Liveblog | Building an Online Community: Balancing, Monetizing and Inspiring!

Building community is necessary for the success of your blog. You need to not only inspire your community but balance it with a monetizing strategy. Join us for Building an Online Community: Balancing, Monetizing and Inspiring with Kate Brown, Community Manager at The Daily Burn , Christy Mensi of Shrinking Jeans, Jacqueline Carly of Fiatrella and Julie Anderson from Chubby Mommy Running Club.

Julie: Jacqueline wasn’t able to make it today she’s in the hospital. (Tweet her at #fittygetwell). She’s going to moderate and be part of the panel as well. They’re going to talk about how to build community for sites of different sizes, how to take your blog to the next level. Christy has a medium sized community. Kate is a community manager for a community with over a million users. They’ll talk about ways to engage your community. How to do it with your team, technology live events. They’ll also talk a little about using press to build up the community and how to monetize.

Kate: Community director for a site called Daily Burn with over 1.5 million members. They’re a fitness technology company with 3 top iPhone apps. Global community. Most users come into the community through their applications. Just launched Daily Burn life.

Christy: Site started small as a few friends who wanted to lose weight and have a place for supporting other women. They grew through bringing on great writers and having challenges. Most people come to the site because they are visible on twitter and Facebook and through other blogs.

Julie: Started her blog 6 years ago. Does marketing and business development. People started reading her blog and wanted to do a real club. She’s a causal runner but uses her blog as a way for weight loss. Uses humor. Came to Fitbloggin’ last year to figure out how to grow her blog. Her readership is growing up and she’s learning. Using Meetup.com to build her community nationally.

Julie: Ways to engage the community?

Christy: The main way is by being funny. Try to have fun and make weight loss (the main focus) fun because it’s hard. Women and men don’t get the support they need from their friends and family so they go looking for it online. Use twitter a lot, use hash tags. Do weight loss and fitness challenges. Did Team In Training – a team of 15 raise money for the Leukemia society. They have two focuses now – weight loss and fitness.

Kate: They were a start up, but money was given to them to build more cool tools. Nerds will rule the planet! Daily Burn was founded by two computer programmers to record their workouts. Founded in the geek community. Engaged users by building tools for the geek users to get in shape. Here are some important to think about tools: Instagram – free app on your iPhone that you can use personally to share special moments in life. Have fun trading photos. Tumblr– awesome for liking and sharing. Daily Burns apps- track your exercise. Meals Now App- take a photo of what you eat and share it on Facebook and Twitter. Ultimate nerd revenge- yes, everyone does want to see what you had for lunch on Twitter. Get out there and look for integrative tools. For instance, Punch Love- a plugin for your website to give people rewards and points for visting your website. You can have partnerships with companies and give away prizes.

Julie: Engages community through socials – using meetup.com. It’s free for users. She met with owners of meetup.com in NY. At the local level she does a social meet up- for example a shoe fitting and form meet up at a local running store with food from a local cafe and Coconut Bliss ice cream. Companies talk about their product and it’s an interesting fun party – networking and finding running partners. The cool part about meetups is that she has something for the press to write about – the newspaper was there as well as the radio station and TV. Local press. Leveraging your community to get PR through real time events.

Julie: What about brand evangelists?

Kate: Is anyone at the point where their community it so larger you can’t communicate with everyone?  If you ever get to the point where you need to start scaling that’s a great problem to have. You have to hand over the reigns to some of your most excited members so they can handle some of the duties. One step that she took was taking the most excited people from the community and making them moderators 4-5 moderators for Daily Burn.

Christy: That’s the point we are at right now.

Kate: You have to have trust that the person is going to take care of your brand.

Julie: Facebook is a really effective way to build a community. Facebook fan pages are a really effective way to communicate. The people on Facebook click through more so than on Twitter. A lot of back and forth communication from people all over the country. Trained for her first 1/2 marathon and posted about it on Facebook and people started posting what they were doing.

Christy: Does Twitter parties, has an online clothes chat and Twork out – tweet a workout. Watch the Biggest Loser when it’s on. They also have a NING network which is kind of a safe place to chat. Facebook is one we are trying to leverage a little bit more. I’m more into Twitter.

Kate: We have 19,000 fans on Facebook. Don’t underestimate the power of facebook likes. When you click “like” you’re participating in marketing. If you’re using WordPress get the social plugins on your site. Thought most of the traffic would be from Twitter, but it’s actually from Facebook. There’s more interaction and the photo comes up as well. Uses Facebook comments on their blog because it’s improved their likes and they know it’s a real person. Don’t like mean people, Facebook comments cut down on the negative comments.

Christy: 900 fans

Julie: Has her Twitter feed go up to her personal Facebook account. Tries to space it out a little bit so her friends don’t get spammed. Tweet the links out throughout the day. The fact – gets hits if she tweets it out. Has had good luck with twitpic– people are interested in her hair so she take pictures of hair and gets traffic from it. Leveraged it on her blog by doing stunts – one about dying her hair. She had a contest by letting readers vote as to whether she should dye her hair or not. That really took off. Other blogs posted it. Mrs. G posted it. Hundreds of people voted. Leveraged that into getting my hair done for free. It was a great traffic generator. Build community with stunts.

Julie: Monetizing and mining your own data so that you can go to brand you want to advertise on your blog.

Kate: Daily burn has a subscription based product – you can be a free member or subscribe. To get large sponsors they mined their own data. Worked with a PR company to find the top searched food terms and top exercises. Millions and millions of data points. Subway was the top-searched brand on the site so we called the company to get a sponsorship deal with Subway. Through Google analytics you have access to what people are finding your site through. You can see what topics people are searching for and leverage that.

Christy: Our top post is our Couch to 5K review and Polar heart rate monitor review. “I do need to find Polar and talk to them.” You can go to the company and say people are searching my site for your company. When she started out trying to monetizing she gravitated to ad networks -BlogHer, Clever Girls, Real Girls Network. Go to their sites and fill out their questionnaires to become an affiliate. It’s all based on your traffic. In the beginning they didn’t make much. As you grow your site and get more traffic, the money does come in. They put together a media kit and pitch companies to sponsor things. Sending it to people who you really believe in. They have a great partnership with Click- espresso protein drinks. Saw them last year at Fitbloggin’ and they are now a sponsor. They sponsored her and Melissa to come to this conference. It starts out small. Get sponsors for Twitter parties, allow them to give away prizes. She’s worked with Subway and other companies. It brings in new readers.

Julie: She sold ads on her blog to companies. Foot Zone, a running store that does races approached me and wanted to get women her age. It’s a great partnership because they have an active site and they push out content for her and she pushes out content for them. Very successful! Look around your local community. They didn’t need her to have 50,000 hits to work with her. Think of someone you really love and approach them. She met pimpingoshoes (orthopedic) at a angel investment conference and ended up partnering with them to go to FitBloggin. She was really excited about them and passionate about it. You’d be surprised. The folks at Iron Girl contacted her and offered a wetsuit. It’s a way to build community but she wanted to do because it would force her to a triathlon. “Me in a wetsuit!!!” She went to the local yoga studio to help her get in shape for the triathlon. They did a workshop. There’s a little money, but certainly it’s enough money to make it worth her while.

Kate: “Coming from the brand, I just want to let you guys know that even if you’re not making money right out of the gate. Brands are watching what you’re doing. Even if your community isn’t big enough right now, a lot of brands know who the communities are and they’re just waiting for the right opportunity to work with you. Don’t get discouraged.”

Christy: When they know they have a challenge coming up they put together a pitch and send it to all the PR people they’ve worked with (weight watchers) and say this is what we have coming up are you interested in partnering with us. Letting them know what’s going on. Fit Bits partnered with them. They didn’t get anything monetarily form them but they were able to give back to their readers. Having a relationship with the company as well.

Julie: Questions?

Gale from Shrinking Sisters: How to get content?

Christy: Ask your loyal members to write for you or ask for guest posts. They have a running coach to post for them. Bring other people in to write.

Alicia from Poise and Parma: What do you do if there is a person that tends to rock the boat a little bit at meet-ups online and in person?

Julie: Balancing your own personal life with your blog. When she meets people in person for her running club they think they are her best friend. It gets tricky. Online, she turned on approve comments for the blog. She won’t publish comments that she doesn’t approve. On the meetup.com group she told one partner company not to actively sell themselves by spamming but they did. She sent an email asking the company to stop. They got really irritated and said, “well why am I here?” and left. Set clear guidelines. It’s like parenting.

Chrsity: Remember you can’t always please everyone. Be who you are, not what everyone wants you to be. If you have problems on your site you can post about it and maybe it will resonate with them.

Kate: Difficult people. One problem they have is that they don’t have an Andriod app yet. She started giving updates on how the progress was going and it started getting used against them. They really wanted to get the app out (released it last week) but there are still people who weren’t okay with it. They found they were focusing so much attention to the people who were being negative that they finally made a pact to focus on the people who were excited. Spending less energy on the people who are never going to be happy with what they were doing.

Another Christy from Shrinking Jeans: I’m confused about tumbler, stumble upon.

Kate: Tumblr is really useful for short bites – photos, a video short paragraphs. It’s great for sharing because people can click the heart (meaning they like it). You can do a Tumblr account as a sub brand. You could do a Tumblr behind the scenes of your life. You don’t have to use all of these sites. She likes Stumble Upon because users can find your posts in an natural way.

Julie: She’s started inspiring people. You’re showing up and doing it.

Christy: She started small and appreciated the people that she had. It’s scary as it starts to grow. Her biggest fear is that community will grow to the point where she won’t have that personal experience with everyone. Losing that is scary but having a good group of ambassadors is helpful to help handle that.

Kate: The biggest thing they do is find people who are really excited about what they are doing and have them share their story – their journey. Remember that it’s about you but it’s also about them. People want to read about things they resonate with. They sponsored Dan Shrinks on YouTube- we gave him a year free to our site. They take people who are representing the community and celebrate them and what they do. If you can find people that are representative of the message you’re trying to spread – it’s key.

Question for you guys: Are there any new bloggers here? Have you started a community? The biggest thing to think about is why do you want a community in the first place and what do you want them to do? You can make your community really special.

Julie: Thank you all so much for coming to our panel.

This session was captured by Brittany of Eating Bird Food, a blog about eating healthy and stay fit while showing that healthy food doesn’t have to be bland or boring.