An Online Community I Get a Kick Out Of

Anna Ritchie : Community Maven
Anna Ritchie
Marketing & communications practitioner, and product manager for TMCnet. Focus on content marketing and social media with a specialty in Online Community-building for businesses. Follow @Connectincloud and @apritchie
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An Online Community I Get a Kick Out Of

The recent launch of Foot Locker’s Sneakerpedia really intrigued me. As a shoe fanatic, I’d of course be the first to jump on the opportunity to talk about shoes, all shoes and nothing but shoes all day long. But, how exactly would this work? Would it be like a Facebook page where people post pictures of their shoes, like they do with their bling on Blue Nile’s Fan Page?  Or more like an online encyclopedia where people can learn about, and comment on, different kinds of sneakers like Air Jordans or those funny-looking feet-shaped shoes?

Fortunately, Sneakerpedia is a nice mash-up of the two. For one, it’s an educational resource where people can learn about all sorts of sneakers from throughout history, like when it was made, by whom, materials it was made with, etc. Plus, people have the opportunity to share their own pictures and stories about their sneakers to share with people who have similar tastes as them (like canary yellow soccer kicks).

I love this concept as an Online Community for many reasons, but primarily because there are things that Foot Locker is doing with this Online Community that businesses of any size or industry could learn from:

1)      Branding is present, but minimal. The site is about sneakers, not them, and they are wise to know that visitors will be more likely to congregate, learn and trust the site if it’s not overly sales-y. But I’ll tell you one thing: it works. I think Foot Locker is a much cooler brand now for launching this site, and went to Lady Foot Locker the very evening I discovered this to bring myself, and my sneakers, out of the late 90’s.

2)      Users are encouraged to contribute: If Foot Locker has failed to capture your favorite gym shoe from 8th grade P.E., you can post it yourself! Now, this is a bit trickier for businesses to implement, because they might not necessarily want other company’s products on their site, but the concept is a good one: Let site visitors tell you what they want to see on the site – and oblige!

3)      Rules are in place to ensure good conduct: At the top of Sneakerpedia is a simple bubble that says “Sneakerpedia is a social wiki, wiki rules apply. To find out more, visit our blog.” Brilliant. Make it an open forum, but make it clear that there are rules you need to follow to play well in the sandbox and repercussions if you don’t. As many businesses hesitate to open discussions on their online communities, I think this shows there are ways to do so without giving up your control of your site. Put rules in place. Kick people off if they break the rules. Simple. Chances are, by establishing yourself as the facilitator, not manager, of the site’s content, discussions and activity, visitors will have enough respect for the site to avoid breaking that trust.

Connect with Us and Join the Conversation: What are some other fun social online communities you’ve seen? Have you learned any lessons from them that can be applied to an online community for a business?

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