I recently had the opportunity to talk with Laura Buchanan of Future Shop Canada. Laura is the Social Community Specialist at Future Shop where she caretakes the vibrant Future Shop Community – an online tech enthusiast community for Canadians.
As part of the community, she and Future Shop recently launched the Tech Blog. The Tech Blog is written by six seven Canadian tech bloggers (including our own Brad Grier) – sharing their reviews of technology and consumer electronics. Laura shared her perspective on the community, blog and other social media outlets.
OD: Can you tell us a bit about the impetus for launching the Tech Blog as part of the Future Shop Community?
LB: When the Community was launched two years ago, it was solely made up of the discussion forums – a place where Canadians could come and talk about technology. The Community’s mantra is “connect share & learn” – and the Tech Blog fits perfectly with this culture. There’s something for everyone, be you a tech enthusiast or a total n00b.
The Tech Blog gets updated daily by our team with product reviews, how-tos, breaking tech news & general tech talk.
OD: How did you decide which bloggers to include – in particular, factors like using independent bloggers rather than Future Shop employees or that the blogging team skews heavily male.
LB: Actually, two of our bloggers are Future Shop employees (klausboedker & TimR), but neither of them are writing as “Future Shop representatives”. They’re both subject matter experts in their fields (Klaus is a photographer and Tim is very well-versed in movies & music). This isn’t because we disagree with what they have to say, but we wanted the blog to be a space where the bloggers and commentators alike could share their opinions freely.
I did all the recruiting for the blog and hand-picked the team based on their areas of expertise, their blogging skills and their enthusiasm for technology. There was definitely no deliberateness in my decision to not have female representation on the blog team – none of the female candidates were the right fit, it’s as simple as that. Some of our most respected community members are female, we have female moderators, I’m female – and we will have female bloggers in the future.
OD: We have a number of marketers in our readership who might be considering starting a blogging program. Can you tell us a bit about how your blogging program is structured? Do you compensate your bloggers? Do you loan or give them products to review?
LB: The blogging program is structured in a way to ensure that there is a constant flow of new articles being posted – the killer of any blog is staleness. All we have asked of our bloggers is that they comply to the Community Guidelines. We don’t edit them before they post (we do have a team of moderators who review their blogs to make sure they comply with guidelines), but they’re free to publish what they want.
Our bloggers are compensated – either monetarily or through exposure. We frequently feature them throughout the Community, on the retail site, in our newsletter – their names and faces are everywhere we can put them.
Getting the bloggers products to review has become much easier lately as everyone is recognizing how awesome our bloggers are! Even with the “these bloggers are independent of Future Shop and might not give your product the most amazing review you’ve ever seen”, companies are getting excited about getting their products in the hands of the team. The shift over the past 2 months has been significant.
OD: While your Tech Blog has been active for less than two months, are there any “lessons learned” that you can share with us so far? What has been the biggest surprise?
LB: The biggest surprise has been the role that Twitter has played in bringing about awareness. The collective reach of our bloggers & the Future Shop Twitter account (twitter.com/FS_Connect) is well over 10,000 followers. The bloggers do a great job of sharing their work through here – I actually Re-Tweet them pretty frequently, they Re-Tweet each other as well, so the links get shared with quite a large audience and I really think that this has helped with the success that we’ve seen so far with the Tech Blog.
OD: Future Shop has three Twitter accounts and you are managing twitter.com/FS_Connect. How does Twitter fit into the Future Shop’s community strategy overall?
LB: The strategy behind the community is quite simple: engagement. Twitter helps to bring the conversations happening in the Community to a larger audience and allows us to join in the conversation happening on Twitter. I see Twitter as an extension of the Community, where users can check out the blog highlights and hot discussion topics through our twitter feed and join in when one of interest catches their eye. They don’t have to come to the Community, browse the boards to see if there’s something of interest, they can stay up to date on the freshest content 24/7 simply by following us.
OD: What are the primary metrics that you’re using to gauge the success of tactics like the Tech Blog and your Twitter accounts?
LB: For the Tech Blog, we really look at the level of engagement that it brings – pageviews, comments and kudos (which are like virtual hi-fives that community members give to each other for a job well done). For Twitter, we look at number of followers, re-tweets, @ replies, how many clicks a URL gets. None of this is an exact science and is pretty much meaningless unless you have goals and an idea of what “success” looks like for your company.
OD: Do you have any advice for our readers who are trying to find ways to keep their communities fresh and engaged?
LB: Give them a reason to come back and recognize your superusers! We do a weekly Top 10 list where we call-out the top contributors of the week – it’s a simple idea, but every week members come back, congratulate each other and participate in a bit of (friendly) trash talking – it’s a great way to bring together members from all over the Community and allow them to reconnect and build a rapport with each other. Another great way to get your Community engaged is to ask for feedback (and actually use it) – this gets them invested in the success and motivates them to keep coming back.