Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and other activities on generalized social media platforms engage audiences, attract new users, drive traffic and generate content that can be used on business media websites and within magazines. However, for a variety of strategic reasons, business publishers are also stepping up their efforts to build their own communities on newly unveiled social media sites and subsites.
Thomas Publishing's Managing Automation Media recently launched Manufacturing Executive.This multiplatform brand will include live events and a bimonthly journal distributed in digital, iPad and print editions, but its primary face to the market is Manufacturing-Executive.com, a networking-oriented website built around a paid-membership model. Memberships on the site cost $249 per year.
“If you are going down the social media street, you have to do so in a clear, committed way that sends an unmistakable signal,” said David R. Brousell, editor in chief of Managing Automation Media. “When people come to the Manufacturing Executive brand in the form of the site, they should immediately recognize the purpose. Community members will be co-creating key aspects of the brand, especially the personality, and our editorial department will be shaping and monitoring it.”
Last month, Inc.com rolled out AskInc. at http://ask.inc.com, a question-and-answer subsite for entrepreneurs and small-business owners developed in partnership with Mahalo, a “human-powered search engine” and knowledge-sharing service.
“With AskInc., we're producing content on a scale that's impossible for a traditional editorial team to produce,” said David Grossman, director of business development for Inc.com. In addition, AskInc. has boosted Inc.com's traffic in the weeks since its debut because the audience tends to ask questions that are on the minds of the general business population, so they index very highly in search results, Grossman said.
AskInc. has also brought site registrations to an unprecedented level. “People hate registering to access content, but they understand registering to engage with the community,” Grossman said. “For 2011, we're putting together a strategy that is built around our expanding database of registered users.”
Dave Iannone, president and founder of Go Forward Media, is helping a number of b-to-b publishers, including Elsevier Public Safety, develop business networking platforms that fit into their overall digital strategies. Separately, Iannone launched FirefighterNation.com, an online community, in 2007. Acquired by Elsevier in 2009, the site is being redesigned as the online companion to Elsevier's Fire Rescue magazine.
“FirefighterNation.com was launched as a community specifically, with 100% user-generated content,” Iannone said. “But the long-term goal has always been to fully integrate that community with more robust, editorially driven content.” When a brand can fully leverage both editorial and community-generated content, “you'll end up with more market share, more prominence with your audience” and better differentiation from competitors, he added.
With the recent relaunch of EETimes.com, United Business Media's EE Times Group aims to combine business reporting and technical information with the premier online community for the global electronics industry. “Engineers do not see Facebook as a viable medium for the peer-to-peer discussions they want to have and, in our recent Twitter usage study, most engineers checked off the box that said they "loathe' Twitter,” EE Times Group CEO Paul Miller said.
Miller is not leaving community interaction to chance. Karen Field, a mechanical engineer turned editor, was hired to create an area of the website called EE Life, and paid moderators—currently numbering 70—were recruited “to police the site, add comments, create blogs and drive the interaction,” Miller said.
Stephen Saunders, now a consultant, launched UBM TechWeb's Internet Evolution in 2007 and helped EE Times develop its team of moderators. User-generated content is and has always been the most prominent feature of Internet Evolution. The content is primarily created by a similar panel of recruited experts.
Media companies seem to focus on technology platforms for social media while expecting the content creation to take care of itself, Saunders said, adding, “That prioritization needs to be reversed completely. User-generated content is not free. Your success depends on the people you hire to manage it.” &BULL;