databases, articles, photos, eventually videos — even a Frizz Forecast that predicts a customized frizz forecast dependent upon hair type, location and weather.

An earlier member of CurlTalk and 2013 author of Better Than Good Hair, Nikki Walton, separately created her NaturallyCurly-inspired natural hair blog, CurlyNikki, which became part of the TextureMedia family in 2010.

In 2011, TextureTrends was born, annual market intelligence that truly leverages real people insights around hair care, attitudes, products and behaviors. It was the result of the dozens of questions we were fielding from brands about the what, why, how much and drivers to purchase for our community. I especially love TextureTrends because it is 160 pages of community feedback that we can share with our hair care brands and partners to create products our community wants, with ingredients they trust — and helps these brands understand where, why and how our community is influenced to buy.  We truly are a community of experts and influencers.

Our big decisions and organic growth stem from listening to our dynamic community, which has pushed above 2.7 million uniques in size this year.

2013.

There are hundreds of hair care brands and thousands of stylists out there specifically targeting this market — the world of curls and texture.

We talk internally about “engaging and empowering the beauty influencer” as our mission and role.

What role does your forum play or what community does it serve?

I would love to hear your examples of successful features or ideas generated from community feedback.

I look forward to more discussion on June 19!

World’s Shortest Online Community Quiz

For our first blog on our sparkly new website, we asked one of ForumCon’s favorites, Dave Cayem, to share a little community moderation and management knowledge. We let him take it from here. Starting with a little pop quiz. 

Does your company “get” online community? Here’s a simple test:

What do you call it when somebody complains about your product or service in an online community?

a.) A problem

b.) An opportunity

If your answer was “b,” congratulations. You get it.

It’s amazing how often people forget that an online community is a group of real, live people. Imagine you’re at a gathering  – let’s say you’re at a cocktail party — and some guy says something bad about your company. In response, you quickly hustle him out of the room, then return, wave your hands around, and insist everybody forget what was just said.

Stupid, right?

When you delete a critical comment from a forum, you’re engaging in the online version of the same behavior.

More importantly, you’re missing an opportunity.

Let’s go back to the cocktail party.

Instead of trying to cover up this guy’s critical comment, let’s say you have a friendly drink with Mr. Complainer, find out what he’s sore about, and make it right. Not only have you won over the guy that was badmouthing your company, you’ve done it in front of a room full of party-goers who now think you and your company are pretty swell.

When you see disparaging comments about your company in an online community, seize the opportunity to impress the crowd.

Generally speaking, you see two kinds of complaints about companies in online communities.

One goes something like this: “That company screwed me.”

In cases like this, acknowledge the customer’s frustration. Ask for details so they know they’re being listened to. Do what you can to make it right. Most of all, be open and honest. If the customer’s demands are unreasonable, politely explain that you can’t do what they are demanding of you and why. But if you can fix the problem, tell the customer publicly in the community (being careful to avoid disclosing any personal or sensitive information) and wow the crowd.

The other type of complaint is more vague, like “I hear that company stinks.”

When responding to comments like these, seek specifics without  being confrontational. Skip the schoolyard “Says who?!” and go with something like “I’m with the company and I’m surprised to hear that. Is there a problem or concern I can help you with?” If there is a specific issue, address it head-on. If the comment was unproven innuendo, that will become evident when the response sounds like “Well, I heard it from a guy, who heard it from…” Or when there’s no response at all.

Deleting complaints makes your company look bad. It leaves the impression that you’re afraid to engage with your customers, or worse, that you’ve got something to hide.

Don’t be that company.