Welcome to the One on One conversation series, where Small Business Trends will be speaking to some of the best minds in business today. The goal of the series is to pick the brains of successful entrepreneurs, best-selling author, and executives with organizations serving the small business community, to provide the Small Business Trends community with their valuable business insights.
On Fridays, One on One lets you hear from – as well as to learn from – people who have done it, who are doing it, and who will share their experiences and knowledge to help you do it for yourself.
If there are people you’d like us to go “One on One” with, just let us know, and we’ll see if we can make it happen.
* * * * *
Robin Carey, CEO of Social Media Today, spoke with Brent Leary in this interview, which has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, page down to the loudspeaker icon at the end of the post.
Small Business Trends: Robin, can you share your background and how you got started with Social Media Today?
Robin Carey: I worked in the magazine business for many years. It gave me a good sense of what companies were looking for when it came to creating a dialogue with potential customers. When Web 2.0 started to hit, I felt that there was a way to marry my background with business-to-business, with markets that are really conversations in the online connected world. You can leverage real-time communication and transparent conversation to business advantage.
So I went back to school. Stanford offers an amazing course about publishing on the Web. I took it and became a real convert, saw that social media was the future, and that was the reason for founding Social Media Today.
Small Business Trends: You’ve built a number of excellent online communities, such as SocialMediaToday.com, MyVenturePad.com, TheCustomerCollective.com and TheSocialCustomer.com. What do you think people should be concerned about when it comes to creating active communities online?
Robin Carey: First and foremost, content, content, content. Keep the content flowing. That’s the beauty of user generated content or crowdsourced content–if you moderate it or curate it properly, you can have it 24/7.
The other critical part is people. Find the right people to come to your community. Find those who are not only the most influential (and that’s easy enough to measure these days) but also have the most intriguing way of looking at things. We read people’s blogs before we invite them to become part of our community. You cannot automate that yet. [Identifying and creating] really good content requires human intervention.
A combination of content and contact makes a strong online community. After getting it launched, you have to continually nurture it.
Small Business Trends: Let’s talk a little bit about the importance of a blogger relationship program.
Robin Carey: The business model that is increasingly emerging is to pay bloggers for their thought leadership, not necessarily for their blogs. They are paid in any number of ways that they interact with the business world, from speaking to books to consulting. There are many ways we can create a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with bloggers that don’t involve cash. We use our LinkedIn Groups and our opt-in lists to help them sell books. We enhance their thought leadership. We identify them frequently on our site and help them to promote their profile.
Small Business Trends: How is building communities different today than when you first started?
Robin Carey: One of the big changes is their general recognition. We no longer have to sell the idea that bloggers are a good company’s primary influencers. Even the most conservative corporations recognize [that].
Small Business Trends: There are so many different communities out there now, and so many tools for content creation and generation. How difficult is it to keep people’s attention now that there are so many voices and outlets?
Robin Carey: I’d like to think that our communities’ brands are emblems of trust. One, our content is all curated. It’s moderated by human beings, which conveys a certain level of trust, above and beyond aggregation. Two, these communities are never static. They are 24/7. We are constantly recruiting new bloggers. People coming to our site not only get a sense of a trusted source, but also that it’s not the “same old, same old.” We are constantly evolving. To stay current in this incredibly dynamic environment, you have to remain relevant, you have to change, and you have to focus on people–not so much on technology.
Small Business Trends: Considering all that change, how are people going to engage with these online communities a year from now?
Robin Carey: I would imagine that online communities, as online communities, will be less of a concern. If you have a customer service problem, you are going to go to the online community for Verizon, rather than make a phone call. If you are a developer, you will be going to online communities before you go to a conference. We will think of them less as communities, and more as “this is now how information and interaction is structured.”
Small Business Trends: Robin, where can people go to learn more about Social Media Today and all of its online communities?
Robin Carey: Go to SocialMediaToday.com to register and become a member of our community, get our newsletter, connect with other members and connect with me, too.[display_podcast]
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.