How We Do It: Shock & Aw Community Building

September 7, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

I love being surprised. Whether it’s an affectionate note tucked into my car window before I leave for work or a friendly email out of the blue, surprises give me tingles. And I’m not alone. If Hallmark has tried to sell us on anything it’s that people remember those unexpected, almost vomit-worthy gestures. So much of our life is spent on auto pilot that it’s nice when someone pushes us out of it. And that applies to the Web, just as much as it does in your real life. It’s the little interactions that can make all the difference in helping someone to feel valued, heard or part of something larger.

You’d probably like a few examples?

These are all relatively small gestures that got attention because they came at a time when the recipient wasn’t expecting them. And because of that, they were remembered.

At Outspoken Media, we’re all about little gestures. I thought today we’d share just one example of how we try to use Shock & Aw in our community. It also happens to be my favorite.

If you’ve ever left a comment on Outspoken Media you’ve seen our Thanks For Commenting page. The page is pretty simple. We used Joost de Valk’s Comment Redirect plugin to redirect new commenters to a hidden page on Outspoken. We use this page to thank new commenters for becoming part of our community, formally invite them to keep hanging out with us, and then offer some more social ways to stay in touch with Outspoken on the Web. So what, right? It’s just a page. Probably nothing special to users.

Well, if you think that, you’d be wrong.

[These are mostly older examples because Twitter Search took the morning off. Dear Twitter Search, please fix yourself before I wreck yourself.]

Every week I receive tweets/emails/new blog comments from new community members who love that page. They love it because they weren’t expecting it and because it’s warm. Usually when you leave your first comment on a new blog, nothing happens. Maybe you’re taken to a page that says your comment was accepted or has been placed in moderation. However, there’s no life there. We try to use our Thanks For Commenting page to keep the relationship going. We thank people for spending their time with us, encourage them to keep doing it, and we do it in a way that doesn’t make them (or us) feel slimy. The page is written to be personable and make people feel like we’re reaching out as friends. I can tell you the response has been more powerful than I ever would have imagined.

The page surprises people. And they really like it.

People like small surprises. They like it when you do the little things that show you’re paying attention and that you care. Surprise your audience by appearing where they wouldn’t expect you, making the little things big, and going further than your business has to. Our personalized Thanks for Commenting page is just one way that Outspoken tries to ‘shock & aw’ its audience. We’d oprah all of your cars if we could but, well, it’s just not feasible this year. Maybe in 2011.

What are you doing to shock & aw your audience? What little surprises do you lay out for people to find? What have you seen other sites do that you want to steal emulate? I’d love it if you’d share some in the comments today.

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