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Using Data

Three Steps to Community Mapping

By March 26, 2010 No Comments
Thucydides Quote on Manliness
Image by Greg Molyneux via Flickr

If you’re into social network mapping, and let’s face it… who isn’t these days, then the following ideas may be for you. They are in the early phases of development, in my mind, but I figured that this would be a safe place to put them because only the cool kids know about it here.

I’m not unpopular, I’m exclusive. 😉

The Other Kind of Community Managment

Let’s say that you worked in social media for a company exploring the development of a new product/product line. This is very different from the typical Community Manager role, in that you’re not monitoring a brand that exists. That would be relatively straight forward. You have your product name, you have the names of your competitors, and you have listening tools. Just add water and you’re there, right? (I know there’s a bit more to it, but you get the gist)

Unfortunately, this formula does not work when you’re creating a product from scratch. If you’re creating something that does not currently exist, then you have to figure out what people are talking about that is somewhat like what you’re making, or find where people would need your product hang out, before you can do anything else. If this is your situation, then there are some steps you need to take listed below.


Before we start, one thing needs to be mentioned: unless your product is tech or social media related, the influencers that you want to get your product in front of are probably not A-List bloggers that everybody has heard of and fawns over at conferences. If you do the following three things though, you’ll be able to find the right influentials for you, putting you on your way. Here is what you can do:

define the space you want to be in It’s not hard to over think this step, but you can make it easy by keeping the end user in mind. Ask yourself what job your target market needs to get done and you’ll be halfway there.

If you’re creating a healthy rewards program, for example, then you wouldn’t want to find people talking about healthy rewards. Because a popular healthy rewards product doesn’t exist yet, it would be hard to do anyway. Rather, you would understand that the job people are trying to accomplish is learn about an affliction, or manage a chronic condition, or track progress toward a goal. Things like that. After understanding this, you would want to define the kinds of wellness behaviors that you would like to incentivize through a healthy rewards program, and figure out what those categories are online.

The categories, or verticals, are the spaces you want to be in and they can be as narrow or as wide as you see fit. You just need to understand how narrow or wide they are, for the future.

develop keywords related to you and that space Getting narrow with your verticals is a good idea when you’re targeting people with specific interests. Everything is nichified online, so you can get down to some pretty specific groups of people. The flip side to that is that the number of rabbit holes you can find yourself in the middle of may be daunting. For starters, you probably know a lot of the associated words around the space(s) you want to be in, so jot them down first. When you have a good list started, remember that the Google Keyword Tool is your friend and add to/tweak your keyword list so that it represents terms that people actually look up within each of your verticals.

map out the verticals This is where it gets a little tricky. I know that Kevin Palmer has found great success doing this manually, but I’m looking for something a bit more automated. More specifically, I want to know who is connected to who online and I want to understand where my high level nodes are in any given vertical. High level nodes have a lot of connections in, making them potentially influential because people refer to what they are talking about. This means they have the ability to spread messages to the rest of the network.

The need to find high level nodes or influentials is one of time and sincerity. When looking at new verticals, one person couldn’t possibly reach out to everybody in a space to develop and maintain solid relationships with any kind of authenticity. The name of the game is relationship building with influentials, so you want to visualize and locate the three to five people who can connect you to most of the rest of the network within that vertical so that you can actually get to know them. This allows you to be a real person, to those three to five people, and not some fly by night “blogger outreach spammer.” You’ll definitely still have your dignity when you’re done.

Community Mapping Tool

I was given a product demo of Social Radar today from Ben Hagedorn, shout out to Kevin Walsh for the intro, and it really blew my mind. Social Radar has a function that allows you to type in vertical keywords, like “Mental Health, Depression,” and it returns up to 500 sites that utilize those keywords on a regular basis. It will tell you how frequently posts go out with your keywords, but best of all, it will show you a network graph of how the sites/blogs that use your keywords are connected to one another. This is what you’re looking for… What also seems to be great about Social Radar is that you can put those 500 blogs in a Watch List to monitor your Conversation Share over time. (Think of Conversation Share for your company keywords to be similar to Market Share for your company’s products. More positive conversation share is better.)

With this capability, you can presumably map out as many verticals as you would like reasonably quickly and start the process of meeting the site owners/bloggers, finding out what you have in common with them, and developing lasting relationships faster. Then as you’re doing that, just hit print on a report of your rising conversation share on some kind of regular basis so you can show your boss how good you are at being awesome.

extra bonus From here I would want to set up some funnels back on my site to measure conversion rates from the various sites within my verticals of choice so I can see which sites I’ve established relationships with are bringing in all the conversions, and adjust how I spend my time accordingly. P.S. Tying it back like this would also lead to an ROI metric against my time spent relationshipping (Labor) and the tool’s cost (Parts)…

High on Community Mapping

I’m excited to put something like this together, and hopefully run it, for my day job. My intention is to report back how things go over the coming months. And when it’s wildly successful, to grow my hair long, shed the tie, and start wearing flip flops to work…