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Crowdfunding: Beyond Fundraising

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From traditional fundraising and peer-to-peer loans to the emerging models of consumer-to-business and marketplace loans, the potential of crowdfunding is seemingly limitless.

A Needs Business

Crowdfunding can be thought of, simply, as the process of pooling funds together to support a cause, creative project or even a product. While this idea is not new it certainly has been scaled to fit current needs. It is, in fact, a “needs” business. The industry was born out of necessity following the 2008 economic collapse when heightened restrictions in the financial sector made traditional loan vehicles more difficult to obtain.

Expanding the Scope to Business Sector

The relatively new and innovative models of crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending have led to explosive growth over in the US over the last several years increasing the number of platforms, from 191 to 375. Globally, the numbers are much higher. The marketplace has taken notice and many sites are now beginning their foray into business sectors.

Mitigating Risk

When crowdfunding a business, experts mitigate higher risks by leveraging certain assets, making investing in a business attractive even to novice crowdfunders. This may be accomplished by trading or purchasing invoices and other equity-based transaction models. Many crowdfunding websites use new forms of data aggregation, in proprietary ways to discover the creditworthiness of applicants, further reducing monetary risks to funders.

Exciting Potential

For some, raising capital for a startup or being an important early investor in a creative endeavor is more about the thrill than the return. However, as crowdfunding sites learn to meld the altruistic experience with potential for profit, more investors this burgeoning industry.

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Relationships and the 6 “R’s”: the Foundation and Keys for Community Management

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People are the foundation of and the reason for community, so how better to grow yours than by reaching out to new people and strengthening involvement with member you already have? Capitalizing on both well-established and new relationships lays a strong foundation for future growth.

And incorporating the following six important “R’s” into your growth strategy sets your community firmly on that foundation.

1. Reach Out

Reaching out to new people adds numbers to your community, but more than that, it brings in fresh ideas and energy. Purposeful networking, casual conversations, and specially planned outreach events are all good ways to reach out and boost numbers.

2. Reconnect 

Once attracted to your community, new recruits need grounding and intentional contacts. Setting up specific mentoring opportunities connects new members with well-established members, ensuring continued interest for both and improving retention.

3. Respect

From the quietest to the most vocal, each voice deserves an attentive audience. Community members who see their ideas consistently considered and incorporated feel respected, keeping them engaged and motivated.

4. Respond

How better to include people and improve than to elicit feedback from the community and take action based on their ideas and experience? Not every idea is a good idea, but every member is an important member and putting as many ideas into practice as possible shows that.

5. Revise

Mentoring and involvement looking good? Keep going. Thinking you have arrived is the quickest way to demise while continually looking for ways to change things up, improve, and expand maintains interest, attracts attention, and demonstrates vitality.

6. Risk

From new project ideas to new outreach tactics, taking educated risks involves new people and attracts even more. Not every new endeavor yields profitable or positive results, but avoiding risks will certainly result in stagnation, halting growth and contributing to the deterioration of the foundation you so painstakingly laid.

Conclusion

This brings us full circle to the first step: out-reach. Community growth will always include both bringing in new people and ensuring the continued engagement of those already a part. Constantly taking risks to accomplish both aspects leads to growth, both in numbers, depth, and strength.

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Dedicated Community Management, the Key to Taking Your Branded Community to the Next Level

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Every business owner, CEO or executive board would love to have a customer base as loyal as the online and offline communities that surround brands like Harley Davidson and Apple. For these customers, money is no object. In many cases, neither is time or a personal life. These customers will stand in line overnight just to get dibs on early releases of new products.

These customers simply must buy the products, the accessories and even a lot of the promotional merch. In addition, you would literally have to pay some of these customers to stop talking about the brand they love whenever the topic comes up.

How does this happen for a company? Can it happen for your company?

With the SocialEngine Platform anyone can build a community. However, the question still remains, how do you then get customers to get excited about the community you’ve built and about your brand?

What is Brand Loyalty at Its Core?

Brand loyalty is when a customer turns to you for everything related to your brand, niche or industry. Take Harley Davidson for example. A brand loyal Harley Davidson customer would contact the brand, visit a local retailer or turn to a brand forum or social media platform for:

  • General help and advice regarding motorcycle products,
  • Service recommendations related to motorcycle products,
  • Advice on buying new motorcycles, used motorcycles and motorcycle related products,
  • Places to find for sale new and used motorcycles and motorcycle related products, and
  • Resources like book recommendations, links to videos , upcoming conference announcements, local motorcycle repair and maintenance classes, biker events in their area and general information on the cycling lifestyle

These customers wouldn’t consider contacting Honda, visiting a local Honda retailer or turning to a Honda brand forum or social media platform for the same information in a million years.

Why?

When you break it down this way, it’s easy to see the structure of brand loyalty. It’s also easy to see how to structure your brand in the same way from the beginning.

Sprout Social conducted a study in late 2015. They discovered that on average, businesses were ignoring over 80% of their customers’ requests via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Many of these same retailers are likely still scratching their heads, hiring experts and conducting board meetings to figure out how to increase brand loyalty.

Brand loyalty doesn’t come from one thing. Though you might hear people say, “Well it comes from …”

  • Positioning yourself as an expert,
  • Designing a stellar product line or offering an excellent service,
  • Providing good customer service, or
  • Making sure to engage with customers via social media

Yes. All of those things do play a part and will likely create a few loyal customers on their own. However, true brand loyalty on the largest scale is when your customers consider your brand a resource. You are the place they go for all their needs related to your niche or industry. Once you take the appropriate steps to become that for your target customer base, they will come to you.

According to Dictionary.Com, a resource is:

“A source of supply, support, or aid, especially one that can be readily drawn upon when needed. “

  • Who do you need to hire?
  • What type of satellite branches do you need to open?
  • What type of content do you need to publish online?
  • What kind of free physical books do you need to publish and distribute?
  • What types of events or classes do you need to host?
  • What do you need to do …

… to be a true resource for your ideal customer?

Therefore, your approach to community building and community management should start somewhere like this:

Ask us anything regarding our niche, (within legal or ethical reason of course). We’ve built this platform for you to ask or say anything. Pour your heart out. Never stop talking to us. We care. We want to hear it. We will find the answers you need or compensate you for your trouble in some way with free stuff. Really, ask us anything.  Contact us anytime day or night.

That’s all we’ve got for now! As always, if you are feeling inspired to get out there and build your own community, we encourage you to check out SocialEngine. Let us help you make your dreams of building your own social network a reality.

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August Community Roundup

Hey everybody! Here’s a quick recap of what is happening in the SocialEngine Community in the month of August.

New Add-ons and Updates:

Personal bookmarks – This plugin allows your users to add their favorite pages, into special tab.

Advanced Events Plugin – With this plugin your users can create both online (webinars) and offline (having location) Events on your website.

Advanced Events : Videos Extension – Advanced Events Videos Extension enabled to you upload Videos for the events on your website. With this extension, you would be able to upload from Youtube (via Single URL and Playlists), Vimeo, Daily Motion, From URL, From Embed Code and My Computer.

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Challenges – this plugin forces your users to return to your social network and update his progress on new challenges.

Zip Code Radius Search Plugin – This plugin will add a zip code radius search to your Social Engine members.

Translation Plugin – This plugin contains two translation widgets. The Google translate widget and the “text translation” widget gives you the ability to integrate a text translation panel into your site.

Community Owner Spotlight:

Viralrumble.com – Viral news from around the internet!

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Beneboard.com – Aggregate for news with a positive spin.

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6 Community Management Tips for Your Social Accounts

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There’s a lot of talk these days about community building as marketing strategy. One of the main components is growing a social media following. The same marketing and community management best practices hold true for most every social site from Facebook to YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, and beyond.

Here are our 6 community management tips for your social media accounts.

1. Create a Community Persona

Social media is personal and as such it’s important that your customers feel they are interacting with real people. Let your social media team members show a little bit of their own personalities – real or cultivated. Depending on the company voice they could be professional experts, a fun friend, or anything in between. You may want them to sign off posts with their name or a team name.

2. Maintain Company Branding

While it’s great to have fun with social accounts, it’s important to maintain branding throughout. Never post something that doesn’t fit with the company mission. Don’t misrepresent the brand or post something publicly that wouldn’t be sent privately.

3. Be Responsive

Community management is actually customer service in disguise! It’s vital to respond to every comment, good and bad, every time someone posts on your social accounts. Thank customers for praise, ohh and ahh over their photos and videos, respond to any needs just as you would if they contacted the company directly. Stick strictly to customer service policy when it comes to negative comments.

4. Deliver Exciting Content

This is why you have social accounts in the first place! Mix up videos, photos, links, product/service information, and interesting internal or external content that fits your brand and community. If you generate your own content like videos or blogs (and you should), this is it’s time to shine! But don’t be afraid to post content from other companies or sites. As long as they’re not a competitor!

5. Encourage Community Engagement

This may be the most important aspect of community management. Ask questions in posts. Ask for help or opinions. Set up calls to action for photos and videos. Host contests and post polls. Every time someone interacts with your page or posts it will show in their own feed and is spread to their friends and contacts. It’s essentially free advertising, and it’s vital in growing your following.

6. Try New Things

Don’t be afraid to mix things up! Try a new hashtag, change cover photos, sign off posts differently, play with post length, timing, and frequency. Social media is always changing and it’s easy to get left behind. Staying creative and new will energize your community and your employees.

Good stuff right? We hope you learned a bunch and encourage you to get out there and apply these tips to your own network. Feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts or tips on how to best manage your accounts.

As always, if you are feeling inspired to get out there and build your own community, we encourage you to check out SocialEngine. Let us help you make your dreams of building your own social network a reality.

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5 Most Important Features Of A Modern CMS

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A great social network relies on presentation to draw people in. Poor presentation is always noticed, and it will hurt your following. If you want to build a social network and enjoy the benefits of a having an organic marketing engine, it must fit with your organization’s branding.

Choosing the right content management system (CMS) will make all the difference. An effective CMS provides all the tools to build your social engine without overwhelming all its users. The following are the 5 most important features that a modern CMS should provide.

1) Open Source Code

Most code is closed source or proprietary, and cannot be modified by anyone but the owners or creators. Open source code can be legally modified by anyone.

Maybe this seems unimportant, but even if you don’t know code, someone you know or can hire will. You can modify a CMS with open source code to fit your needs, no matter what they are, making this a vital feature of any CMS.

2) Modular Structure

Every CMS comes with tons of features, some of which are unnecessary for your social engine. These extra features can confuse clients or slow down your network. It’s better if extra features come from plug-ins that you then add or remove as needed to reduce confusion and keep the site running smoothly.

3) Easy Content Management

Open source code is nice to have, but it shouldn’t be necessary for every task. Simple actions like tweaking menu options, slightly shifting the layout, or adding an image or post should be simple for admins to complete. Make sure the CMS you choose makes it easy for admins to make small changes without learning code.

4) Permission Control

Once your social network has grown, it’ll be too much for one person to moderate and maintain. You’ll need moderators to handle spam comments, add additional posts, and more. Some networks even need levels between admin and moderator or below them, so a good CMS will allow the admin to add new user levels or adjust powers specifically for each user.

The ability to add users with varying levels of power over the site is vital. Never choose a CMS that lacks this feature.

5) Extended Plugins & Themes

Developers can’t foresee every need. A community of modders and designers usually springs up around a program to fill voids left by a busy developer. The right CMS will have a robust modding community with plenty of extended plugins and themes to choose from.

It’s also important to note that an open source CMS will naturally have a more active community, since plugins operate smoother when the creator knows the code they’re adding to on a deeper level.

Thanks for reading. We hope you took away some new ideas. Feel free to comment below with any thoughts you might have. We’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in starting your own social network using a platform that totally meets all these suggestions, check out SocialEngine. We think you will really like what you see.

Posted in Tips and Tutorials | 1 Comment

5 Types of Hashtags and When To Use Them

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Hashtags are fantastic marketing tools and fickle beasts that can destroy a carefully laid plan. As with every community building based marketing strategy, it takes a lot of work to make hashtags appear natural. Plan ahead and create hashtag guidelines for your company with specific tags and a little room to improvise. Here are 5 of our favorite hashtag categories and some ways to use them.

1. Branded

These are specific to your company and products. A simple hashtag of your company name is an easy place to start. Depending on your company you may want to include departmental or product hashtags. (Eg. #COMPANYcustomerservice, #COMPANY_PRODUCTNAME)

Use these every time. Every single time! At least one branded hashtag should be included on your website at all times (and more on specific product pages as needed). Also in every social post, e-communication, and on digital and printed marketing materials.

2. Promotional

Company or product line wide promotions should have their own hashtags. Either expand upon a branded hashtag or build a new one that focuses more on the specific promotion.

Popular examples of promotional hashtags include #ShareACoke and #PutACanOnIt from RedBull.

These should be used through every channel you are using to spread awareness about your promotion.

3. General

Keep track of popular general hashtags in your space. For example, food brands may want to use #food or #yummy on a regular basis. Local companies should pick up city or state based hashtags. With a little searching, local restaurants may find tags like #eatinCITY or #CITYfarmtotable. Instagram is the best place to search for new general hashtags.

These hashtags will be most valuable to you when used on Instagram. Facebook is still a hit-or-miss space when it comes to tags but occasional use can be effective. Peppering in on Twitter when you have space is always a good idea.

4. Trending

These can be tricky to incorporate but it’s important to keep an eye on Twitter wide trending hashtags so you can jump on applicable ones when they appear. Depending on your company voice you may want to join in on hashtag games presented by TV shows or late night talk show hosts.

Stick to solely social use for these and stay away from incorporating them into sales pitches. It’s important to join the trending community without appearing to capitalize on it. Modern customers can be quite sensitive to this.

5. Inspirational/Comical

Have a silly phrase you always use around the office? Posting a fun or beautiful picture? Make a hashtag! Be sure to stay within the structure of your defined company personality, but never forget it’s supposed to be fun!

Use on social and potentially published employee pages where you can help foster relationships between employees and customers.

We hope this quick hashtag overview has got you thinking about ways you can make social tags work for you. Be sure to check your social analytics on a regular basis to see what’s working. Happy tagging!

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Five Steps to a Successful Branded Community

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Companies wishing to create a community bond between themselves and their consumers should consider branding their businesses online. A branded community is marketing focused on nurturing the attachment a customer can experience towards a product or brand. Below are steps to ensure building a successful branded community.

  1. Don’t look at your branded community as a marketing strategy, but as a business strategy. 
    • Recognize it as an opportunity to engage the consumer in what your business wide goals are. Impress them with your brand message. Let them know who you are and what your business stands for.
  2. Engage the customer. 
    • Get your community involved in your business. Let them be creative and express themselves too. Lego, for instance, have asked their community why they love legos and got an enthusiastic response. So far, consumers have been sharing the love by building lego monuments, making fan commercials and blog articles about legos.
  3. Do not try to mold your brand around a specific consumer. 
    • It will serve you and your company better if you remain diverse. You’ll be able to expand the marketability of your business if you broaden your market. Alienating any consumer will limit opportunities to expand the approachability of your brand and others joining your community.
  4. Let the visitors on your brand site interact.
    • Communities cannot grow if people cannot approach one another to talk, forge friendships, and strengthen bonds. Establish message boards and other areas where followers can joke around with each other and discuss their love for your brand. Let them chat in real time, create their own forums, and encourage offline social events to meet up. This will increase loyalty for your brand and popularity.
  5. Don’t run away from conflicts in your community. 
    • Sometimes a healthy rivalry can make your brand not only more interesting but also more versatile to the consumer. The popular Campaign for Real Beauty” by Dove campaign is a great example of this. It brought real women together to speak out about idealized beauty goals. Dove not only unified women, but they bolstered their community brand by welcoming an “out” group in marketing to their community.

As you can see, creating a branded community isn’t a difficult process. By embracing the steps listed above companies have widened their marketing opportunities, increased their reputations and boosted the demand of their products. To connect to a branded community is to ensure the longevity of any business. Embrace success today. Embrace the branded community.

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5 Advantages of a Custom Social Network

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Social media is a fast-growing segment of online interaction in almost all demographics. Everyone from teenagers to senior adults is participating on social media in some fashion. However, there are problems inherent with using large social media sites to interact with other people online. These problems include lack of privacy, topic focus and difficulty with in-depth discussions.

A custom social network can be a solution to many of these problems, and it is also a great way to create a specialized community for a niche topic. Here are 5 reasons to create a custom social network:

1. Closed Community

If your network is designed for a specific community such as students of a university, club members or teachers at an elementary school, then a custom social network is ideal. The network will only be open to your closed community and you can have discussions that only those members can see.

2. Privacy

A custom social network has better privacy control than sites such as Facebook. Even though Facebook has privacy measures, there are still ways to get around many of them. A custom social network would not be indexed or searchable on the internet unless you wanted it to be.

3. Focused Topic

It is difficult to have focused discussions on open networks because anyone can join the conversation. On a custom social network, members can have a tightly focused discussion about a niche topic that only members are interested in.

4. Building a Community

If you are building a community around a project, organization or group, a custom social network gives you a way to interact with others without having to use email or phone. Everything from the project is in one place, making it easy to access for everyone working on it.

5. Branding

Custom social networks allow you to use your own branding to market your company or organization. You can use your own colors, logo and sometimes even have your own ads.

Posted in Tips and Tutorials | 1 Comment

July Community Roundup

Hey everybody! Here’s a quick recap of what is happening in the SocialEngine Community in the month of July.

New Add-ons and Updates:

Advanced Blog Plugin – This plugin provides advanced features for writing blogs on your websites – custom Publish date, custom URL for blogs, location, multiple photo upload, reviews, etc.

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Reactions and Stickers Plugin – This plugin enables a user to like activity feeds with different reactions. Reactions will be available under the Like button, along with Like button Thus hovering a mouse over, Like button will display all the available reactions and user can choose one reaction amongst all, including Like.

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Community Owner Spotlight:

Blisspot.com – Check out this community dedicated to all the aspects of living well!

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Costawomen.com – A free Community for Women living in, or planning on Moving to Spain

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Helpbuildmy.biz – Meet entrepreneurs, investors, designers, developers, marketing experts and more! Help Build my Biz is an online community for everyone looking to build a business from the ground up.Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.40.00 AM

Posted in Add-On Highlights, Client Spotlight, Developer Spotlight | 2 Comments