Many years ago, when I was underemployed, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I did some writing for content farms. You know the sites I’m talking about: you’re searching Google for information on what to do about that weird rash on your elbow and the first link you click on is a bizarrely useless article stuffed with links. These days, though, you don’t need that kind of factory farmed content--you can get organic, pasture-raised content just like Grandma used to make, directly from your community!
By taking the discussions, blog posts, and resources shared in your community and reframing them, you can present this highly-relevant, crowd-sourced content to the world. In doing so, you’re not only pushing good stuff out to your user base and the public at large, you’re also marketing the value of your community through the “show, don’t tell” principle. Not sure where to start? Here are a few possibilities:
You probably already put out a newsletter covering the latest happenings at your organization, things coming down the pipeline, and other hot items. One of the easiest ways to reframe the content being created in your community is by adding a short section to your newsletter highlighting the top 3-5 threads from the past few weeks. Pick threads that cover a breadth of topics—even if they’re not the most active overall—to make sure you interest the widest range of people. And, it should go without saying, but include a link to the discussion, so your newsletter readers can go join in if a particular topic interests them.
If your organization has a blog, shake up the content calendar with periodic round-ups from your community. Much like the newsletter idea I mention above, an easy one is highlighting the top discussions from the previous month (or year)—if you take the time to write up a quick summary sentence or two to go along with each link, that’s even better! If you have a particularly fun or helpful thread on a specific topic (such as “top tips for a recent grad entering XY industry”), share the most helpful replies in a blog post wrap-up. Here’s a really fun example from the Missouri Association of REALTORS.
Finally, if you hold a successful Ask-Me-Anything session in your community, round up the best quotes or tips from your expert and include them in a blog post; here’s an example of that from Professional Photographers of America.
Infographics became the trendy way to present information a few years ago, and with good reason—they make data beautiful and visually engaging. Now that the initial excitement has died down, infographic design has had to become a little more sophisticated, and so simplicity works in your favor. If a few particularly stand-out tips or stories have been shared in your community, highlight them in a simple, elegant infographic that your members and customers will want to re-share on social media and beyond. Here’s an example that I like, created by the folks at Business Insider. Now, imagine something like this with tips from your community about what they are interested in.
I spend a lot of time educating folks on how content for private online communities differs from what you put out on social media, but that doesn’t mean these tools can’t work together as delightfully as, say, chocolate and peanut butter. Sending teasers for community content out on public social media platforms helps bring people into your community by taking advantage of the services they use every day.
Obviously, if you have the time to compose artful tweets and Facebook posts with links to hot topics in the community, that’s wonderful. But if you need a hand, check out tools like Zapier that you can use to automate tasks between web apps—for example, when a new thread is posted to your community’s Open Forum, have it post it to Twitter for you. Why I love Zapier: you can set up conditional filtering so community posts containing certain words or phrases don’t get sent out to your social media profiles. In other words, you don’t have to worry about your system accidentally tweeting an off-topic rant out to the world.
By taking the time to curate the best of your community and spreading it out via non-community channels, you’re casting the widest net possible with content you know your target demographic already finds relevant (because they created it). These are only a few ideas—I’d love to hear the creative ways that you’ve taken community content and shared it with the world!