Someone still loves you.
The SpaceRace vibes were streaming through the airwaves today. You might have noticed that the wind changed, or that your hair stood up for a few minutes. Don’t worry. Don’t hide under your desk. It was only me, in an interview with CJAM-FM‘s Cameron Wells.
Cam’s weekly show, Handilinks, focuses on disability issues, and features interviews with a variety of people involved in advocacy, support, and community initiatives. Cam and I had a chat about the amazing Totally ADD. I’m very proud to be their Community Manager, a role that involves managing the website, connecting with the ADHD community, and performing all of the social media management, execution, and point of contact for the entire online space. Yep, the whole internet. Did someone say ADD?
Totally ADD is in the midst of a pledge drive on over 80 PBS stations in the US. Their award-winning documentary, ADD & Loving It?! is screening in living rooms all over the continent, and it’s an absolutely crazy time for the entire team. The volume of incoming email has easily tripled, and our Facebook page is buzzin’ like Studio 54, and Twitter? Well, let’s just say that that particular birdie is definitely not flying south for the winter. Because of our success, the essential services that a Community Manager provides have become that much more essential. People are reaching out to us through channels not previously available, and we (I) have to be there to intercept problems, concerns, kudos, and opportunities to make connections. It’s a great problem to have, but it does underline the importance of flexibility, access, and patience. In good times and in bad, it’s not a role for the energy deficient. We’re about to hit 10,000 members. What a ride!
Here’s the interview. I hope you enjoy it.

Dear Robert
Scarlet Guy, my 7 year old, recently did a school project where she had to research a notable Canadian. Being a rabid book-lover, she chose Robert Munsch, the author of many of her favourite stories. She found Munsch’s website and eagerly composed a little message telling him about her project. Within a day, she received an email response. From Robert Munsch (or at least a reasonable facsimile). The joy was palpable.
Earlier this year, she read several Judy Blume books and went to Blume’s site, eager to share her enjoyment. Same thing. Within a day or 2, Judy Blume herself, the GREAT Judy Blume, sent her a personal response thanking her for her comments.
And her tweets to former Toronto Mayor David Miller? He responded almost instantly, although her suggestion of a dedicated Dog’s Day in Toronto might not make the agenda of any council meetings.

Scarlet will never forget these meaningful digital encounters.

I think it’s fair to say that the personal effort made by these “brands” have consolidated Scarlet as a loyal fan and customer. Another thing has happened – she now has no doubt that if she reaches out, she will be heard and responded to.

I’ve waited weeks for a response from certain service providers. I’ve joined so called “communities”, and never heard from the moderator or any representative of the company. I have seen a lot of “join our community” calls to action, which only result in frequent spammy marketing emails. Community can be defined in a lot of ways, but the prospect of joining one is not made enticing with junk mail. My faith, one could say, is shaky.

Companies like Starbucks, Dell, Scholastic, Zappos, and FlipVideo differentiate themselves by being present in the communities they foster. They build trust. They breed loyalty. And they do it out in the open.
Many companies make excuses like “nobody has time for that”, or “we can’t have these conversations in public”, or “our audience isn’t online.” Closing the door on providing service out in the open looks like you have something to hide. Showing that you’re responsive, and that you understand that social networks and the online medium are important to customers is a win-win. And yes, someone needs to manage it. Someone who is an effective communicator and cares about customer service. And someone who enjoys being online and interacting in the digital space. I bet there’s someone who’d relish the opportunity. Can you find them and empower them?
In our web development practice, we regularly consult forums and discussion boards. Response and sharing is de riguer. It’s a very give and give back community, and we have formed amazing relationships through this network of shared contribution. The thing is, these faithful responders aren’t company reps. They’re human beings with a belief in the sharing economy. They likely rate highly on any social technographics measurement. They provide an excellent example of how relationships with brands could be, if brands weren’t so concerned with building the numbers of their email list.
I invite you to conduct your own research. Fill in a contact form with a positive comment and see what happens. Search for your chosen service provider on Facebook. Send them a tweet. Is anybody out there?

Last night I had the amazing good fortune to present for the good folks behind Cause2Mkt, which is a really neat initiative that presents technology training topics for agents of social change. I’d highly suggest checking out their upcoming events. They rock.

We gathered at Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation, in a beautiful hardwood and brick studio room. CSI is a luvverly place to host a meeting, present, hang out, work, eavesdrop…. We did some filming for another project there earlier in the week and the experience was top notch. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter, as they host a ton of great events.

My workshop focused on the need for online community builders to consider the importance of great content in their outreach strategies. I presented my work as the Community Manager with Totally ADD, among other examples of innovative community initiatives.

And, as promised to the attendees, I’m pleased to provide my deck. I’ve included some of the links at the bottom of this post, since some weren’t embedded in the slides.

[slideshare id=5063793&doc=contentandcommunity-100826163311-phpapp02]

And here are some of the links mentioned above:

Totally ADD
The inaugural Old Spice video
The much more entertaining Totally ADD version
Cystic Life: A social network for the Cystic Fibrosis Community
Classroom 2.0: a worldwide social network for educators
CommunitySpark: a great site for aspiring community managers
The Community Roundtable: A peer network for community managers and social media practitioners

To the participants – thank you so much for being amazing people to talk to! And to Donnie and Maureen – thank you so much for the opportunity (and the cookies).


The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.