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Is running a branded online community risky business?



Leaving your high school aged child home alone for the weekend is risky.


Just ask Joel’s parents...


“I don't remember giving permission for a party, Joel.

Honey, can you hear me?

There's nothing wrong with having friends over.

Just use your best judgment. We trust you.”  

(Voiceover - "Trust." Seems to me if there were any logic to our language "trust" would be a four-letter word. The evening worked out well. We had a good cash flow.)


Choosing to manage an online community for your fans, customers, prospects, colleagues or partners shouldn’t be risky business.


Yes, I know that stories about trolls, mean reviews, and competitor snooping can make you think twice. But you’re missing out on a major opportunity if you turn your back on your community.


After all, they’re out there, talking about you, whether you’ve decided to create a space for them or not. Don’t let fear stop you from engaging with your community.



How to Create a Branded Community while Protecting Your Brand


“What if a troll comes and says mean things about us?”


First of all, if your brand is made up of human beings, you’ll probably have hurt feelings. But then you can take steps to determine if the mean things are true, and whether they warrant action.


There’s no way to protect against someone telling you that you suck, but there are steps you can take to deal with negative comments. Transparency and human response go a long way toward taking the sting out of critical posts.


“What if someone posts naked pictures on our site?”


User-generated content should always be subject to Ronald Reagan’s favorite Russian saying, “trust, but verify.” Allow your visitors to share content, but always make sure someone is monitoring in the background. And provide tools so that your members can report inappropriate content when necessary. 


“What if my competitors join the site and spy on me?”


That’s why God invented private communities. If your community content is full of things you don’t want your competitors to see, lock the front door and vet the members when they register. Better yet, use single sign-on and tap into your existing customer database for logins.


“We’re in a regulated industry. The lawyers won’t let us have a community.”


Listen, the legal team has a tough job. They’re just trying to protect you while following the gazillion different regulations that might apply to you and your community members. Why not bring them into the process at the very beginning, so that they can help you build a community that meets the standards, rather than seeking approval after it’s live? My friend Gigi Peterkin of the NephCure Foundation offered that fantastic insight based on her experience with communities in regulated industries. 


You may hear the fears expressed above, or different ones, when you start to build your community strategy. Don't let that deter you from using one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. An online community can be a valuable resource for your customers, partners, and fans.



This blog post was written as part of the Spin Sucks Scavenger Hunt. I hope you're playing could win some cool prizes. Welcome new visitors!


As an extra bonus, purchase a copy of Spin Sucks the book, one of the best resources on PR and communications I’ve read in the last couple of years. If you buy a copy before March 4 and email a copy of your receipt to [email protected], they’ll send you a little package of surprises, including a sticker, a personalized/signed nameplate for your book, and other fun goodies.


Disclosure: I was given an advance free digital copy of this book for review purposes; however that in no way altered this blog post or my previous review. My personal story of guerrilla digital PR is mentioned in the book.


I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, or connect with me on Twitter.


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Roho? I think it’s time to connect! I have gorgeous roses still abloom and think fondly when I look at them.

Do you think message mapping would be a good exercise for you and hubby for your business? Gratis, Girl.


Jayme Soulati
Soulati Media, Inc.
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> On Feb 19, 2015, at 8:00 AM, Social Strata <[email protected]> wrote:
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