Social Media Community Building 101 – The Right Domain Name

<This is part 3 in my series on Social Media Community Building.  You will find all of my pieces on this subject by checking out this tag: Social Media 101. Disclosure: this post is about selecting and buying domain names.  I work for a company that owns the largest aftermarket domain name listing service in the world, Namemedia, although that is not what I do for them. >

One of the key points you need to consider when you are building your Social Media Community is the domain name.  The right name can make your site, while the wrong one brings with it more baggage than you could possibly imagine.  The general list of considerations:

  • The shorter the better – If I were building a community for septic tank cleaning professionals, I’d look for something like “septicpros.com” rather than “septic-pro-media-forums.com”  – on the face of it, less letters to type.
  • Make the name a Search  Keyword that you’d expect someone to enter into Google to find you.  Hence “Blatz.com” wouldn’t be as desirable as “tennisbuddies.com” when you’re doing a Tennis social media site.  Plus, the domain name is one of the things Google gives you points for in their alrogithm.  Hence, given identical content and in bound links, TennisBuddy.com will do better than the nonsensical blatz.com.
  • Try to Avoid the Alternate Top Level Domains – .Com is the gold standard here.  .Net is acceptable, and .Mobi is fine for your Iphone stuff.  I don’t use .us, or any of the other alternates.  Why?  Because they don’t get direct type in traffic, and its really easy to build your site up, only to have someone sharp that owns the .Com TLD siphon off your traffic by constructing a similar site.  How do they get your traffic?  Most of your users will inevitably type .Com instead of .FooBar or whatever you have at some point.  Too big a business risk in my estimation.
  • Avoid Misspelling Problems – If it’s hard to type, you’re going to have people ending up at the wrong place.  Once again, keep it simple.

Have  people found success doing the opposite of my suggestions?  Sure, probably the best example was http://del.icio.us – but even they have now given in, having bought delicious.com and directing their primary traffic through that domain instead.

Okay, so your next thought is this:  “Nice advice, but all the good domain names were bought up years ago.  We’re gonna have to go with http://xtrptser.com because it’s the only one left.

Not so…there is the domain aftermarket.  My employer, Namemedia Inc. owns over 900,000 domain names, which can be bought via BuyDomains.com or at Afternic.com – which is  a “Multiple Listing Service for Domain Names.”  Together with our partners, we list something in the area of 2 million domain names (don’t quote me directly on that, it’s a rough estimate, not exact).  They’ve also got plenty of trained domain professionals who can help you through the purchase and transfer process.

So now you can get access to a whole lot of excellent domain names, which should make your new Social Media Website a winner.

My view on domains is this: they are a very important business asset for any business. In the case of niche social media sites, they may be one of your most important assets.  Thus buying the right one is of utter importance.  There are many places in the building of your site where you will be able to cut a few corners, but this is not a place to do that.

Social Media Community Building 101 – The Team

So you’ve got the basics set, having a general plan ready to go (you did read the first article in this series, right?).  Now it’s time to nail down another important aspect of your little project: the community team.  Again, we’re going to have some choices to make, and each one comes with it’s own set of baggage.

  • Partner – give up equity in your project and pay the team member with an ownership stake.  This helps to properly motivate team members in the beginning, but to keep them involved, your going to need to see some financial success fairly quickly (but that’s a good thing, right?).
  • Hire – The dreaded FTE, which is something a new and unproven business model should avoid at all costs.  You’ll know when its time to get serious and hire people, but pre-launch isn’t the time.
  • Contract – As Charlie Sheen notably said about call girls, “I don’t pay them for the sex, I pay them so they will go home after the sex.” This is the reason I like contract work or freelancers for building sites initially.  The project is scoped, the project is built and eventually, they go home.  No long term commitments, no nasty divorces.
  • Outsource/Third Party – Hire a company or freelancer for a specific task or area of expertise.   
  • Barter – Yup, you can trade your skills for those of other professionals.  The good news is that no cash has to change hands.  The bad news is that you’re going to be doing work for someone else, for free…
  • Intern – There are folks out there who will want to become involved in your site, and they’ll be willing to help, and they’ll do it for free.   Not all of them will work out, but you’ll find over time that looking inwards to a community for help is a great way to make things happen.

You should have a good idea from your business plan where the major areas of work are going to be.  Let’s generally assume: Continue reading “Social Media Community Building 101 – The Team”

Social Media Community Building 101 – The Starting Points

(This is part 2 of an on going series of posts on Social Media.  If you didn’t see my first post, in which I define Social Media is, I emplore you to start there  now.  All the posts in this series will be tagged “Social Media 101” so you can find them easily.)

Starting a new community is a fairly daunting task. In this post, I’ll point you to some initial steps that will help you along your way towards building a stable, sustainable and scalable platform that will make growth and success technologically possible.

First off, you have an important technology decision: are you going to roll your own from scratch, assemble pre-packaged systems, or look for a complete system that will fill your needs. Considerations:

  • Roll Your Own (think of custom coded PHP, ASP, Perl, Java, etc. solutions):- You need to be a competent coder.
    – Time to market will be longer.
    – You will have complete control over how your site works.
    – Your feature set at launch will probably be restricted.
    – Less spam issues, as you’re solutions will be one off, hence the packaged spam products will not know how to attack you.
       Continue reading “Social Media Community Building 101 – The Starting Points”

Social Media, Social (Media) Marketing and Where the Difference Lies…

I’ve finally put my finger on what it is that’s been chaffing my britches about the new found popularity of Social Media; that is most people are using the wrong term.  They’re not talking about Social Media, they’re talking about  Social Media Marketing.

I’m sure a lot of you are saying the same thing right now: “What the heck gives this bozo the right to define what is and what is not Social Media?” Let me answer that for you.

I’ve been building online communities, doing user generated content, and generally fostering what you all like to call “the conversation” since 1995. That’s before most of you had Internet connections, and certainly before most of you ever thought about blogging, commenting, or the like. If you don’t like my opinion on what is and what isn’t Social Media, talk to Dave Winer, or Doc Searls, or some of the other folks who have been around since the early days.

So here are the defininitions I believe would be more correct:

  • Social Networking – anything having to do with the major sharing and online networking sites and applications.  Think about LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious, etc. here.  Generally these are communication based sites.  Wikipedia does a good job of defining:

    “A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services. “

  • Social Media – development of and operation of content driven websites in which user generated content, comments, and discussion forums play a large part.  Wikipedia offers a definition, but I believe it is overly broad, although it does hint at the consumer generated content aspects:

    “Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

  • Social Media Marketing (I’ve edited the post here due to concernes that the lack of the word media here was confusing – using either Social Media sites or Social Networking to sell, advertise, promote or develop “the buzz” for a product, brand, website or person.  Wikipedia prefers the term Social Media Marketing, which I don’t utterly hate, however their definition is somewhat mealy mouthed, so I won’t republish here.
  • Social Media Marketing Consulting (edited to add ‘media’) – telling other people, generally via Twitter, or at expensive conferences in out of the way place, that they should be doing Social Marketing.  If you’re telling people to “join the conversation”, you are probably a Social  Media Marketing Consultant.

My case in point is this: there is a fellow offering certification  in Social Media, yet when you read the prospectus, it’s obvious he’s pushing Social Media Marketing.  It’s more about how to game the system, than how to build the system, a rather fundemental difference in my mind.  

To recap:

  • Social Networking:  a communications service
  • Social Media : the consumer generated content aspects of content driven websites
  • Social Media Marketing(edited to add the word “Media” to avoid confusion): selling or promoting products, brands, people or things via Social Networking services or Social Media sites.

So please, if you’re going to consult on Social Media,  or Social Media Marketing, at least get your terms straight.