There aren’t many digital marketers that have the understanding of community that Ted does, an understanding that he applies to marketing efforts to leverage the power of community (especially third party communities that the brands he works with don’t own) to drive sales and revenue. Among our topics:
- Justifying the investment of a forum outreach program
- How community owners can convince companies to make them part of their paid media spend
- The ways that businesses can begin to understand the impact communities are having on their sales
“If there are [negative posts on a community], that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage. In fact, it may be a reason to engage. But those negatives are not going to be hidden, just because you paid a few dollars or just because you want to talk on the community. That’s the whole opportunity: to be part of this discussion, to find ways that are acceptable within that community’s parameters and maybe, over time, help push those parameters. Ultimately, as a brand, you’re not necessarily the every day conversationalist, so you have to establish credibility.” -@TSindzinski
“If you want to engage [in communities] as a company, you have to [empower] people who are experts. I’m a marketer, I love what I do, I think I’m pretty bright at it, and I’d like to believe that I get to know my product pretty well. But at the end of the day, I don’t make the product, I don’t fix the product, I market the product. So, having the person who actually knows the product is obviously vital.” -@TSindzinski
“[Community owners,] I promise that, unless you are huge, huge, huge in your industry, you’re going to lose at standard advertising. Not because your community is bad, but because your community is a community. … If you’re selling impression-based advertising solely – I’m not saying you shouldn’t sell it – but as your primary metric trying to compete with other types of content sites, you’re going to have a really hard time justifying your metric. The best communities say, ‘How do we get to what we do best?,’ which is engagement and helping brands engage people and be part of conversations.” -@TSindzinski
“[Discussion of your products is] happening whether you [participate] or not, right? It’s not like by not participating or not advertising, the community ignores you and just lets you go. They’re talking, so whether it’s a disaster [or a positive], the advice I’m giving people is, ‘Look, there’s discussion happening, let’s be a part of that, even if we’re just watching it.'” -@TSindzinski
“People are going to talk about our support and their experience, whether we do a good job or not, so let’s make sure that we are doing a good job. Because the world doesn’t work in this way where you had a good relationship, you shook hands, and the person walked away and didn’t really tell anybody about it, as long as they liked you personally and looked you in the eye. They can walk out the door and say, ‘Yeah, they tried to make it right, but I’m still going to share that,’ or, ‘They did make it right, and I’m going to tell everybody about it.'” -@TSindzinski
About Ted Sindzinski
For more than 15 years, Ted Sindzinski has worked in the digital marketing and community space as a peer to peer community operator and owner, a participant and content creator, as well as a brand marketer. On the brand side, he helps companies engage with audiences across major social networks and the enthusiast networks that exist around their industries. He believes that community creates local level influencers which provide the validation (or lack thereof) that companies need to thrive in the current market. Leaving the brand perspective, he sees community as paramount to growing participation in a multitude of interests which is why he’s a regular participant across forums, networks and groups that touch his personal passions.
Currently an independent marketing consultant, Ted was previously the senior director of marketing at SVS, the director of digital marketing for Monster Cable, where he led digital and social media efforts for the Beats by Dr. Dre line of products, and the internet marketing manager for Jenny Craig. He also co-founded ScubaBoard, the largest online community for scuba divers.
- Jenn Pedde, global manager of alumni and community at Oliver Wyman
- Community Signal episode with Jenn Pedde
- Andrew Losowsky, project lead at The Coral Project
- The Coral Project, which is building open source tools to help news media better engage with their community
- Jay Baer, president at Convince & Convert
- Brandon Eley, online marketing author, consultant and speaker
- ScubaBoard, the community that Ted co-founded
- SVS, a company that engages in active forum outreach, where Ted was senior director of marketing
- Why the ROI of Community Doesn’t Actually Matter by Sarah Judd Welch
- Community Signal episode with Sarah Judd Welch
- Managing Online Forums, a book that Patrick authored
- Ted on Twitter
00:04: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Tweet as you listen using #communitysignal. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
00:20 Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and thank you for joining me for Community Signal. I just got back from a trip to New York where I met up with Jenn Pedde, a recent guest on Community Signal, who is the Global Manager of Alumni and Community at Oliver Wyman. And also, Andrew Losowsky, project lead for The Coral Project. Andrew demoed The Coral Project’s Trust and Ask tools for me. And the Trust tool, I found to be pretty interesting. It provides a way of taking community data tied to individual members, and identifying groups of members based on specific criteria, good, bad, and ambivalent. It does so at a depth I have not personally seen with other tools. For example, if you want to find all members who have had less than 3% of their posts reported by other members, less than 1% of their posts removed, have written at least 100 posts with an average of 200 words or more, and these posts have received a certain volume of likes from other members, you could do that. In other words, if you want to sort through a 100,000 members and find the people whose posts stay up and are appreciated and have length to them, that’s an example of a way you could do that. But, there’s so many things you can do with it.
01:18 Patrick O’Keefe: For a less positive example, you can identify members who commonly post content that is poorly received, flagged and/or removed by moderators. And you can use this data to provide different levels of permission and software based privileges for those members. A person who often has their post removed might see their contributions going to an approval queue until they improve, or likes from an exemplary contributor might be used to more easily identify contributions that you should feature or highlight for the wider community. The Trust tool is independent from any specific software, and you would have to connect to it via an API, and have the dev resources to make that all play nicely. But, if you like to hear more about the tool, and I thought it was pretty cool. So, I’d recommend you check it out if you have any interest. You should contact them at coralproject.net. Our guest today on the show is a world class digital marketer with a strong community pedigree. For more than 15 years, Ted Sindzinski has worked in the digital marketing and community space as a peer-to-peer community operator and owner, a participant, and content creator, as well as a brand marketer.
02:13 Patrick O’Keefe: On the brand side, he helps companies engage with audiences across major social networks and the enthusiast networks that exist around their industries. He believes that community creates local level influencers which provide the validation, or lack thereof, that companies need to thrive in the current market. Leaving the brand perspective, he sees community as paramount to growing participation in a multitude of interests, which is why he’s a regular participant across forums, networks, and groups that touch his personal passions. Currently working as an independent marketing consultant, Ted was previously the Senior Director of Marketing at SVS, the Director of Digital Marketing for Monster Cable, where he led digital and social media efforts for the Beats by Dr. Dre line of products, and the Internet Marketing Manager for Jenny Craig. He also co-founded ScubaBoard, the largest online community for scuba divers. Ted, welcome to the program.
02:55 Ted Sindzinski: Hey, Patrick. It’s great to be on. Thank you.
02:57 Patrick O’Keefe: I should say welcome back, [chuckle] because I had you on in January, and because of technical issues on my end, it didn’t work out. So seven months later, you still are my friend and you’re still willing to come on the program. So, I appreciate that.
03:10 Ted Sindzinski: Absolutely. It’s gonna be fun to get to chat further and talk about some of these topics we touched on, maybe in a different way or a little deeper, just from having that previous fun conversation.
03:20 Patrick O’Keefe: You really are, not just because we’re friends, but you really are one of my favorite digital marketing thinkers, digital marketers in the world, around the globe. You, Jay Bear, who I’ve had on the show, and Brandon Eley, a mutual acquaintance of ours, are people that I really respect and look to for advice and information. So, I’m really excited to have you on. And one of the things that makes you unique is that most digital marketers didn’t launch big, category leading online communities. With Pete Murray, who is another mutual friend of ours, you co-founded ScubaBoard, which is, as I said, the community for scuba divers. That was early in your career, before you had worked as a marketer for the brands I mentioned a moment ago. How did starting ScubaBoard help you toward that future? How did it inform your future as a marketer?
04:03 Ted Sindzinski: That’s a great question. It’s an interesting one ’cause it almost feels like a different lifetime that I started out in the community space. But you think back to it and go, “Okay, we know we work as marketers. We’re trying to bring companies out to the world and get people to understand their products.” But having turned out, being part of the community that people receive products into, just gave me a different sense of how that discussion happens. It’s very different in formality to advertising or forced influence. And so, I think, by working in the community space, first, unintentionally, it gave me this passion for, “What if people could understand the brands they work with differently? What if the brands that people used could have part of the conversation?” So, I just think it changed that paradigm, and reversed around my appreciation for both sides of it. I may not have got it from a different way, not that it can’t be learned, just a different spin towards it, which is really a lot of fun.
04:53 Patrick O’Keefe: I had Rosemary O’Neill on the program awhile back, and she clued me in further to your earlier days in community working as a UBB installer and being among the most reliable. So, I even got a further appreciation for how early you were working with community software and in the community space.
05:13 Ted Sindzinski: Yeah, yeah. And the great thing about the community space is you think back, we’re at 2016, but in the late ’90s, is when this stuff started, and most of it really in the early 2000s before those platforms even began to mature. So, it’s really not that old. It’s really not that far along in its what’s possible cycle. There’s still so much left to do. And what was great for me and my fortune and luck was that, I started when this stuff was beginning to grow up. Obviously, you had great products like the one that their team ran, UBB back in those days was the name. And the platforms grew and I got to grow with them rather than having to learn things top down. So, those people who follow community, yourself included, we get to see this stuff evolve, and that’s just really exciting.
05:51 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, because, when you say late ’90s, early 2000s, what you’re really tapping into, I think, because digital community existed in the early mid ’80s, The WELL, and what have you. But when it really exploded, where we saw, really a big explosion was when software options became accessible to large amounts of people. When you didn’t have to be a programmer, when it didn’t cost you thousands of dollars, when you could simply install software, again, hosting was expensive up to awhile, I think in the late ’90s, early 2000s it definitely became more affordable. But when hosting was more affordable, when software, you didn’t have to take out a mortgage for it, when you didn’t have to be a programmer, and people could launch hobbyist communities, and small businesses could launch communities, and it wasn’t just a massive expense, or a massive requirement of technical expertise, that’s really when online communities exploded in a really big mainstream way.
06:41 Ted Sindzinski: Sure, absolutely. And you’re absolutely right that there was stuff before. What I’m referring to, I’ve had the chance at having some great discussions with one of the people involved in The WELL to this day, and just what a fascinating history they’ve had, and a fascinating example of having community not just being tied to what’s the latest trend, but being tied to what the community wants and understands. And their technology is light years different, although it’s clearly able to handle huge network load from what you and I may have worked in, in our beginning of our careers, that I think of this as the first days. But certainly, much more about the first days of explosion of different topics and the ability to iterate. So many communities that I know that are great popped up with three or four competitors, some of whom have grown bigger or smaller, and everybody was vying for that same concept a little differently, and it really let people mature, to figure out what worked best.
07:27 Patrick O’Keefe: I never discourage people from launching a community in a space that already has communities because, well, first of all, what space doesn’t? But second of all, I think there’s always room for something else that’s different or a little different that has a different goal. The same for the community space, I feel like sometimes people think that some of the leaders in this space are entrenched, whatever resource you’d wanna talk about, online, offline. But if someone really wants to bring something new, they believe they can launch something of value, I encourage them to do so, because I talk to a lot of community professionals, and there’s not anyone that’s not vulnerable in any space. I think we all have our pros and cons. I talk to a lot of professionals and hear stories about people in this space, about good and bad, things they did that were great, things they did that were unethical, and a lot of people are really vulnerable. And the same is true for online communities, we all have areas where we excel and we don’t.
08:22 Patrick O’Keefe: And so if you want to bring something new, even if you feel like there’s already a bunch of things that do that same thing, you have the ability to put your own spin on it and to find a way to be competitive. Because there’s a lot of room any way between two to 10, numbers two to 10. You don’t have to be number one or the biggest, sometimes being the biggest is a headache, it’s a problem, it’s not as fun. So, I definitely encourage people to seize the opportunity if they see it.
08:48 Ted Sindzinski: Yeah, it’s funny that you say that, because you almost gave me the best setup there, Patrick, for talking about how brands are involved in the community and my personal passion. Because there isn’t a set formula and stuff is always iterating and always evolving and the win comes from, as you said a moment ago, just doing. Being involved and finding those different spins, and people who look at it and go, “Oh, that’s already matured or already developed.” At times, maybe they’ve got a good formula that works, so it’s certainly a power to them, but I think there’s always that opportunity to say, “How can we do things a little differently, a little better?” And also to realize that the rules of what is community are growing and developing as people join them. So whether it’s a platform technology, or a community existence, or a company working with the community, it can be very different over time. And it’s certainly, your comments about jumping on in with both feet make perfect sense to me, and it’s music to my ears to hear people saying, “There is change coming, there is development coming.”
09:42 Ted Sindzinski: Both of those exist, and to those that are gonna enter, and we’re not at the end of this run, we’re again very early, in my opinion, into what community looks like.
09:50 Patrick O’Keefe: Sticking with this topic, how should brands participate in communities they don’t own? It’s something that a lot of people try to do, it’s something that a lot of people are afraid to do. It’s certainly something I encourage people to do. How do you think they should jump in with both feet?
10:06 Ted Sindzinski: Yeah, it’s a very common question I get and of course, the high level is that there’s no one answer. Unfortunately, there’s no one tactic. It’s not, “Put up three posts a day in this forum, with this sentence, and you’ll win.” Instead, I think so much of this gets down to understanding before you engage, talking before you write. And by talking, I mean talking to the people who own it, the people who use it, because of course, the ownership is both a… There is a real owner of the community, moderators if it’s a moderated community, advertising and sales people if it’s a commercial community, but also the people that are regular users. Kind of that software vendor you mentioned who I had never heard of before, you can even use tools like that to say, “How do we figure out some influencers and talk to them if we need to? Or at least follow them and see what they’re talking about.” So, you really have to start with understanding what your community options are. There are so many of them in the world, some are very niche, some are a little more broad, but understanding them is paramount because they all receive brands differently, and they may receive your brand differently as well. You have to be very honest with yourself when you engage in the community.
11:06 Ted Sindzinski: If there are negatives, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage. In fact, it may be a reason to engage. But those negatives are not gonna be hidden, just because you paid a few dollars or just because you want to talk on the community. That’s the whole opportunity, is to be part of this discussion, to find ways that are acceptable within that community’s parameters and to maybe, over time, help push those parameters. Ultimately, as a brand, you’re not necessarily the every day conversationalist so you have to establish credibility, if you wanna get engaged in deeper conversations, or if you have it, leverage it. So, some of the brands I’ve worked with, some of their hires have come out of people that worked on communities or personally used them, and they’re able to leverage that relationship. At SVS, they’re an audio company, many of the customer service representatives have, over time, become advocates on forums while they’re employees or beforehand, from a personal relationship, and they’re able to utilize that discussion with putting the professional parameters back on to it, to have trust. That wouldn’t exist if they just walked in the front door tomorrow and wanted to talk about technology.
12:05 Ted Sindzinski: But at the same time, as the brands evolved and grown, there are also commercial entities where they can make posts, where they can do contests, other things that get them out there that work within the expectation of brands being part of the community, but not able to freeform spam. ‘Cause you don’t wanna create that hostility when you’re trying to be something positive here, you want people to really embrace you.
12:28 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, and it is what makes communities beautiful and also what makes them challenging. For brands that are used to just maybe giving Google this amount of money, and they go and do this, and one size fits all sort of approach. Because with a community, as you alluded to, every community is different, every community has different guidelines, different moderation strategy, they might receive your brand differently, they may be more positive or hostile toward it. So, it takes that extra effort to really spend the time to acclimate to the community, to observe, to search for your brand, to see how people feel about it, to figure out what the norms are, to talk to people, to talk to moderators, to talk to the admin, to make sure that what you want to do or how you wanna participate is going to be appreciated by the community. In managing communities for so many years, and a lot of community professionals can probably say the same thing is that, one of the things I’ve seen is that a lot of brands, tends to be smaller to mid-brands, but some big brands. They show up and they just start posting things and it’s not conversationally, it’s of course about the product. And it’s very easy for a community to not like you [chuckle] when you do that.
13:34 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s very easy for a community not to like you and for you to gain a reputation. On the flip side, I don’t think communities are that scary, it just takes the time to jump in. And it’s a matter of observing, seeing the guidelines, talking to people, and being a person because most communities don’t want people to register as XYZ Corp, they want you to be Tom from XYZ Corp. So, you have to identify people in the company who can speak to these communities in a way they appreciate, and in a way that adds value to the community. It doesn’t make any sense to join to share press releases or anything like that and I think most enlightened brands and most brands have probably moved past that by now. But then, again, sometimes I’m surprised. I’m surprised by people in my own industry, in the community space that seem to not grasp some of these concepts sometimes, so it bears repeating. And one of the things that I would like to do, if I ever did take a role at a company, and we’ve talked about this but, is to launch a comprehensive community engagement program, that involves putting our smartest minds in community spaces we don’t control.
14:30 Patrick O’Keefe: You’ve talked about this a little bit with SVS, and customer support, and the give and take between the community, and working for SVS. But, if I was a manufacturer of high end audio equipment like that, I would wanna put audio experts in AVForums and AVSForums and similar communities, possibly on subreddits and in other spaces where people are engaging, where they are the most passionate consumers of the product. And I know you have some experience working with those types of programs. What I’m curious about is, how do you convince everyone or how would you convince everyone that this is a good use of our time? ‘Cause we’re paying these people and they’re posting in forums we don’t control. Why is that a good use of their time, how do we measure that?
15:07 Ted Sindzinski: Sure, so it’s a multi-faceted question that you’re asking here. [chuckle] And again, I wish there was a simple answer. But as you said before, Patrick, there is so much about authenticity that goes in the community that you have to be. If you wanna engage as a company, you have to find people who are experts. I’m a marketer, I love what I do, I think I’m pretty bright at it, and I’d like to believe that I get to know my product pretty well. But at the end of the day, I don’t make the product, I don’t fix the product, I market the product. So, having the person who actually knows the product is obviously vital and I think the people who do make and know the product know that, because often times their entire life has been spent working around this area. You can take almost any interest and you go in and find the engineer, or the product manager, or the customer service representative, and you find those people tend to have a passion for it. So I think their internal clock says, “Well, of course, I have to be the one talking about it ’cause this marketing guy sure isn’t gonna be the only person doing it.” It doesn’t mean marketing is not spearheading the effort, it doesn’t mean marketing is not involved, but I wanna connect as you kinda laid out this overall organization.
16:07 Ted Sindzinski: Very similar to how many companies have built these social media “command rooms” in the past few years. Where they have maybe someone from legal or support, because they need the multiple discipline approach to have the comprehensive understanding. Community is not negative, it can feel fearful, but it will work well if you come with a good attitude. Convincing your internal structure is a little different than of course making people think, “Well, I’m the person to post, of course.” And naturally, you get into this two-pronged approach. On one hand, it’s just talking about what community needs, why are we here overall? Forget who it’s gonna be posting. Why are we doing this? People gotta buy in to discussions about, “Look, here’s our brand being discussed, here’s millions of people, or tens of thousands, or just thousands, who are influencers. If you can find the numbers behind that, from that particular community, even better.” But you have to make the case for, “Community influences people to make decisions.”
17:00 Ted Sindzinski: As I like to say that everyday influencer advocate, the individual who has a lot of people who read them, in some smaller world perhaps, or some bigger world, but not tens of millions of followers necessarily, yet they can make a huge impact. At the same time, of course, as you start these programs, you’re company is gonna say, “What are the results?” And it’s sadly not enough to say, “We posted a lot.”
17:22 Patrick O’Keefe: Right.
17:22 Ted Sindzinski: It’s not really, I’m gonna tell you, “You’ve succeeded because you have a lot of posts.” “We didn’t get reported today.” Also not a success metric, right?
17:28 Patrick O’Keefe: Right, nope.
17:29 Ted Sindzinski: Nor is a view. But the gap between posting and purchasing are very difficult the bigger the company gets. Good news is, for the smaller brands out there, this is actually a pretty simple task. Just ask people. You can ask your customers when you’re doing that next purchase survey, that next contest, “What sites do you use?” You don’t have to limit it to the communities you engage in, this is how you find new ones to engage with. And I start with surveys because, while they’re not precise science, influence takes so many steps to get somebody to purchase. If you’re selling a high-end audio product, or I would think even bigger than that. The car companies, the financial services companies, these are products that take a long time to decide about. People read forums. There’s some great data about people making large purchases and how often they use a forum, or a chat group, or any other side of the community beyond searching to get that validation, but you’re not gonna see them in referral logs because there are no links, because there are no immediate first steps here. These are long-term discussions and the more you can do to understand your customer, from that longer viewpoint, the better.
18:32 Ted Sindzinski: So, most bigger companies have methods of thinking about awareness marketing. I don’t think community is quite an awareness group. I think it’s definitely a consideration tool, but that’s where you’re gonna see that metric pop up. And for smaller companies, just start asking your customers. The great thing here is, you’re not just gonna figure out what the community is, all of your marketing has overlap into other channels as the world becomes more complex. So, learning a little more community may actually help you learn a little bit more about Google, too.
18:58 Patrick O’Keefe: When marketers look at online communities, I feel like sometimes they are really quick to see them as only earned media, e.g, “Can we send you a review product? Generate the forum post?” But online communities need money, right? [chuckle] I speak as a person who needs money and manages online communities, and marketers should understand that an online community can be a very powerful focused audience. Now, if you’re being pitched by an online community owner, huge or small, to advertise, sponsor, or otherwise financially support their community in some way through some program, what are you looking for? What do you want out of that? What’s the goal? What sort of metrics should they provide you?
19:33 Ted Sindzinski: Lot of questions there. So, the overall best pitch to me comes from somebody who thinks beyond the impression box. I promise communities that unless you are huge, huge, huge in your industry, you’re gonna lose standard advertising. Not because your community is bad, but because your community is a community. People go to a blog, and I run a blog about some of my personal interests, we tend to leave. You get that article, you get that quick review and, then, you look for something else to go do. Maybe about that product. So, you’re apt to click an ad, you’re apt to buy something through it. Not in a huge rate, that 1%, 2% rate. If you’re on a community, you’re there to engage as a user. You’re there to discuss, you’re there be with your peer friends. People build relationships. So, if you’re selling impression-based advertising solely, I’m not saying you shouldn’t sell it, but as your primary metric trying to compete with other types of content sites, you’re gonna have a really hard time justifying your metric. So, the best communities say, “How do we get to what we do best?” Which is engagement and help brands engage people, help brands be part of conversations. Thinking a little bit out of the box, so to speak.
20:39 Ted Sindzinski: The metrics that support that? Again, they do tend to vary based on the community, because there are communities that do a better job at having massive reach. Maybe they’re a little higher in that awareness funnel. So, they’re getting a lot of looky-loos that can actually click things. And other communities really get that really passionate core of influencers who spread the word elsewhere, so they’re gonna have a little less traffic, but that doesn’t make them valueless, it just makes the value different. So looking and saying, “Okay, we need to be able to quantify what are some of those traffic metrics? What are some of those engagement metrics? And then, what are some of the outcomes together?” So, a lot of companies these days are very focused on things like email newsletters. So, “If we’re gonna run a contest, can we funnel people into that as an optional?” It’s not gonna change the business. Bunch of email signups are only valuable to a certain degree, but it helps to show that intent. “We’re gonna run a contest to get some data together and here’s the last one we did. We’re gonna hide who we did it with and talk about how that worked, how much share voice did things increase by?”
21:38 Ted Sindzinski: The bigger your software platform is, I think the more you can do with some of these share of voice discussions, mentions. But even the small communities can use those free tools that exist, Google Search and Alerts, to show a company, a brand, “Here’s the conversation that’s already happening, here’s the lift we’re helping to create, or we’ve created for other brands.” In that net voice. Again, I’m trying to be soft on these, what I call hard metrics of click-to-buy, because I don’t think that’s what you’re gonna find success in on either end. There are a few brands I’ve worked with, and I’ll keep their names out of this, for the fact that it’s part of their core strategy, that have found that their business is dramatically driven by community. These are not billion dollar companies, but they’re not $5 million companies, either. They’re companies making a lot of money and a lotta, lotta their business starts off in the community space. That’s not discovered from their web analytics alone. So, the smart communities that work with these companies have figured out other ways to document that discussion that they’re growing, that sentiment analysis, that they’re growing, and those intermediate actions that lead towards a sale.
22:41 Ted Sindzinski: So, you don’t have to buy something to be a valuable visitor to somebody’s websites or their stores. You could sign up for a newsletter, you could follow them on that community, on another social network, anywhere else and say, “Okay, what does that mean for the longer term purchase intents?” There are of course, again, for those more robust marketing platforms, ways to do some backend analysis, email addresses of customers, but you start to get into privacy issues pretty quickly. So, you don’t really wanna be doing overlap analysis of your customers versus some brand that’s advertising with these customers, but you can just push the boundaries on what that is. The more people you know with consent from those people as individuals versus the more people that the company knows, the more you can look at overlaps and go, “Okay, we did a contest, people opted in the newsletter and lo and behold, 40% of those people ended up as customers of that company.” Well, that’s pretty compelling stuff for everybody who entered that contest even the ones that didn’t opt in and no one’s privacy was violated.
23:37 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, it sounds like, just to reiterate what you said, so you’ve got the traditional metrics, impressions, clicks, what have you. But then, when you’re talking about engagement, things like sentiment analysis, things like you mentioned. So in other words, if you’re able to analyze sentiment on the community, which is certainly possible, something that can be looked into, there’s tools you can use, mentions surrounding a specific brand, and if they may get more positive, that’s a good thing. If the company sponsors or is otherwise financially engaged with the community then mentions of that company get more popular, or mentions of that company are more positive, that’s a good thing. Mentions being mentions of the company in the community. So, if mentions of that company were X number before they launched a campaign, and they went up 30% since they launched the campaign, that’s a useful metric for engagement. And so, things like that can be really useful, you have to find the right brands, I think. And I think you eluded to that, you have to find brands that really understand it.
24:29 Patrick O’Keefe: But, there obviously is substantial value there in being mentioned more in the community, in a large and influential community appreciating your products, because their influence does go beyond the community. The tricky part is when they do go elsewhere, but that influence has real world impact, even beyond the community.
24:47 Ted Sindzinski: Absolutely. You said it very well, Patrick, about some of those specific tactics. But the whole idea here is to keep in mind that, influence is not a click-to-purchase pass and if you get yourself trapped as a community or as a brand owner… I’m a marketer of brands, right? I’m not community side so much anymore as the owner of the communities. So, I say this to my fellow marketers who are maybe listening, thinking about that intermediate metric and that intermediate process of showing interest is so important here to find success. ‘Cause you’re just not gonna find the right wins in most all of marketing these days, looking at single paths. People spend so much time looking at things, they’re so well-influenced. If I’m out on a trail as a hiker, something you know that I do pretty frequently and I’m considered a pretty decent hiker, but I learn from a forum about something else, and that person is watching me on the trail, their influence could go back to that community. And how they found about it can go back to a forum. So, you’re not gonna figure that out because that person has no idea how I figured it out.
25:40 Ted Sindzinski: Kinda the circle of, you gotta look at that bigger picture, and pair that up with some of the less direct metrics but that are tangible, like those visitor clicks. Send that analysis and say, “What does this tell us could be happening overall for our marketing?” And as a community owner, guys, don’t believe that brands have this perfectly figured out with other advertising channels just because they say they know all of their ROI. You can challenge that fact and say, “Hey, look. People come in lots of ways. They have lots of touchpoints. Let’s talk about where we fit into your overall marketing strategy.” Which may be earlier than, say paid search for a specific purchase term, or later than a TV ad, if they’re a bigger company. “We’re somewhere in the middle. Where people that are aware that are looking for that validation. So, how do we fit into that part of the buying funnel?” And that’s got value in itself. You have to understand the companies you’re talking to just like they have to understand your community.
26:31 Patrick O’Keefe: And this relates to something you told me in pre-show questionnaire you filled out back in January, which was that, “I think there’s a very real relationship between community and action that’s not given enough credit. People see threads on forums or Facebook groups and think about people just ranting. But, I see the core of an industry talking, only a small fraction of people participate in any social format as contributors, but the impact they have on the wider market is vastly understated.” And you left a similar comment on a great piece written by Sarah Judd Welch, who is a previous guest of the show, where you said, “When I’m reading through my Facebook feed, none of my friends end their story about Disneyland with a link to the ticket page. When members from the Jeep forum, I just signed up for, tell me about new tires sold at the local store, there’s no coupon I take into the store. Brands that can’t see how information really flows between connections they won’t ever find success growing them.” And obviously, we’ve talked about this. We’ve talked about it today even about how companies don’t necessarily understand the impact that communities are having on their business. And not just communities they own, but especially ones that they don’t.
27:27 Patrick O’Keefe: People search for reviews, they search for answers to product questions, they end up in forums, they end up in other social spaces, where the words they read often give them the final nudge to decide whether or not they’re gonna make that purchase. But, as you just said, they aren’t clicking on a link, there’s no direct referral. The brand or the retailer, no one really knows the impact. And I’m curious when we initially talked… We’ve been talking about this for years, but when we talked about it in January, it’s now August, is it getting better? Is there anything that you’re seeing tech-wise or otherwise that is making you optimistic that this gap is being closed? And if so, what is that?
28:02 Ted Sindzinski: I haven’t seen every technology product. If there’s one out there, please send me an email, let me know about you, ’cause I think I’d love to be using that software. What I think is changing is brands are becoming more aware that this is true not just in the community, but elsewhere. When we talked in January, I don’t think I said elsewhere. I just talked about communities and how the measurements work there. But, as I look at the world, I go, “Okay. I think we’re learning that all over our marketing, there are lots of indicators that are perhaps, sometimes stronger because they’re later in the funnel that is closer to them doing the purchase, or earlier in the funnel, they get a little weaker.” And we’re starting to say, “Hey, how do these things add up together?” Which is much more old school marketing. I came in digital thinking and learning just about people click and they buy, but that doesn’t really work anymore. So, as we become more confident as companies do, as brands do, and realizing that there’s more touchpoints, there are more open to discussions about things that touch other areas. Everybody’s sick of hearing that we help your influence. Everybody’s sick of hearing that we help your awareness because we wanna drive sales.
29:00 Ted Sindzinski: But, I think we’re beginning to understand that that’s really how it does work, and we have to find those core metrics but the accepting of this is what things do. You see it at events. That Jeep I talked about in January? I’ve owned it for a couple of years now. I’ve been in that forum for a while now. And I lurk. But, I still learn. And I think that the brands know and can look and say, “Hey, we have that ability. If we’d talked to Ted early on and figured out he went to the forum, he’s used that forum.” It’s a pretty simple question and a survey, and Jeep does some good surveys. “But over time, look how much he’s bought from us. He’s looking at another Jeep.” That’s a good indication that that community is influencing him in a positive way. So, I don’t know there’s a technology that’s putting that bulk together better yet, at least not that I’ve seen in the last six, seven months. So much as a willingness to say, “Let’s explore a little bit deeper into these things.” Especially as you look at some of the bigger communities and go, “What are those really doing for us? Is that really where the advocate lives?” So, certainly on that Facebook, Twitter, large network there are a lot of people talking but are they the only ones gonna reach, or are they reaching them properly?
30:00 Ted Sindzinski: Even the growth of Instagram, you can really look at and say, “That’s much more about reaching people who are little more influential in things.” A lot of people see photos, but read the comments, look at the threads, look at people talking back and forth about a given topic and you see it’s a lot of creators, right? “Oh, that’s a great shot from a great product, I did the same trail last week.” Or, “I went to this venue and this concert that week ’cause I love this band.” That person, their whole profile is about that band. They know that world. So, this kind of idea of building and building and building really influential people that then create content, I think we can see more and more signs of it, if you look around. Hopefully somebody’s got a tool belt to make it a little easier just to see it with a click. But, I’m not sure it’s that simple, because I’m not sure that the methodology and the concept of it could ever be boiled down into something that straightforward, since we are, again, talking about this delayed, back of your head, “Oh yeah, I did read that site once, or twice.” Or, “I was a member there for two years” kind of metric, methodology.
30:54 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah. And it really touches every space. We’re talking about speakers and tech, and you hinted at hiking there a little bit, but it’s literally everything from knitting patterns to coffee mugs. It just depends, if you go to a community of coffee drinkers, you’re telling me there’s not multiple threads on there about their favorite mugs? It touches everything. And if you’re a seller at a small scale, or it could be massive for you to just be mentioned one time, or if you’re a small seller at a big scale, if you find the right mention in there, if someone puts your name in their particular mug, it could generate a lot of units. And my grandfather just turned 80 on August 1st, he has an RV, and he generally does things himself, and still refuses to let people do things for him or pay someone to do it. So he’ll make changes to his RV, add things, install things, he installs things to improve the WiFi, whatever. And so he, awhile back, showed me that he’s subscribed to this RV forum and he gets the really, really, really, really basic, 10 latest threads email. It’s like the super basic, generated from RSS feed, very super basic. And he showed me that, he’s like, “I read this.” And he’s like, he goes in there, he reads things, and then he goes and buys things.
32:04 Patrick O’Keefe: Now, I don’t think he clicks any links in there. I don’t know that he really goes in that forum. He never posts, I don’t think. He might have an account and I don’t know. But, he’s buying all these RV accessories based upon these discussions in this RV forum, and I said… He showed me that and I said, “So, you know I wrote a book about forums, right?” [chuckle] And he said, “Oh yeah, yeah, I do know that.” It was just funny ’cause he’s 80, we’re of a certain age, Millennial-ish, I wanna say. And even though I don’t like that word, people under 35 or people in that area, let’s say. And it really touches all industry. So even if you can’t afford to spend money on community, it’s such a good use of your time to be aware of it and to be present and helpful when you can be. Not to interfere, but just to be present and aware.
32:51 Ted Sindzinski: Yeah, it’s a great example, Patrick. And from the analytics side, just to wrap that thought up, if you’re a smart company that sells accessories for RVs, you’re not thinking about, “How do I get click paths?” You’re thinking, “Let me ask this nice gentleman who came in, or figure out from him over his life cycle, how you hear about us.” You gotta reverse the question to figure out attribution. You can’t go into it saying, “Where’s the path up?” You gotta say, “Here’s the customer, where’s the path down? What are all the things they did everywhere?” But, yeah, I agree with you so much so about, whether you are deciding you’re ready to invest in communities as a brand, or on the fence, whether you have the budget or don’t have the budget, you have the budget somewhere in your company to do something. You have the manpower somewhere, even if it’s just a bit. It’s happening whether you do or not, right? It’s not like by not participating or not advertising, the community ignores you and just lets you go, no. They’re talking, they’re always speaking, so whether it’s a disaster, and a lot of my life, unfortunately, is spent helping companies with what we’ll call crises, thankfully these are not actual crises of the world.
33:49 Ted Sindzinski: But company crises, that costs jobs and money, or just to grow things in a positive way. The advice I’m giving people is, “Look, there’s discussion happening, let’s be a part of that, even if we’re just watching it.” Even if we’re just occasionally saying, “Hey guys, if you have a question, very direct to us sales question or a support question, we’re here.” And let’s also keep that going, people are gonna talk about our support and our experience, whether we do a good job or not, so let’s make sure that we are doing a good job. Because the world doesn’t work in this way where you had a good relationship, you shook hands, and the person walked away and didn’t really tell anybody about it, as long as they liked you personally, looked you in the eye. They can walk out the door and say, “Yeah, they tried to make it right, but I’m still gonna share that.” Or, “They did make it right, and I’m gonna tell everybody about it.” So it’s happening A to Z, every brand out there is being spoken about at some level. The question is just how do you leverage, or how do you become aware of, or how do you avoid, right? Depending on what your particular discussion points are and of course, the state of your brand.
34:48 Patrick O’Keefe: It’s happening whether you want it to or not. Whether you engage or not, that ball is just gonna keep rolling. Ted, thank you so much for coming on the show.
34:57 Ted Sindzinski: Absolutely, Patrick. It was great to get to chat again, and I’m looking forward to seeing if some of these questions we’ve had maybe spawn some discussions from companies to say, “Hey, maybe we could build a cool tool to figure out some of that analysis.” ‘Cause I think there’s, again, so much untapped potential as we see community move forward.
35:12 Patrick O’Keefe: Yeah, and give me and Ted some advisor shares.
35:16 Ted Sindzinski: Absolutely.
35:18 Patrick O’Keefe: And bring us in ’cause you know we’re worth it.
35:20 Ted Sindzinski: Absolutely.
35:21 Patrick O’Keefe: So, we have been talking with Ted Sindzinski, a digital and brand marketing consultant, who has spent time at SVS, Monster Cable/Beats by Dr. Dre, and Jenny Craig, while also co-founding ScubaBoard.com. You can find him on Twitter @TSindzinski. If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer on the air, please submit them at communitysignal.com/qa. For the transcript from this episode, plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad. See you next week.
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