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Building A Better Branded Community: Top 4 Tips

bannerThe digital age offers deeper connections between companies and consumers. Social media platforms opened the communication lines, and branded community establishment fortifies relationships. Branded communities are appealing to informed consumers who want to feel further alignment with a company or organization. Companies hosting branded communities benefit through deeper customer insight and prospect conversion. Here are the top 4 tips to building and maintaining a better branded community:

Truly Know Your Audience

To target your branded community audience, it is important to truly understand your company’s role in their life. While your mission and company pride are important, it is not enough to merely know that you value your product or cause. You must also know why your audience values your product or cause. Address your audience members in a way that is meaningful to them. Speak to them regarding issues that matter to them, and how your product or cause aligns with their lifestyles.

Engage With Questions AND Statements

Avoid only addressing your audience in announcement fashion. Be part of the conversation to add depth and further dialogue.  You should certainly answer questions as they arise, but also take time to respond to statements with additional insight, ask questions back, and keep the discussion going!

Uplift Your Advocates

You will easily identify the advocates within your branded community. These members are invaluable to your company—make sure they feel important. As in any relationship, actions are an effective way to convey your feelings. Show appreciation for your advocates through @mentions, shares, incentives, and messages! A happy advocate is a continued advocate.

A Community Is Not A Commercial

Your community will value new information from your company, but they could get that from your Facebook, Twitter, and banner ads. Information to your branded community should add depth to your company’s value and relevance. Search for positive blog posts and articles referencing your brand, and share this information to offer additional perspectives along with news and updates.

Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read up on how you can effectively build your community. Let us know if you have any questions! Also, if you have any ideas on how to start your own social network, our SocialEngine software can help you get there. Check out our free trial and see what SocialEngine can do for you.

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Gamification: the secret sauce behind wildly successful branded social communities

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Can you remember swelling with pride on seeing a “well done” sticker on an elementary school book report? Take a moment to recall how it feels (or how you imagine it would feel) when you receive a new belt in karate class from a sensei you deeply admire or your boss surprises you with a “waiter of the month” plaque after tallying up the latest round of diner response cards.

All of the above are forms of gamification. And each can be incredibly effective in generating  behaviors you want to see more of.

Using smart strategies to gamify participation in your branded social community is a no-brainer. For little or no outlay, you can earn more interaction, more social shares, more click-throughs, and ultimately, more money.

When designing your gamification strategy, it is important to understand the basic drivers that make it so effective. Once you’ve identified those drivers, it is simply a matter of customizing them to suit your particular niche.

Respect

Human beings are hard-wired to desire and derive pleasure from feeling respected, both by peers/colleagues and especially those they perceive to be in positions of power. Posts or personal emails from community leaders whose names users will instantly recognize are a good start. When a user reaches a certain number of posts, shares, or other criteria important to you, ensure that the whole community hears about it. Not only will that particular user feel respected, it will also generate desire among other members to work toward seeing a similar post with their name appearing prominently.

Recognition

Intangible but effective, customized titles or special designations for outstanding community members pack a lot of punch. Perhaps a halo appears on the avatar of community members who have donated to your nonprofit. Maybe a special graphic (e.g., a star with your company’s name ) becomes available for users to append to their sigs when they create a particularly popular post or one that has content you want to see more of. The idea make use a visible moniker to identify community members who contribute positively to your community.

Rewards

Psychologists have known for a very long time that rewards are incredibly powerful motivators. Intangible rewards can work wonders, as can more tangible goodies such as discounts on site merchandise or access to protected forums only available to a select few.

Gamifying your branded social community can unlock some pretty amazing rewards for you as a site owner. Get started today to discover it for yourself!

Posted in Tips and Tutorials | 1 Comment

3 Community Management Tips For Smooth Sailing

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In the age of the Internet, it’s now possible for us to reach out to communities of like-minded people from anywhere in the world. Whatever our interests, there are groups out there of people who share those interests, and all it takes to find them is the push of a button. However, keeping those communities safe, sane, and growing takes work. If you’re a community manager, make life easy on yourself by following these simple tips.

Tip #1: Make The Rules Fair, And Easy To Find

Every community has rules, and those rules need to be easy to find, fair to all, and applied equally across the community. As a manager, make sure everyone knows where the rules are, and ensure everyone looks at them. Additionally, when you make a ruling on someone’s behavior, point out which rule it has violated. That way people know not only that they did something wrong, but specifically what it was.

Tip #2: Listen To Feedback

Communities exist for the benefit of the members, and if something is happening that they don’t like it’s possible they’ll go elsewhere. If you want to keep your membership growing, then listen to the problems people are having, and address them accordingly. If people feel they are being listened to, and that there’s a dialogue going on, they’re much more likely to stick around. And to invite their friends to come join.

Tip #3: Don’t Scrutinize Every, Little Detail

Moderators and managers shouldn’t be like Big Brother, constantly digging into every post and conversation that happens. Let conversations happen, and give users a chance to handle things themselves. Also, let users come to you when something has grown too big to be handled. Don’t be totally hands off, but don’t turn into a disapproving school teacher threatening detention for every off-color remark that comes from the back of the classroom.

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SocialEngine Announces Anti-Piracy Commitment

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Good day!

We hope your spring has been beautiful thus far! Here at SocialEngine, we’ve been busy with some key improvements to our policies and websites. One such improvement is our commitment to fighting piracy.

Piracy, for those that are not familiar, is the illegal sharing of products – mainly digital in nature. Our product is a licensed, paid product and the fees from licenses and license renewals (when applicable) go towards helping us continue to develop our platform. Piracy is responsible for removing a substantial amount from our revenue stream which slows down our ability to give you all the new features and updates that everyone wants. As such, we are taking a much stronger stand against illegal use and distribution of our product.

In our investigations, we’ve also seen the products of experts from our marketplace being shared and distributed on various pirate sites and many people participating in sharing of those products. In an effort to protect the valued experts in our community, part of our anti-piracy efforts will also involve those products whether they are paid or free.

Our TOS (Terms of Service) is being updated to include our efforts to fight illegal distribution or use of our products and those of experts in our marketplace. We will be actively sending DMCA orders, removing access to our marketplace and community, and pursuing other legal avenues for anyone that we discover is partaking in piracy after thorough investigations are performed. We’ve also updated our Marketplace TOS. Please read all of our documents in order to be aware of the new policies.

We have created a new tool for checking whether a URL has a valid license. It will only give a true or false result and will not give out any client information. Should there be a site with an invalid license, the tool will allow submitting that URL to our Piracy Department. This tool will help any of you to assist in our fight against piracy. You can also contact our Piracy Department to send info about piracy activities via our Contact Us page.

We appreciate your efforts to help us stomp out piracy!

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Innovative Ways to Control Spam in SocialEngine

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Welcome to our SocialEngine blog! Each month, we provide learning tools for our clients to help empower them to have the most success with their SocialEngine communities. In this month’s post, we’d like to focus on innovative methods you can use to help control spam in your community.

First, let’s talk about what spam is

The type of spam we are focusing on today is website spam. Spam, in regards to websites, could either be a programmed “bot” that joins your site or a human. These spammers post links to their site or products lowering your SEO and making your site look unappealing to members. Spam is not software specific and could strike any site using any software with a login or comment area.

The great news is that SocialEngine has built-in anti-spam features. Over the course of this article we will discuss these features as well as  include links to third party spam control products.

SocialEngine Built-In Spam Control

  • Google’s “noCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” is a great anti-spam tool and is easily set in your Admin Panel. This is Google’s more up-to-date method to fight spam. With this method, bots are not able to get into your site and it tends to discourage human spammers as well.
  • IP and Email Ban options are also available. You’ll want to add spammer IP addresses as well as email addresses for any spammers that manage to find their way in. This will restrict their access and bar them from joining again. Wildcard bans (example: 23.45.67.*) can also help restrict an entire IP range from access. This is very handy when you see a lot of activity from a particular IP range.

If you need help with the built-in anti-spam features send us a ticket and we’ll be happy to assist.

Free Spam Control Tools

  • Cloudflare is one of the best free tools for controlling spam. This service stops known spammers and bots from even hitting your server. This can help reduce your server load and can even help prevent DDOS attacks. You can even set regions to block from access to your website.
  • Project Honeypot is another great anti-spam tool. The folks that made Cloudflare first started Project Honeypot. This tool helps catch harvesters, website scrapers, spammers and spambots so that other tools you use (such as Cloudflare, reCAPTCHA, etc) have the spammer IP and email addresses in order to be more effective.

Innovative Ways to Stop Spammers

In addition to the aforementioned methods, there are a few other ways you can help control or catch spammers before they wreak havoc on your site. Let’s discuss those now:

  • Set up subscriptions . You can keep them free if you don’t want to charge people for access. The reason this can be effective is that generally, spambots ignore subscriptions. You would want to have member levels set up so that members that join pick the real member levels and leave the “default” for the spammers. Set the “default” to no permissions for anything. Set the other member levels to have permissions as you want them. (Example: A car niche site could set member levels for mechanic, car owner, dealership owner).
  • Set different member levels with varying degrees of access such as beginner, novice, advanced, pro. The beginner member level would have no permissions to post blogs (the most popular place for spammers to post) but could have permissions elsewhere. Each other member level would have varying degrees of access until full access for the pro member level.

When someone joins the site, they start at beginner. If they post spammy content anywhere in the site, you know to ban them and not move them up. The ones that interact with other members and post good content could then be moved up to other member levels. To make things easier, consider taking on moderators or other staff that can help with member monitoring.

  • Set your site to “invite only” registration and only allow membership to those that are invited.
  • Set the registration settings (link above) to require approval for members. This can make a big difference if you are having issues with spam but it also slows membership access. You’ll want to have staff to help with approvals if you have a lot of membership applications.

Third Party Products to Stop Spam for SocialEngine PHP

The experts in our marketplace also have some great methods to control spam. Here are a few of them:

  • Honeypot Anti-spam – This integrates the Honeypot tool (mentioned above) and makes it easy for you to see stats.
  • Mobile Verification Plugin – Verify your users with mobile verification. Spammers tend to avoid this sort of verification.
  • Mega Spam Control – With this tool, you can monitor activity on your site to help control spam.
  • Advanced Members – This plugin allows you to let your users endorse their connections. This can help fight spam as members would endorse other members and spammers wouldn’t get endorsements.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful in your efforts to control spam for your community. Drop us a line at our community if you have any questions.

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Three Reasons a Custom Social Network Brings More Focused Branding

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Can you really explain what your business’s brand is in a way that everyone instantly recognizes? For some businesses, it’s tough to come up with a focused way to look at your brand without veering into multiple directions.

If you haven’t thought this through lately, it’s time to think about how to make your branding more focused. One way to accomplish this is through a custom social network.

How can you make this occur so you differentiate from similar businesses to yours?

Private Discussions

One way to attract people to your custom social network is to create forums pertaining exclusively to products you know people want to buy. Creating a more focused discussion forum allows people to converse about your products and talk about what makes them stand out.

If you want your brand to stick in someone’s mind, conversations are going to help immensely. Adding repeated product imagery in your social network also helps product features and branding colors stay in the subconscious.

The next time your social users see your products, they’ll recognize them immediately and quickly associate them with their earlier positive discussions.

Eliminating Distractions From Outsiders

While we all know the value of social media, one of its faults is that anyone can come in and disrupt a conversation. As we’ve all seen, this can often lead to chaos, spam, and excessive arguing.

Having a custom social network allows you to set up private forums to keep talk about your brand in a controlled setting. You won’t have distractions from troublemakers, something requiring an expense in hiring forum administrators.

Adding Specific Features

To help differentiate yourself further from standard social networks, it pays to add some special features to your forum. You don’t have to just maintain a discussion group. By adding interactive games or contests, you get more exciting activities going relating to your brand.

The point is to integrate people interested in the same things. Having them engage in creative ways helps draw them closer and become more loyal to visiting your site regularly.

Loyalty is everything when you need to lean on customers to keep you profitable when business slows.

Visit us at SocialEngine so we can help build a custom social network for you to make your brand iconic.

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Building a Branded Community: What You Can Gain Investing Your Time in Social Media

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The investments you’ve made in social media have perhaps mostly paid off after spending time marketing there. Nowadays, though, social media has become a little more challenging to find new customers without more targeting. When you have brand advocates working there, it becomes a lot easier.

It’s why branded communities have become a new trend likely to become a permanent marketing interest, according to Forrester.

Creating an owned community has a number of advantages while bringing engagement among your most valuable brand advocates.

Like-Minded Buyers

When you put together a forum or portal where like-minded buyers can hang out, you let the alchemy of people who appreciate your brand take over. This saves you time having to convert new customers to purchasing your products.

The best way to approach this is creating a discussion forum so your fellow brand advocates can recommend products to newbies. A good example of this is Sephora who put together their own branded community. Called BeautyTalk, their forum features numerous beauty topics to help advocates and casual customers find what they need.

Support Communities

When you take more pains to provide customer support in your branded community, you create a true customer experience they’ll want to share. Think about the domino effect when customers receive a top-tier experience on your forum. Quickly answering questions and providing informative live chats inspires new advocates to spread word quickly on social media.

Bringing a Sense of Discovery About Your Brand

A branded community lets you set up a forum or site that lets people discover more about your brand. Doing so helps reduce costs because you can channel all contact systems through one source.

Providing self-discovery information should include a feedback forum for an agile approach. You can grow your brand and the community content you offer based on what people request.

This only brings more trust and loyalty when you listen to concerns of the customer.

Visit us at SocialEngine to ask about our unique social community software to create digital environments like this.

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SocialEngine PHP 4.9.2 Release

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Hello!

We’re back with another release, SocialEngine PHP 4.9.2! This minor release addresses some issues that were reported by clients in our Github and also that our staff found during further testing. We’ve also included some minor improvements to current features. Please be sure to read the special instructions below before upgrading.

Fixed Issues or Improvements Made:

  • Fixed issue with privacy for video browse and videos on profile similar to the photo privacy fixed for 4.9.1.
  • Fixed privacy issue for Email being passed in verification URL. (Fixes #493)
  • Fixed issue where privacy options were not showing on the user profile. (Fixes #713 )
  • Fixed spelling error on the performance caching overview page. (Fixes #694)
  • Fixed TinyMCE editor formatting issue in announcements. (Fixes #669)
  • Fixed TinyMCE and BBCode editor formatting issue in forum. (Fixes #719)
  • Fixed issue with networks that caused sorting in Admin not to work on next pages.
  • Improved banner CTA button background to be more visible.
  • Fixed Viglink settings and description in Admin Panel.
  • Fixed issue with editing post from notification. (Fixes #732)
  • Issue: Some server configurations caused settings files to be deleted upon upgrade. Solution: We improved the upgrade routine to skip any files in the application/settings/ folder. (Improvement #724) **See instructions below for this fix
  • Improved display of long user profile photos on members home page by using cropped thumbnails. (Improvement #139)

NOTE: Please make sure that you do a complete backup of both files and database before performing this upgrade. Please have the backup performed by your host or a developer if you’re not comfortable with performing it yourself.

**Special upgrade instructions -DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP-

We’ve included a special patch (not necessary for fresh installs) that you can download in step one below, but this patch does involve a couple of vital steps. If these steps are not followed it may appear as if your database has been deleted. This patch addresses an issue with some server configurations but is best for all clients to apply before upgrading. This manual patch is for any version and can be applied by following the steps below.

  1. Download the patch .
  2. Unzip the file.
  3. Upload the unzipped files to your server, where you have SocialEngine installed (in most cases this would be the public_html or httpdocs folder), before upgrading. Make sure you overwrite the original file.
  4. Clear cache.
  5. Follow the standard upgrade procedure to upgrade your site.

You can also browse the complete changelog for more details about the changes and fixes implemented in this version.

We’ve also upgraded Albums, Forums, Music and Videos plugins to 4.9.2.

You can download your copy of version 4.9.2 from your client account. To upgrade, please view our upgrade documentation or, if you’d rather we take care of the hard stuff, you can order an upgrade and we’ll do it for you. Fresh installs should follow this installation tutorial or you can order an installation ticket and our team will get it installed in no time!

Thank you all for your help in posting any bugs you may have found! If you find any more issues, please let us know by filing a bug report in our Public Bug Tracker or by contacting us here. Lastly we’d like to encourage you to stay connected with the community.

With Great Respect,

The SocialEngine Team

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Build A Lasting Social Community

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Lately it seems everyone and their dog is on social media. Groups and companies use it for a variety of reasons. But if you’re not distinguishing yourself with something to offer, chances are even your own group members will fall out of touch. Here are a few suggestions for how to keep your online community alive and thriving.

Be Relevant

This is an obvious point, but don’t kill your momentum by blabbing off-topic. If your group is all about vinyl records, don’t post content about farming. Members of your community are there with you to strengthen your specific interests. They’re genuinely interested in what you have to offer. Keep confidential and personal content away from your professional landscape and stay on topic!

Be Helpful

Nobody wants anarchy within their beloved group. If you’re the leader, be sure to interact with your members. Create conversations, not a one-way stream of conscious that’s all about you. Most importantly, answer questions. The minute you offer good quality guidance, you become an asset to the entire community.

Use social mentions as testimony

Remember that funny tweet with a photo of your product? Did somebody Pin your logo to Pinterest? How about that great review on your Facebook page? You can use these kinds of social mentions to bolster your community’s credibility. Not only will it garner more social sharing, it will provide community-centered testimonials.

Be Honest

Online networks rely on trust between members and their community leaders. Let them know of any changes, troubles, or concerns. Respect your group members by being truthful and transparent. This way, you can avoid unwanted behavior and create a loyal following.

With a little practice, you’ll soon be thriving within your own community. If you’re ready to begin, let us know how we can help you achieve your custom social network.

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The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Crowdfunding Community

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When it comes to raising money online, crowdfunding provides probably the best avenue. Crowdfunding campaigns, however, are often fraught with overlooked details that could drastically limit your success. What many people do not realize initially is that crowdfunding campaigns entail more than just setting up a project and waiting for donors and sponsors to pour in. The most effective campaigns involve creating a long lasting community instead of creating a short term audience. So, what steps should you follow to create an effective crowdfunding community?

1. Follow up communications

Communication is the key to maintaining meaningful connections and meaningful connections are what lie at the heart of every great community. Ideally, you should contact each of your investors as soon as they pledge funds to your business in order to reinforce the idea at the core of your campaign and begin the process of connection through communication.

Staying active and consistent in this area will help investors avoid any feelings of “buyers’ remorse” where donors ask themselves whether their pledge was well placed. This can be done with an auto-response or if you want to go the extra mile you can even write a personal note to each investor. It doesn’t have to be long. Even a couple sentences expressing gratitude will go a long way to build this connection between you and your investors.

2. Don’t ignore the power of social media

Social media networking provides a the largest opportunity to build your crowdfunding community if used correctly. Social media is the place where every one already exists online. Your task as the crowd funding campaign owner is to locate your potential members, get their attention, and move them from the big pool social networks (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc.) and move them into your specialized crowdfunding community.

This can be accomplished in many ways. There are new and unique tools popping up every day to help you locate and call your potential members to action. Some of the more tried and true methods would be purchasing ads through Facebook and Twitter, reaching out to influencers in your community’s sphere and asking them to post about you, or even the good old grass roots method of finding three friends and asking them to share your project with three more. The possibilities are virtually endless and extremely powerful.

3. Employ Virtual support technique

The community member must feel supported if there is any hope for them to stick around. In the first point of this artilce we talked about how you can reach out to your community. This point deals with the opposite. What about when they need to contact you? You can and should provide a method of contact for any support inquiries  a community member might have. This will allow your community members to make their voices heard as well as encourage other potential donors to take your project seriously. This method of contact could take many forms. It could be a simple email address posted somewhere on your page, a contact from built into your site or even a live chat line. No matter what form it takes, however, make sure your customers know you are there to help them and listen to their feedback.

We hope we were able help clear some things up or maybe even spark some inspiration! If you have any questions please feel free to contact us for more info on developing your own crowdfunding community!

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