Saturday, March 13, 2010

Success Story of Community Building with Social Media

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Kristin Brandt, one of the co-hosts of the Manic Mommies podcast. She’s in Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW), which is a totally cool annual interactive-music-film festival. She organized a meet up for listeners in the area. About 10 women were there, most from Austin. Two of us drove from miles away.
Why would we do such a thing? Because this is a show that has developed a strong community – better than any other podcast I’ve participated in, which is why I’m telling you about it. Here’s an excellent example of how social media can be used to build and engage a community.

First a little about the Manic Mommies. The hosts are Erin Kane and Kristin Brandt who started podcasting on somewhat of a whim about five years ago. Though they didn’t deliberate much on the name of their show, they chose Manic Mommies because one of the definitions of “manic” is “overly busy.” Their tagline is “The podcast for buzy moms trying to do it all!… and then some.” The do have a sizeable following of men as well.

The structure of the show is two working moms who talk about what’s going on in their daily lives, and they occasionally have guest interviews. The biggest appeal is that they have no pretension. They are like friends you haven’t met yet.
Here are some examples of their community building success:
  • They have a huge number of listeners, so much so that they’ve attracted sponsors like Chevy and others.
  •  More listeners call in with comments than they have room for to include in their weekly show.
  • They have an active Facebook fan page with 3,850 fans and ongoing conversations.
  • Using Big Tent, they have set up a forum with free memberships and a "Gal Pals” section with added benefits for those who pay a nominal fee. There are multiple new discussion threads started every day. And it hasn’t waned since it was launched over a year ago. This group has about 2,000 participants.
  • They blog on their web site regularly and sometimes have contests for readers and listeners. They also have a blog column for Real Simple.
  • They host an annual “escape” event where women travel from across the county to spend time together. The 2009 escape was capped at 150 people and sold out in less than two weeks. They’re planning their fourth Escape for November 2010.
  • They have their own line of calendars for moms through Mead that you can buy online or in stores like Target.
  • They have their own line of swag through Café Press and Company Casuals.
  • They have an awesome iPhone ap.
  • They have a Tastebook cookbook with recipe contributions from listeners.
  • They have an active online book club.
Oh, and by the way, this is their hobby. They both have full-time jobs and young children.

Their success didn’t happen all at once. They didn’t start out knowing they’d be here five years later. But it wasn’t accidental either. They have been clear from the beginning about who their audience is. They have been strategic about going for some opportunities and saying no to others. And they’ve been flexible to adapt as technology and other environmental factors changed.

That is the challenge for the rest of us as we integrate social media into our work. We typically have had an idea of where a certain effort would take us. Good media relations will likely lead to media coverage. Good event planning will likely lead to successful events. But it’s hard to say where good social media work will take us. Like with the Manic Mommies though, it could take us beyond our wildest imaginations.