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How to Manage User Frustrations in Online Communities

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When you build a successful online community, there will be a few roadblocks. One ongoing issue to prepare for is user frustrations within your community. When users find bugs, glitches, or missing features, they are quick to point fingers and demand solutions. As long as you’re on top of your communications, you can reassure community members while simultaneously creating a to-do list for your internal team.

Keep communications clean and clear with frustrated users by following these simple tips.

1. Place your contact information front and center

Provide the best form of contact for solving technical issues, whether or not it’s different from the usual form of contact. Make sure it’s available in the community guidelines and make it the public answer to every technical question. Instead of personally typing out the actual response every time someone has an issue, refer them to your form of contact and respond in detail when you’re one-on-one.

2. Clarify your refund policies

Know all of your policies for returns, refunds, buyouts, discounts, and special offers. Your community is your haven of loyal fans and you don’t want to turn anyone away by ignoring that loyalty. Listen to any issues your members might have with products and services. Be sure to include your policies in the community guidelines so everyone can find them easily.

3. Allow members to act as ambassadors

Once your community members are active and engaged with each other, they’ll start to rely on each other for answers. The true leaders will even jump into action when they see a problem they can solve. If your contact information and community resources are readily available, these proactive members will voluntarily share those resources with others when needed. Let them. They’re your spokespeople and your champions. As long as your resources are up-to-date, your community members will do the right thing, help each other out, and vouch for you even before you know there’s an issue.

Contact us for more on developing a supportive interest-based community.

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SocialEngine 4.9 Release!

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It is finally here! Our SocialEngine team is so pleased to announce the release of SocialEngine PHP 4.9! We have been working so hard for a very long time to bring you some great new features, improvements, bug fixes, and updates. You’ll enjoy a beautiful responsive theme, an improved UI, new social sharing features, PHP7 support, and many more features to help manage your site.

If you’re already a SocialEngine Customer you can download the software for free by clicking below!

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If you’re new to SocialEngine and would like to buy a brand new version 4.9 license of SocialEngine, click below!

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We’ve created a short intro video for you to check out the new features, but for those looking for those looking for a deepr dive into the new features, let’s take a more in-depth look. continue reading »

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When to Upgrade Your Customized Site

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SocialEngine, as with most software, periodically releases new versions. These version releases can range from small quick patches for bugs all the way up to full version updates with new features.  If you’ve customized your SocialEngine websites in order to have a unique site that matches your vision, you may be asking “when should I upgrade?” That’s a great question! This article should help answer it for you.

Generally, we recommend that you upgrade with each release just to ensure that you are on the most up to date code. However, a site with core customizations or custom plugins might have different considerations than a stock installation with no custom features. Each release, whether big or small, needs to be evaluated for your own site’s needs.

Suggestions for before we get started

  • Make a development copy: Your SE PHP license allows you to install one public instance of your site as well as a second private development instance. When doing any work to your site we highly recommend that you do everything on your private instance while leaving your public instance untouched. This will allow you to work out any bugs without bothering your users so when you are ready, you can present a beautiful, clean, bug free site update.
  • Do a backup: Remember Schofield’s words and keep them close to your heart at all times, “Data doesn’t really exist unless you have at least two copies of it.” The sad fact of development is that things can go awry. Always prepare for worst case scenario by creating regular backups of both your main site and your development site. That way, if the worst happens, all you have to do is restore.

Okay! Now with that out of the way, on to the good stuff. When should you upgrade if your site is customized?

Small Patches

For small patches, we generally will show a “changelog” for how to manually add the fixes to customized sites. You would not need to run a full upgrade in this case. You could either add the code fixes to the files yourself, or have your developer do them for you. Either way, make a copy of the files you’ll be editing so you can easily restore them if needed.

In-Version Releases (4.8.12, 4.8.13, etc)

These can contain important bug fixes, small improvements, and even security fixes. You’ll want to evaluate what’s included in these releases and weigh whether it’s worth upgrading or waiting for a major release. For security fixes, we recommend to always upgrade. If it just contains bug fixes that aren’t impacting your site or improvements that you don’t need, you could wait until a major release.

Major Releases (4.8, 4.9, etc)

These releases warrant the most consideration. They tend to contain bigger improvements, more bug fixes or deeper fixes that can’t be released in a minor version, and can also contain security fixes or improvements. In most cases, you’ll want to upgrade to a major release. You’ll definitely want to test this on a development copy of your site as it could impact third party plugins. We recommend contacting any developers whose products you use and ask them if there is an update ready, or if there will be an update for the products you use.

Wrapping it all up

For each of the above scenarios, you’ll want to plan your upgrade carefully. Anything that can impact your members might cause them stress. The good news is all you need to do to avoid undue stress on your user is to prepare ahead of time. You could keep your users informed by posting announcements about the upcoming changes/maintenance or even start a thread or blog to allow them to ask questions and allay any fears they might have of impending changes.

One more thing

Timing is very important. When planning your upgrade, try to make it for a time that is least active for your site. Set the site to “maintenance mode” in order to avoid members coming on and making changes while an upgrade is taking place. Even with a development site test done, you still can experience issues on a live site that aren’t seen on the inactive development site. Give your members a place to post bugs or contact you with issues. As long as you keep your members informed, they’ll feel more secure and will be less likely to panic if something acts up.

Good luck with your upgrade! If you feel that you can’t do an upgrade yourself, you can order an upgrade service from us or check with your favorite expert.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” ~Henry Ford

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4 Tips to Welcome New Community Members

banner_003Creating a successful online community requires you to wear many hats. Welcoming newcomers is arguably one of the most important roles you’ll take on. First impressions happen quickly.

Use these tips to make sure your new members don’t turn around and walk out the door as soon as they join.

1. Send a welcome email campaign

This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it does need to communicate some basics. Set up an email template that will automatically send out to a new member once they’ve joined. Include things like a brief hello from you and who you are, the community mission statement, where to find the community guidelines, and how to ask for help.

2. Use inclusive language

It’s important to keep in mind that the community isn’t just yours. It’s everybody’s. That mean everyone needs to feel included, heard, and respected. Getting feedback on this is also tough, given that those that feel left out will rarely speak up. It’s your responsibility to be aware of any threatening language, disrespectful users, or missing guidelines. Take a few minutes to look over what you have and be sure to stress the importance of inclusivity in your wording.

3. Review your community guidelines

Jumping off of the importance of inclusive language, your community guidelines are the lifeblood of the group. This is where folks learn about your brand’s tone, mission, values, rules, and gauge whether or not they belong. Ask yourself a few questions as you review:

  • Are the guidelines clear?
  • Can I learn the purpose of the group from the guidelines?
  • Is this in line with my brand’s voice? Why/Why not?
  • Is the language welcoming and inclusive?

Go through and make edits as you answer each question.

4. Update your brand’s information

Lastly, make sure all your brand information is up to date. All your visual assets like logos and media should be relevant. Any copy writing and bios should be updated. This is an ongoing tip. As your brand evolves and grows, so should your community.

That’s all we’ve got for now! Thanks for stopping by. Remember you can always contact us for more on creating a welcoming online community.

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3 Hidden Benefits of a Branded Community

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Branded communities are on the rise. They provide a wealth of benefits both to consumers and brands by starting an open dialogue.

In other words, they’re invaluable to your brand’s growth.

But beyond the basic benefits of chatting face-to-face with loyal consumers, there are a few lesser known reasons to build your own branded community. Here are three hidden benefits to keep in mind when you decide to build your own.

1. Lower support costs

With a positive atmosphere ripe for customer feedback, there’s less of a need to spend money on customer service call centers and support staff. 77% of brands say their community is a key component to their customer service. This means those Q&A sessions and troubleshooting guides can happen directly in your branded community. Less money, happier customers. It’s that simple.

2. Get rid of focus groups

Tired of hearing unenthused feedback from disengaged users? Say goodbye to the focus group. Asking questions directly inside the branded community cuts costs and gets relevant answers from repeat visitors. Your audience knows your brand, so their responses are much more valuable than strangers sitting around an office table meeting you for the first time. Win-win.

3. Increase SEO

You already know how important SEO is for increasing your brand’s online visibility. Hosting a branded forum like this boosts SEO by increasing keyword usage, decreasing page bounces, and adding even more reliable back links. In fact, 74% of brands use their community to drive organic search traffic. Two birds, one stone.

Ready to boost your brand? Contact us for more information on building an engaged branded community.

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3 Common Myths About Branded Communities

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Branded communities are your new best friend.

They’re the hot trend right now and they’re not going away anytime soon.

With a captive target audience, brand cheerleaders all around, and the most beneficial feedback group you can imagine, it’s no wonder branded communities are so popular.

In order to get the most out of yours, there are a few common myths to dispel before you begin to grow.

1. Branded communities are a marketing strategy

Nope. Branded communities are not your answer to marketing woes. They are a smart business strategy for you to leverage your whole brand. If you let your branded community thrive off your brand’s core values, you not only succeed in filling your marketing funnel, you’ve paved the way for intuitive connections at every client touch point.

2. Branded communities are there to support you

False. They are there to support the members, your fans. The most successful communities let questions, feedback, and ideas flourish between members. This is their safe space to brainstorm and critique. Remember that criticism is just an opportunity for improvement and these voices in the community are your most loyal followers. Your number one job is to listen.

3. Branded communities grow like in Field of Dreams

Wrong. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. If you build your branded community with an open mind, supportive customer service, and by empowering the members, they will do the rest of the legwork for you. Today’s brands are built on a holistic approach. Community members want their favorite brand to succeed, they want to be heard, and they want to share their enthusiasm with others. Engage the community and the brand will grow with a strong foundation.

Contact us for more on creating a successful branded community.

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3 Reasons Why Branded Communities Have the Upper Hand

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Looking to connect with your audience in a more meaningful way?

Branded communities are your next investment.

There are a few no-brainer reasons to join the numerous brands that curate their audience through branded communities. With a little work up front, you’ll hold the power of targeted advertising, consistent leads, and catered feedback in your hands. Here is why branded communities are a cut above the rest.

1. You already have the attention of the right people

By owning a branded community, you’re ten steps ahead of the game. You have the right people in the right place, the audience that consists of more than fans. You have your brand’s cheerleaders in your corner and they support your products, mission, and people.

Gillian Muessig, founding president of SEOMoz.org, agrees:

The concept that I was talking about was about creating a community around their brand, the idea, the products they serve; but far more importantly, around the people that work in that business itself.

2. Your audience is made of potential clients

While your competitors flail around digging for leads, you have a shimmering pool of interested potential clients right there in your branded community. They’re just waiting for an opportunity to work with you and prove their commitment to your products and services. Listen to their needs and you’ll always have a waiting list ready to buy.

3. Feedback is given with your brand identity in mind

As everyone in your branded community knows the ins and outs of your brand, their comments and input are invaluable. Their feedback is precisely the set of voices you need and would otherwise spend hours tracking down. Listen intently and ask questions often. Members are there to support you, so be sure to show appreciation and incorporate their input in the future.

Contact us for more on creating a successful branded community to engage your target audience.

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4.9 Pre-Release Discount!

SocialEngine 4.9 Pre-Release Sale

Hello! We’ve got news about something you’ve been waiting for. No, it’s not the giraffes delivery. What a compelling video, right? Our news is about our 4.9 release!

We are thrilled to have this coming so soon. Our development team is all hopped up on coffee and burning up keyboards getting things just right.

We’re so excited about this amazing 4.9 version that we’ve got a special discount for anyone that purchases a SocialEngine license now. We’re giving a 10% discount plus free upgrade service to those that purchase a license between now and March 19th. This is great news as you can get your community started now on 4.8.13 and then our technicians will upgrade your site for you when we release 4.9.

Why would you want to start your site ahead of our release? Good question! It takes time to set up a site with the settings, categories, menus, etc. that you want. You could use this time to get your site ready for launch and then have our professionals upgrade your site for free once 4.9 releases. This gives you a jump on your site launch. Grab your discount before it expires!

This special offer is only available until March 19, 2017.

  • Discount Code: PRELAUNCH490
  • Date Discount expires: March 19, 2017
  • Where to purchase: https://www.socialengine.com/products/php
    • What our upgrade covers: The upgrade service covers our technicians upgrading your SocialEngine website’s default SocialEngine files (SE core, SE official plugins).
    • What our upgrade does not cover: Applying any customizations or reapplying any customizations; upgrading third party products; server upgrades or adjustments.
  • How to redeem your free upgrade: Please send a ticket to our support via your account.
  • No Cash Value: Free upgrade service cannot be exchanged for cash value and is a one time special offer. Once used, if you need another upgrade, please purchase the service from your account. If not used, no refund will be given for the unused service.
  • By submitting this offer, you agree to receive email communications from SocialEngine.

Our current clients who have been waiting for this release will want to keep an eye on our blog, community, and social media pages for release updates as well. We would love for you to connect with our Chief Evangelist on our community and let us know how you’re preparing for this awesome 4.9 release.

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Top 3 Dangerously Effective Reasons to Start a Private Custom Social Network

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Did you know that according to some estimates, the average city-dwelling person can be exposed to as many as 5,000 advertisements in a single day?

Being memorable is important.

For this reason, marketing and branding experts are always looking for emotional triggers to implement into their campaigns. One of the most powerful emotional triggers is “community.”

When your customer base has a sense of belonging that stems from your product or service, they tend to become more loyal and even obsessive.

A perfect example of this is Apple’s famous “Are you a Mac or a PC?” campaign from the late 2000s.

What do you do when you want to foster a sense of belonging?

You build a community.

Custom social network scripts are an amazing – and often underutilized – method of literally building a community for your customers, fans, or clients.

Let’s take a moment to look at why they’re so effective:

#1: Brand Loyalty

This is, of course, the primary reason to build your own social network. A sense of exclusivity and belonging can create lifelong customer relationships.

#2: Get to Know Your Customers Better… A Lot Better

More than just an added bonus, implementing a custom social network script gives you the opportunity to gather near-instant data about what your customers are thinking.

What do they like?

What do they not like?

This is the kind of data that marketers pay top-dollar for, but by operating a custom social network script, they’re giving it to you.

#3: Custom Social Network Scripts are Cost Effective

Think it’s expensive to set up a private social network for your audience?

Think again.

Setting up a platform like this isn’t just affordable, it’s a relatively simple process. Over a relatively short amount of time, the benefits will pay for the time investment (and the actual cost) in spades.

Are You Ready to Build Your Community?

What we covered here today are just a few reasons why you should consider implementing a custom social network script for your customers.

It’s more than just giving them a platform to express themselves: it’s a powerful, unique way to strengthen brand loyalty.

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February Community Roundup

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

Add-ons and Updates:

Advanced Footer Plugin – Convey the Right Information from the Footer of your website.

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Notes – Create notes and categorize them or make sticky notes anywhere on your site!

Uplinks – Uplinks adds a level of convenience for your members to add content.

Google Translate Plugin – Google Translate widget with easy install and setup.

Buffer Share Plugin – Buffer share integration widget. Share to popular social media sites with Buffer.

Responsive Elegant Theme – Get your site a Responsive Slideshow, beautiful Landing Page and much more!

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Page Builder and Shortcodes Plugin – Easily create pricing tables, Popups, Accordions & Tabs, Progress Bars, etc.

Member Profiles Cover Photo Plugin – Show users the Cover Photo – a large unique image on top of the member profiles.

Content Profiles Cover Photo Plugin – Show users the Cover Photo – large unique image on top of the content profiles.

Site Tour by Auto Login Test User – Allow visitors to login into website using Test Users and explore the system.

Advanced Blog Plugin – Writing blogs on your websites with custom Publish date, location, reviews, etc.

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Multi-Use Team Plugin – Showcase your Team Members, Testimonials, or any type of similar content.

Jokes plugin – You’ll laugh at the jokes of your users, unless your network grows!

Mega Spam Control – Comfortable tool for managing comments, private messages, post, blogs.

Marketplace plugin – Create your own online store for both physical and digital goods!

 

Community Owner Spotlight:

Aapmd.onsocialengine.com – Booming business network for successful people.

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Mejunction.news – A new community for small businesses to gather and trade ideas.

Bestofhyatt.onsocialengine.com – Recipes for those who appreciate a good drink and a good meal.

Frsbank.com – A community centered around investing in and the use of cryptocurrency.

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Iquiero.org – Moutain climbers gather! Come check out this community based around climbers and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Montanamixer.com – An online hub for people in Montana looking to connect.

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