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Forward-Thinking, Back-Linking Practices Means a Boost in Brand Recognition for the IVR Solutions Online Community

June 30, 2011
Keri Fraser, Sr. Marketing Manager for Vocantas, knows what it’s like to work in a competitive SEO environment.  So when she saw Vocantas (News - Alert) was being out-performed by their competitors on major search engines, she decided to “get in the game” and sponsor an online community that could help her boost her brand and increase awareness of all Vocantas has to offer.  She chose to partner with TMCnet to build the IVR Solutions online community due to their past partnership with TMC (News - Alert) in other marketing activities, and because she “started seeing competitors were getting good coverage using TMC.”

The Benefits of a Channel – And Some Design Tips

Vocantas, like most companies, didn’t have a boundless budget to work with, which meant that building an online community could potentially have posed a strain on her resources. But, working with the TMCnet team, Keri found ways to build a site that would build brand presence and meet her initial goals by using a “Channel” format. Most companies who are faced with these challenges choose to build this type of site because it’s a single web page, which takes less effort and time to build and maintain than a more complex, multi-layered site. By adding Vocantas branding on the site, some content assets and the TMCnet articles, Keri felt she was still able to meet her marketing objectives without exceeding her budget.

Vocantas worked with the TMC design team to develop a site that mirrors the Vocantas company web site. As Keri states, “the process was a lot more turn-key than I thought it was going to be. The whole site was up and running in a matter of days. It’s sharp and the TMCnet team definitely knows what they’re doing.” So, Vocantas was able to save time developing a website on their own by leveraging the experience and lessons-learned that the TMCnet designers were able to bring to the table based on their work on other channels. Keri’s words of advice: “It doesn’t have to be too complicated. You want your branding to be the same” between the channel and company website in order to have a consistent, recognizable look across all your marketing materials. Plus, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to content, either, because whatever you create for your own marketing purposes can and should, according to Keri, also be on your online community.

Should you have industry information on your site? Yes, according to Keri, who sees it as an advantage because “even though our community is on the Smart Grid Vertical site on TMCnet, we have so much general IVR coverage on other TMCnet sites as well” due to its editorial third-party objectivity and need to deliver all news stories across TMCnet without bias.

Ways to Synch Community Content with Your Company Website- And Why You Need to Do It

Vocantas relies heavily on their company website to increase exposure of their online community, which most companies are catching onto; the more you link to your community content on your company website and social sites, the more likely your content will be shared, linked-to and commented on – further driving SEO.

Keri states “we don’t link to all TMCnet articles from our website, but certainly a lot of them, and we definitely post on all our social networks.” On the homepage of their website they also have a thumbnail image of their TMCnet community with a link to the site, with many articles from the site listed under it.

This practice is what every online community sponsor should be doing. People who are interested in your industry may not automatically go to your company website to get educational information, since they assume they will just receive sales-related materials. But, with a third-party site housing relevant news and information, surrounded by your company branding, you are able to leverage the power of your content and bring people back to your company website while also boosting awareness of your products and services at a time people are actively looking for that information.

The Smart Grid Vertical

By choosing a very specific vertical site, Smart Grid, to host their online community, Vocantas was aiming to get their Vocantas name known in a relatively new area for them. This targeted approach is also wise for online community sponsors to consider: Pick a market you want to boost your position rather than casting a broad net that may or may not make an actual impact. Once you’ve achieved success, perhaps pick another area to focus on, and so on. With their presence on Smart Grid, Keri states “we’ve shown our commitment in the utility space without spending a lot of money” and “have accomplished this particular goal by watching traffic and click throughs of how many visitors come in from TMCnet. We’ve really blanketed the [Smart Grid] community in a 6 month period of time.”

The SEO Boost and Benefits of Best Practices

Reports that contain click-throughs, impressions, page views and unique visitors are the best ways to measure how your online community is performing. For Vocantas, Keri was also able to view their jump in search engine ranking through their TMCnet reports, which is the “best way to measure against the baseline of how things used to be before [the online community launched.” The results? “Our search ranking position was beyond page 9 before it started and now [6 months later] we are position 9” – a successful climb for that period of time.  Plus, the IVR Solutions community receives an average of 10,625 page views per month and 2,723 unique visitors, which will continue to increase as Vocantas keeps up their cutting-edge linking and cross-promotion practices.

Words of advice from Vocantas? Don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Stay in touch with your online community team and it can be “very rewarding” because “TMC is willing to give you as much time with their editors and design team as you’re willing to give them- the more you engage with them the more profitable and higher the ROI will be on your site. You have to be willing to engage and check in with your team to make sure your content is relevant. You can’t sign up and think it’s going to work on its own; it has to be a joint, ongoing effort and if you do that there is  great ROI potential.” This is useful advice for anyone sponsoring an online community – on TMCnet or otherwise. Communities don’t “run” themselves. It needs nurturing, fresh content, attention and dedication. Having a team with TMCnet makes it easier, but it’s not the complete solution. Keri’s approach has reaped great rewards for her initiative, and as a result has real, measurable ROI for the work she’s put into the site.

Working with TMCnet

Most companies choose to partner with an outside company to build an online community for the reasons listed in this Case Study: Outside expertise, objectivity, design and CMS best practices, and more.  For Keri, it was TMC’s responsiveness, ability to work creatively with her budget, and online community-building expertise. She states “I have been very pleasantly surprised with creative. The designers recreate something that looks exactly like our site and I have no hesitation letting them take over and create ads. They really stuck to our brand. Plus, the writing has been really bang-on:  I love the language, I love that it’s really relevant and catchy, and it’s been a good experience. I would definitely choose another vehicle within TMC.”                      

To discuss how to implement the methods outlined in this article on your own TMCnet Community site, please contact a member of your dedicated TMCnet team.

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About TMCnet Online Communities

TMCnet Online Communities are news-generated, content-rich portals that position your company as the leading “go-to resource” for your industry group. TMC has been building Online Communities for over 10 years, and continues to be the market leader at developing these successful sites for our customers.  To learn more about the TMCnet Online Community program, please contact Anna Ritchie aritchie@tmcnet.com or call 203-852-6800 x 107. You can also visit us online at http://www.tmcnet.com/community.





Anna Ritchie is product manager for TMC's Online Community Program. Previously, she worked as a change and communications practitioner for a global consulting firm, and as a freelance marketing and communications specialist. She received her master's degree in English from Seton Hall University and her bachelor's degree in English from Loyola University.


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