I don’t know about you, but it seems as though every day someone announcing that they started a podcast. From big brands to small business and even those trying to build a personal brand. Podcasting seems to be becoming a more and more attractive means to deliver your message. Which leads many to ask, “Should I start a podcast?”.

Podcasting began to catch fire around 2004 and has only increased in production and consumption since then. According to Edison Research [1] there are more than half a million podcasts and more than half of Americans have listened to podcasts.

I am a huge fan of Gary Vee, who is a digital marketing guru and advocate for content marketing. He is constantly hypothesizing that content that is consumed passively (like audio) is more appealing to the general public. Why? Well, because we are busy.

As a culture, there are many things pressing for our time. Stopping to read a blog or watch a video is becoming a commodity. However, we can more readily tune in to a podcast on the go or while we are multitasking.

Considering that this is how many of your potential clients are consuming content it is probable that as a leader and small business owner the thought has crossed your mind, “Should I start a podcast?

Should I Start a Podcast?

Yes.

Well, no.

Okay, maybe.

See how much help I was there? Before we can address whether or not you should start a podcast, let’s first talk about what podcasting is and isn’t.

Without getting too technical (I am not the most techie lady) a podcast is simply an audio show that listeners can download a single or multiple episodes of.

Itunes, Spotify, Anchor, Google Play, Stitcher, are just a FEW of the major podcasting platforms which can stream your show for little (or sometimes) no cost. After your show is “aired” there are opportunities to repurpose content across your social channels. This provides valuable content even to non-podcast listeners.

What I have loved most about podcasting is its ability to connect with people from literally all over the world. It is also an incredible way to bring a more relational element to your brand. You are actually SPEAKING to your audience. It is a cool way for them to “get to know” the person behind the product or the brand.

You Should Not Start a Podcast.

Whoa. What?

I just spent several paragraphs raving about podcasts and now I am going to tell you not to start one? Well, no.

I like to end on a high note, and tell you all the benefits of YOU starting your show. However, it would be a disservice to you if I did not share the not-so-pretty side to podcasting. My goal here is to paint a broader picture and help manage expectations.

Okay, ready for the cold hard truth?

  1. You will not get immediate results.
  2. It is a lot of work.

Sounds like fun right?

The reality is that ALL content marketing doesn’t yield immediate results and is a lot of work. So this should not come as a surprise to you to hear podcasting is the same way. However, I am still surprised at how many people start shows and get discouraged when the download number is not as high. Like with anything else, content marketing or not, results take time.

Of course, there are new tactics you can learn, and ways that you can improve your show, but more often than not it comes back to good old fashion grit. Another difficult aspect of podcasting is getting feedback from your audience. Unlike blogging or social media posts, it is harder to interact with listeners because they are consuming your podcast a variety of different ways through different apps, most of which do not give the option to comment on individual episodes.

The investment of podcasting

One more thing worth mentioning is the potential investment of podcasting. Before you spend hundreds of dollars on equipment, make SURE this is something you are committed to for at least a year before you quit.

Besides the investment in a good microphone and potentially recording and editing software (you can edit your shows for free using audacityteam.org)  you may decide to hire an editor, someone to design your show’s artwork and outsource promo material for your show.

You can, of course, do it yourself. I recommend doing it yourself at first just to learn the basics even if your long term plan is to hire out. Reason being, in the event that your assistant quits suddenly or is unable to produce your show, you are not left hanging and can still deliver your show on time.

Not to be discouraging, but realistically these are things you need to consider before taking the leap!

You Should Start a Podcast

Okay, here is the fun part, the reasons why you should start a show.

As mentioned before this is an INCREDIBLE way to connect with your current audience and be discovered by new audiences. Again, it is a long-term marketing strategy but has the potential to add SO much to your brand and reach.

If you decide to host solo episodes it can position you as an expert in your field. You can also share about your services (not too much because no one likes feeling sold to!) and even grow your email list by mentioning any free opt-ins that you have.

Interviews are also very popular among hosts for a couple of reasons. One, it is another resource to provide incredible value to your listeners. Second, it gives you an excuse to talk to really cool people in your industry and ask them any question you want. Let’s just be real here, that is pretty cool.

Lastly, it is A LOT of fun. I know I went on about how much work it is, but if you enjoy listening to podcasts you will likely really like hosting one. It feels really good to put together something that you are passionate about and have people actually listening to YOUR show.

No, really? Is podcasting right for me?

All in all, I am an advocate for podcasting. To say it has changed my life is an understatement. It has connected me with amazing people from all over the world and helped me build a platform where I can share my message which I am passionate about.

There have been times, especially at the beginning when I felt discouraged and wanted to quit, but I think anything you do that is worthwhile will have those moments where you question yourself and wonder if it is worth the effort for you.

Not everyone is going to enjoy podcasting or would necessarily benefit from it. I think all in all it is a personal decision and ultimately needs to be something you would enjoy. If the idea of starting a podcast sounds daunting and you already struggle with being overwhelmed, and time restraints, it may not be the best idea right now.

However, if the thought excites you and you are willing to keep a big-picture perspective and have reasonable expectations with starting one, I encourage you to try. You never know what might come from your show.

Heather Parady should I start a podcastAbout the author

Heather is a regular Leaders in Heels contributor and host of The Unconventional Leaders Podcast. She interviews successful entrepreneurs who have overcome great adversity and built something great. Read more about Heather Parady

 

[1] https://www.edisonresearch.com/infinite-dial-2019/


It’s one of the most visited pages on many websites and yet easily overlooked by business owners. Often it’s relegated to the bottom of a website, and for other sites, it is missing. So, we’re here to share how to write the perfect About Us page for your website.

A client of mine recently confessed to me that after a year of putting it off, she had finally begun writing her About page. The reason for the sudden action? A customer had emailed and asked why she didn’t have one! That was enough to get her moving on it quickly.

For many people, it is the most difficult page on your website to write. It can be hard to know what to say when you live and breath your business every day. Writing their passion and brand story succinctly is a task many would rather avoid. However, done correctly it can have a massive impact on your personal brand and business.

Creating your About page

When thinking about how to write the perfect About Us page, it’s important to remember that people want to do business with people. A bright and engaging About page gives readers the opportunity to get to know the person behind the brand. A common mistake people make when writing an About page is thinking that it is a page about them. Instead, remember you are writing this page for your audience whether that’s your customers, client or readers. Consider what information your audience needs to know about you, to like and most importantly to trust you enough to want to do business with you.

First person or third person

Choose whether you will write your About page in the third person or the first person. There is no right or wrong, and both work well. Although there are many ways to write an About page, it should always be authentic and personable. Here is an excellent example from Time Stylers of an About page that is written in the third person but is still relatable and provides insight into the person behind the brand.

How to write the perfect about us page

Keep it short but informative

Many people find that they either have too much to say or not enough. If you find yourself wanting to tell your life story, consider writing a separate post specifically about your journey and provide a link on the about page so that those who are interested in reading more about you can do so at their leisure. If on the other hand, you find you are stuck for words, ask a friend who knows you well to help you identify the information you should share.

Tell your brand story

Include the brand story or the history of the business and how it has changed or grown when thinking about how to write the perfect about us page. Provide some insights into why you started your business and the values your business represents. The Thankyou company does a great job of using statistics and facts to share their brand story and passion for their cause as well as introducing the key players in the business.

How to write the perfect about us page

Explain the problem your product or service solves

Describe the people that you help, outlining the typical issues that they face and how you help solve the problem for them. Here is an example by Moxie, who make sanitary products. The note from founder Mia Klitsis effectively explains problems women can easily relate to when it comes to menstruation.

How to write the perfect about us page

Share something personal

To avoid oversharing and boring your readers keep it light, humorous and exciting. After sharing your story, you could try including five things your readers may not know about you!

Choose a conversational tone

Write as if you are speaking to a friend. A great way to do this is to shorten your words.

For example, I have not been in the industry as long as others, so my ideas are fresh.

can become;

haven’t been in the industry as long as others, so my ideas are fresh.

Keep the page engaging by breaking up the layout

Keep people reading your page by ensuring its design is pleasing to the eye. Avoid too much text, create intentional spaces and different elements for the readers such as images, video, breakout boxes and infographics.

Include an Image of yourself

An image of you is a must for an About page. Choose a high-quality image that is authentically you and demonstrates how approachable and professional you are. Photos of you doing what you love is always a good idea. If you are a gardener, include images of you in the garden. If you are a cook, then have some photos of you in the kitchen. Another option is to have a short welcome video on the page that people can view if they choose.

Introduce the team

If you have a team, then a picture of you with them can work well. The Big Group, a catering and events company, does this particularly well. They have included some fabulous fun images of their team in different working environments

How to write the perfect about us page

Include social proof

When you’re thinking about how to write the perfect about us page, remember it’s not just a bio. A great way to gain trust and credibility is to include some of your success stories, your best reviews, logos of companies you’ve worked with or awards you’ve received.

Call to action

Every good About page should have a call to action. This is a great place to encourage your readers to connect with you. A link to subscribe to your newsletter or an offer on your product or services works well here.

Don’t forget to share how your reader can get to know you better by providing your social media handles.

There is no time like the present. Its time to get writing and sharing with your readers an insight into why you do what you do.

Have you got any other tips you’d like to share?

Sarah Makris
About Sarah Makris
Sarah Makris is a Personal Branding and Communications coach based in Melbourne, Australia. She teaches clients how to upgrade their communications skills so they stand out in their industry and get the flexibility and rewards they want in their careers. Visit her website www.sarahmakris.com.au.

You may have heard a lot about IFTTT (short for If This, Then That) when it comes to advice about increasing your productivity. You may also have taken one look at it and dismissed it as too complicated or troublesome to set up.

Or perhaps you don’t even know what it is. IFTTT is a program that allows you to set up rules across a variety of apps, that will automatically make things happen if a certain condition is met. For example, if you use multiple social media apps for your business, you can set up a rule that automatically tweets anything you post on Instagram, or automatically shares your Facebook posts on Twitter. Or you could automatically save all Facebook pictures you’re tagged in to Dropbox or Google Drive. (Note the repeated word here: automatically!)

Outside social media, you could get a weather report emailed to you first thing in the morning, or a headline summary emailed at the end of the day. The possibilities are endless, and I’d highly recommend browsing through the ready-made functions, or recipes, as they’re officially called, that you can implement with a click of a button.

Basically, IFTTT will automate all those boring, time-consuming tasks that are part of your day-to-day life.

But what if your needs are more specific than the recipes available, or you just want to create your own? Below, we provide an explanation of how to use IFTTT. It’s so simple, you’ll be sure to pick it up in no time!

How recipes work

IFTTT1

All recipes are made up of two parts. First is the thing to look out for – the trigger for the action. IF my phone’s battery is low. IF I add a new note to an Evernote notebook. IF a new item is listed on eBay that matches a search term.

The second part is what happens if the condition is met. IF my phone’s battery is low, THEN should I get an email or text, or a notification on my smartwatch? IF I add a new note to my “Ideas” Evernote notebook, THEN should it also be copied to my OneNote notebook? IF a new item is listed on eBay that matches a search term, THEN should the link be added to my to-do list?

There are some incredibly creative recipes out there. People have created recipes to download all Instagram pictures with a certain hashtag to their Dropbox, tweet at a friend at a certain time each day, or add your location to a personal journal every time you check in somewhere with Foursquare.

IFTTT also have a kind of automation called “DO”. Instead of waiting for an “IF” trigger, it lets you set up a series of actions (“THEN”) to perform when you use one of their three apps to press a button, write a note, or take a picture. You can only set up the actions from your phone, though.

Creating the trigger

IFTTT Triggers

If you want to create your own recipes, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up a trigger. The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a trigger channel, and a specific trigger within that channel. This is what will set off the series of actions. In most cases you’ll need to link to your account for the channel, before you can use it.

Triggers are limited by what each company chooses to provide – for example, Facebook triggers are limited to activity around your own posts due to privacy. You can’t choose a trigger that happens when a friend posts something.

It’s also worth noting that many of the channels are American-based, though there’s still a decent selection for those in other countries. But if you’re an Aussie hoping to be notified when an item goes on special at Woolies, you’re out of luck. Americans are in luck with Best Buy!

It all comes down to which companies decide to integrate with IFTTT, so if you have any apps or stores you love that aren’t on there, start campaigning now!

Once you’ve chosen a trigger, it will ask you to fill in any relevant fields. For example, if I want Facebook to do something any time I post from a certain location, I would need to specify that location. It’s incredibly simple, and when you’re done you just need to click Create Trigger!

IFTTT Trigger Field

Specifying the action

Creating the action is just as simple, and runs on exactly the same principal. What do you want to happen when the trigger is, well, triggered? Pick your channel, pick your action, fill in the details and away you go.

A little tip I love for anything that adds a message or a note: If you click into the textbox, you’ll see a little blue beaker icon appear in the top right. Clicking on this allows you to add what IFTTT calls Ingredients; that is, information specific to that particular trigger such as a file name, or the date something was created.

IFTTT Ingredients

And that’s it. That’s how simple it is to start automating your life. (Also, if you want to learn about other ways you can automate your life, there’s also the Get Your Life Back e-book available at our store!)

Favourite recipes

While it’s fun (and quite empowering!) to make your own recipes, there are many great ones that others have already shared. Here are some of my favourites – but I’d love to hear about yours in the comments as well!

I get a lot of my bills through email, and this recipe saves a list of them to a spreadsheet so I won’t forget about them!

Want to track how much time you spend at work, or at the gym, or at the shopping centre? (Maybe not the the last one!) This recipe updates my Google calendar every time I enter and exit a specified area. This is for Android users, and this is for iPhone users.

These days, we all have a few different social media accounts to keep up with. This recipe lets me be lazy by posting any tweets with a specified hashtag to Facebook.

Something big happening somewhere, like a concert, or convention, or (hopefully not) a riot? Get an email digest of all Tweets from that location so you don’t have to trawl through a ton of Tweets yourself!

This one’s just plain fun. It sets my phone’s wallpaper to NASA’s image of the day.

 

What do you use IFTTT for? Share with us below!


With many social media platforms available to businesses at the moment, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are worth focusing on.

By identifying which platforms will generate the most engagement and conversions, you’ll be able to save huge amounts of time and resources. Rather than trying to maintain a consistent presence on every single platform out there, why not focus your time and energy on curating content and imagery for the ones that will serve your business best.

Here’s a breakdown of the top social platforms on the scene to help you figure out which social media platforms will boost your business.

Facebook

Description/How to use: Create a business page and regularly post images, videos & links that appeal to your target audience. Your Facebook business page is also an extension of your website, where you can share basic information such as address, contact number and telephone number.

Main audience: With over 1.44 billion active users across a wide demographic aged between 18 and 65+, Facebook is the market leader for social networking websites. Your business should undoubtedly have a presence on this platform.

Pros:

  • Good engagement – You and your users are able to ‘like’, post, comment and share posts as often as you want
  • Easy to share new products and services as well as provide basic information (such as contact number, address and opening hours)
  • Easy to post a wide range of content
  • Use of hashtags make it easy to spread your company message to an audience searching within Facebook

Cons:

  • Negative feedback on your business page is highly visible to other users
  • If your followers ‘like’ a large number of pages, your posts may get lost in the mix
  • Investing in paid advertising has become the most optimal way to gain exposure on Facebook. In other words, organic content is no longer cutting it – you need to have a paid advertising campaign to see results.

Summary: Facebook is a highly-effective platform to connect with your target audience and share products, services and other relevant pieces of content that will promote your brand and encourage loyalty from your customers. It also provides a useful platform to gain feedback from your customer base, whether they post on your wall or send you a private message.

Star Players: Skincare company Burt’s Bees Facebook page has an impressive 2.7 million fans and features, polls for market research, discount coupons, rich visual imagery and allows customers to purchase product directly from Facebook.

Twitter

Description/How to use: Create a Twitter handle and start tweeting to get involved in discussions that are relevant to your business and target audience. To encourage engagement, ‘reply to’, ‘favourite’, ‘retweet’ other users that are participating in the same discussions. Users are also able to post photos, graphics and video, however due to the 140 character limit, Twitter remains a text-focused social media platform.

Main Audience: The majority of Twitter users are aged between 18 and 29, making the platform suitable for companies skewered towards a younger crowd. Initially Twitter was utilised by a male-dominant user base, but in recent years there has been a sharp increase in female users.

Pros:

  • Great way to increase engagement as long as you tap into the right discussions that attract your target audience so that you can gradually build up a following
  • Your followers can easily ‘favourite’ and ‘retweet’ your posts, which will be visible to all of their followers and lead to high levels of engagement
  • Effective platform for companies with the time and resources to get their branding and messaging out there
  • A valuable customer service or tech support outlet allowing customer queries to be answered quickly

Cons:

  • For business’ with limited resources, constant Twitter activity may be difficult to achieve
  • While you can post pictures and videos, this will take up some of the 140 character limit, making it hard to fit in both media and text into one post
  • Think before you tweet! Negative tweets can spread very quickly and have unrepairable effects to your business

Summary: If you and your brand have a lot to say then Twitter is the perfect platform for you. Make sure you decide on your Twitter personality and develop a content calendar to ensure consistency.

Do you want to be funny? Informative? Controversial? The possibilities are endless, but at the end of the day your posts should fall in line with your company’s key messaging. You have the potential to gain a huge amount of followers (and customers) so make sure you come up with a rock-solid strategy before you start tweeting to your heart’s content.

Star Player: Etsy’s Twitter presence is a perfect example of how quality content keeps people coming back for more. The peer-to-peer e-commerce site specialising in handmade and vintage items does a great job of mixing up products they tweet about – not just targeted towards women. They also have a great sense of humour and often retweet followers when they’re mentioned.

Instagram

Description/How to use: Create an account and start posting images or videos that showcase your brand’s products and/or services. You can choose from a series of filters to enhance your images as well as use hashtags so that your content is easily searchable within Instagram. Instagram only allows users to post using mobile devices as it’s a social media platform that’s geared towards people on the go.

Main Audience: Instagram has a community of more than 300 million users and 60 million photos daily. More than half of Instagram users are aged between 18 and 29 years old, with the dominant gender being female (although not by much).

Pros:

  • A great platform to encourage followers to post their own images or videos of your products, which can then be re-purposed to use across other platforms (user-generated content)
  • The use of hashtags makes it easy to spread messaging to an audience searching within Instagram
  • Great for companies whose products are highly visual in nature, such as fitness, beauty and lifestyle brands
  • Brands can get creative with photos, videos, captions and hashtags to appeal to their target audience

Cons:

  • Not able to post links in individual posts (only in bio on the users main page)
  • Isn’t as effective for service-based businesses, although this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a presence on the platform.
  • Posts can only be made through a mobile service, not on a laptop or desktop, which may prove to be inconvenient for some

Summary: Instagram is the perfect platform for brands to communicate visually with their followers, which will in turn increase engagement, build loyalty and increase website traffic. Think of Instagram as a form of free advertising for your business, which can gain huge amounts of exposure if your strategy is done correctly.

Star Player: Fashion label Topshop’s Instagram account features a variety of different visual content that appeals directly to their target audience, such as products in diverse settings, behind the scenes imagery from fashion shoots and photos of customers and models wearing Topshop pieces.

LinkedIn

Description/How to use: Create a LinkedIn business page start building your profile. Make sure to include background information about the company (specialties, website, industry, company size etc). Start connecting with other businesses and individuals in your industry and post regular updates and pieces of content that will help distinguish yourself as an expert in your field. You and your employees should all have professional and up-to-date profiles as this has a direct effect on how the company is perceived.

Main Audience: Unlike most social media platforms, LinkedIn users are an older demographic, with the majority of users falling within the 30-49 age group. They are usually business professionals who are interested in growing and maintaining their network as well as accessing useful information and advice from key influencers in their industry.

Pros:

  • Once you publish a post, the content is available site wide, not only to your followers but to potential new customers or connections that could be of benefit
  • LinkedIn is segmented by industry, so you’ll naturally fall into your niche with like-minded peers that will appreciate your original/unique content.
  • A convenient place to share latest company news and updates as well as basic information, such as website url, contact number and address.

Cons:

  • LinkedIn’s audience is mainly skewed towards business professionals, making the platform unsuitable for companies targeting demographics such as stay-at-home mums and teenage boys.
  • Because of its discerning audience, it may take a bit longer than other platforms to establish yourself and your business as an influencer in your industry.

Summary: LinkedIn is the largest social media platform for business and your page serves as your company’s online calling card. It’s the perfect place to research company and people for employment recruiting, lead generation and job searches.

Star Player: Mashable has tons of content to share, which makes LinkedIn the perfect platform for the online media company. Although they publish a wide range of subjects on their website, the Mashable team sticks to more business-oriented topics to appeal to the professional demographic on LinkedIn. They regularly well-written, relevant content that generates high levels of engagement, such as ‘If ‘House of Cards’ characters used LinkedIn’.

Pinterest

Description/How to use: Sign up for an account and create different boards that are reflective of your business. For instance, a bridal company would create boards that focus on wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, venue inspiration, wedding favours etc. Now for the fun part! Start pinning items of interests from your own product line and other products that inspire. Don’t forget to repin posts from within Pinterest as well. The goal is to create a carefully-curated scrapbook for your brand.

Main Audience: Pinterest attracts a predominantly female-based audience who are interested in aesthetics, DIY, fashion, fitness, lifestyle and food.

Pros:

  • Each pin links back to the website it was ‘pinned’ from, which will increase referral traffic back to your website if you regularly pin your own products.
  • Pinning to specific boards will help you easily save and keep track of your content
  • When a user repins one of your posts, it is automatically shared to their followers

Cons:

  • Doesn’t lend itself well to service-based companies due to its visual nature
  • Targets a very specific audience – Pinterest users are made up of 85% females, of which 70% are under the age of 45.

Summary: If your social media strategy falls within the niche target audience that Pinterest appeals to, then it’s worth the time and effort to ‘pin’, ‘repin’ and ‘heart’ on a daily basis. However, if your main audience isn’t spending time on this platform, then it might be worth using your precious resources elsewhere.

Star Player: Pinterest ticks all the right boxes for Sephora as a social media platform: plenty of visual content to share, female target demographic and the perfect way to link back to their website product pages. Sephora’s Nailspotting board takes it a step further by encouraging Sephora community members to share nail designs, hence connecting to their customers and creating pins to their products at the same time.

Snapchat

Description/How to use: Once you sign up for a Snapchat account, you have the ability to post photos and videos (up to 10 seconds long) that will stay on a recipient’s device for 24 hours before it disappears.

Main Audience: Snapchat has increased dramatically in popular amongst the 13 and 34 year old demographic and is a great opportunity for businesses to create clever campaigns to reach their target audience.

Pros:

  • Snapchat generates 7+ billion video views daily, making it an ideal platform to increase brand exposure
  • Gives customers a ‘behind the scenes’, personal view of your business
  • Easy to include Snapchat scannable code on other marketing materials and social media platforms to allow users to add your business.

Cons:

  • If your target audience falls outside of the millennial demographic (13-34 year age group) it may not be worth the time to dedicate resources to regularly post video and imagery.
  • As more and more businesses get on board with Snapchat marketing, the potential for ‘spammy’ posts to increase will eliminate the personal and fun aspect of the platform.

Summary: If you’re looking for a fun and creative way to connect with your customer base then Snapchat may be perfect for your business – just make sure your target audience is frequenting this platform. Visual communication is becoming the driving force of engagement across all social media platform, so Snapchat is an obvious platform to get on board with.

Star Player: McDonald’s is well known for their high-profile ad campaigns, and the fast food giant uses Snapchat to give their followers a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes with their favourite celebrities and athletes, such as LeBron James. Connecting with their audience on a more personal level gives McDonald’s the opportunity to break away from the corporate angle they’re usually associated with.

 

kristine-bioKristine Stone is a copywriter at Sydney-based design agency Orion Creative. She’s obsessed with social media, blogging and keeping up with the latest digital marketing trends. A self-confessed word nerd, Kristine has experience writing about women’s lifestyle, bridal, technology, interior design and a wide range of other industries.


Venessa Paech is an internationally renowned online community expert. She has built and managed a wide array of online communities for ASX companies, start ups, governments and non-profits (including Envato, REA Group and Lonely Planet). In 2009 she founded the Australian Community Manager Roundtables and in 2011 she founded Swarm, Australia’s national community management conference. In 2015, she commissioned and released the Australian Community Management career survey with Quiip and Dialogue Consulting. 

More recently, Venessa began consulting with ParentPaperwork, an Aussie startup replacing paper forms in schools worldwide.  She’s excited about being part of this opportunity and to work with some incredible founders and unique product.

Venessa has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University and an MA in Virtual Ethnography. She is a published scholar on online communities, and a popular speaker and consultant on our digital lives and identities – from trolling to personal branding. 

Community engagement is your dealio, what’s your 30 second pitch when explaining to a noob what community is about?

Community is a group of humans who form relationships around a strong common interest. You can have communities of place, of circumstance, of passion, of practice, and combinations of all of these. A community is a specific social structure that is more about relevance than reach. Communities can form across a social network, but the social network itself is not a community (unless its members define it as such). Communities are highly resilient and powerful things!

You’ve just started on a new adventure; can you tell us a bit about Future Culture?

Increasingly, companies struggling with engagement, sustainability and productivity are looking to communities that get these things right. They’re interested in how they can transform a business into more of a community, and their leaders want to lead less like a traditional CEO and more like a community manager (from the inside out rather than top down).

Community professionals are being tapped to meet the market and appetite for organisational transformation – a market where there are already strong contributors in environmental design, cultural analytics and collaborative technology solutions.

Future Culture is a consultancy that connects these layers with human lens.

What are some of the benefits you can provide a business and do you have an end game in mind each time?

We draw on decades of experience building communities in organisations of every type and size, and specialist knowledge in the social science of communities, to help companies build cultures that work.

We audit, train and help build strategies can help constructively transform communications, HR, marketing, operations and more. Community models offer better engagement, cost savings, operational efficiencies and productivity wins. The end game is all about company objectives, and how community management frameworks and practices can help accomplish them.

I’d say sustainability and adaptability are a key part of the shared end game. No one wants to take something new on board only to have it date or fall apart in the near future. Future Culture hopes to apply what community managers have refined over decades to an organisational and workplace environment hungry for new approaches that work, iterate and last.

You’ve played community manager at some crazy awesome companies since early 2000s, what has been the biggest disruptor in the space and how has that changed the way community roles engage with the business and its audience/people?

The rise of social media and the analytics that sit behind it. The challenge is that social media marketing and audience building isn’t the same thing as community building, so it’s important practitioners distinguish the two for their individual value. The upside is that everyone is interested in the space now – they’re aware people are talking about them, whether they like it or not. The smart ones want to listen, understand and add value to those conversations. Community building can offer huge value in commercial contexts, including pure audience building. Ask a community manager about persuasion and motivation and you’ll take away stores of goodies!

When it comes to community, culture and technology, do you have any tips for a business to ensure all three are given much needed flexibility and guidance to enrich its people?

Always remember to put people first. When people are genuinely at the centre of a business, actions and decisions around community building, culture and technology will be guided by the needs of those people. Relationships are the heart of everything and no fancy software or office can ever replace trust, empowerment and respect.

I’d say of the three – focus on building your community, which will forge and codify your culture, then identify technology solutions that best reflect and match that culture. These often happen in quick succession and they are somewhat interdependent – but what you want to avoid is investing in a piece of technology to address a cultural matter, before looking at your people first.

Technology at its best is used to free and enhance what humans do best. It should help you

Favourite flavour of ice-cream?

Ahh, now the really tough questions! Give me peppermint or banana and I’m a happy woman. Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey is pretty much a perfect creation.

Apple or Samsung?

I’m torn! There’s so much value in an ecosystem, and I love the harmony of user experience in the world of Apple. But walled gardens can produce problems, and an overly proprietary web risks marginalising voices and opportunities. If I had to choose, I’d choose Apple and lobby for them to keep interfacing with the rest of the world as much as possible.

What do you think the next big thing in tech will be?

I think 2016 conversations will look much like 2015 – AI, wearables, Internet of Things, VR. All incredible tools that can be game changing, but are a way off mainstream embedding yet. Security and the vulnerability of our technologies will continue to occupy the conversation, and this leads me to my very non-tech answer – people is the next big thing in tech.

We’ve left ourselves behind in technology discourse for a while. The sheen is wearing thin in Silicon Valley and I’m hearing lots of proactive reflection about how we put the humanity back into our technology; how we ensure it doesn’t eat us alive, but empowers us to do more, better.

If you would like to reach out and connect with Venessa, check out her LinkedIn and Twitter.