Episode Overview: Cultivating a strong, thriving digital marketing community is more important than ever as SEOs increasingly rely on digital spaces to grow their business. Join host Ben as he speaks with Blush Digital CEO Jim Christian on how he manages his digital community, the Digital Marketers Organization, and what strategies you can apply to grow and successfully maintain your own community.
- Presenting a clear value proposition is key to attracting and building community members, providing low-barrier to entry such as free sign-ups, easy access to forums or videos, etc.
- Offering lunch and learns and fun activities like virtual happy hours is crucial to diversifying the content you offer and boosts community retention.
- Provide content for different levels of experience and organize them effectively to attract community members of varying experience levels.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Jim Christian: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to talk about the history of community in SEO. Joining us today is Jim Christian, who is an experienced SEO, and one of the founders of an internationally recognized search event. Jim is the CEO of Blush Digital, which is a digital marketing agency that combines data-driven technology along with industry leading talent to connect brands and customers together. He’s also one of the founders of Advanced Search Summit, an event that happens annually in Napa, California.
Ben: Yesterday, Jim and I talked a little bit about the history of community in the SEO and his rationale for starting a new community, the Digital Marketers Organization. And today we’re going to focus on cultivating digital marketing communities and how Jim is growing and scaling the DMO. Okay. Onto the show. Here’s the rest of my conversation with Jim Christian, CEO at Blush Digital. Jim, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Jim: Hey, nice to see you. It feels like it’s been forever.
Ben: It’s been awhile. I’ve missed you since yesterday. We had a great conversation. Talked about the background of community in SEO, why people are congregating, and where they’re congregating. And you’re a big part of that. You’re launching, or you’ve launched the Digital Marketers Organization. You launched it in February. You’re up to 1,200 members already. Walk me through the playbook of actually building a community. What did you guys do to start and how have you seen so much success so early?
Jim: Well, I think for us, the important thing was trying to bring people together in a time where things seem to be a little bit uncertain. So we’ve focused mainly on how we can drive people to a community where they feel welcomed, to a community where they can get detailed information on the topics and interests that really drive them, and we wanted to be able to have everyone be able to give input to the community as well. Not only just with comments, but actual courses and video feeds, or whatever they really want, to have a voice inside our community.
Ben: So how are you finding people to join the Digital Marketers Organization and what are some of the value props that you’re telling them to get them to join the community and be active?
Jim: Great question. For us, we wanted to make sure that the DMO was free at inception. We might even actually keep the free model up. We’re still working on that. But we wanted a place where it was little to no barrier of entry. We wanted to provide a where we had a lot of well known SEOs or well known brands participating inside the Digital Marketers Organization. And so realistically, the way that we got so many people in there so quickly is as I’m, well, all three of us as partners, are connected to a lot of different SEOs around the world and digital marketers around the world. So as an example, LinkedIn, I have 12,000 connections. So it’s really easy to just reach out and say, “Hey, look we have this community. You’re a digital marketer. It’s free to come in. We would love it if you could participate and learn and grow with us.” So hopefully that works out for the remainder of those 12,000 people, but it seems to be working so far.
Ben: So you’ve got lots of people joining the community. Talk to me about some of the content that has been produced. What’s the formats and what are some of the active conversations that you’ve had?
Jim: Yeah. So we’ve started a number of things. We do at happy hour, virtual happy hour, every week on Friday at 4:00 PM PST. And really that’s just for everyone to unwind. Obviously with tension and everything being so high right now, we thought that it would be really nice to have a happy hour where it kind of vents their frustrations of the week out. So, we generally have around 30 to 50 people join every single week, which is great. And we’re also starting to pump out live lunch and learns. So we have what we call nourishing greatness. And so each week we’re going to have a new guest, and it’s just basically a live video feed that you can do during your lunchtime, depending on your time zone. But yeah, it’s a great way to learn topics. And then we’re also doing our virtual events series.
Jim: So over the next six months, we’ve got three different virtual events that we’re running under the DMO brand. And so, we’ve already got, I think about 500 or 600 people signed up for those three events. And of course, because we always have to include wine with everything, our summits, and the thing that really separates us from others, is that we have a wine tasting with our partner winery over in Napa at the end of each one of those shows. And you can actually order a bottle of wine by just buying a VIP ticket, it’s like $39. And we’ll basically send a bottle of wine to your doorstep and you can do the tasting with us. So it’s really great.
Ben: Finally, we found the hook. This is all here, just so we can get together and drink the same bottle of wine.
Jim: That’s true. Yeah. I mean, look. A lot of things that are happening right now is that people are starting to throw virtual events, right? And some of them are combining them with the communities and they’re trying to actively build the community and build the virtual events. But the issue is, there’s so many virtual events that are out there right now. And for us, we wanted to make sure that ours was different. So, that’s why we came up with the concept of having the wine tasting on the end of each show.
Ben: Talk to me about bridging the gap between being a community member, somebody that’s coming on to consume content to get to somebody that’s publishing content, and then actually cultivating impactful real world relationships. How do you think about the different user states for your community members?
Jim: It really runs the gambit. From our standpoint in trying to cultivate well known SEOs or people that have been in the industry for a long time, we’ve been really successful with that. We’ve also noticed a lot of people that are coming in that are very, very green, and these are people that this is their first digital marketing job. They’re an analyst or a coordinator or something like that. And they’re really looking for that one place that they can go to that has all the information that they’re looking for. And it’s challenging. We try to have content that’s based for beginners and intermediates and advanced. And I think what we’ll wind up doing is we’ll probably wind up shifting the advanced people to the shows, because they’ll more than likely show up. And then the intermediate and beginners, they’re more than likely going to surf around inside the Digital Marketers Organization for quite a bit of time before they make that leap into doing events.
Ben: It seems like there’s a collection of different types of content. There’s the Q&A type content. Obviously you’re doing your digital event. There’s also the idea of webinars and courses, and sort of advanced education. What do you think the difference is in terms of the use and format of the different contents and how are you guys thinking about providing different types of multimedia content to help educate and connect your audience?
Jim: Yeah, I mean, as a small operation, our focus right now is trying to do video content. It seems to be the easiest way for people to just put something on and absorb it. We also have a LMS system connected to our community. And so, that has allowed us to put courses inside the DMO, which is great. The courses are time consuming to create. So they’re not very easy, but yeah. We’ve noticed that we want to do online courses, we want to do live video streams, lunch and learns, and then virtual events for people.
Ben: So Jim, talk to me about the big picture here. You’ve got your agency, you’ve been running in-person events, you’re cultivating community through a digital medium. Help me tie all of these things together. What’s the end game here, and what can people who are interested in joining the Digital Marketers Organization expect to get out of it?
Jim: I can tell you that the end game for me is retirement. That would be fantastic. I still got a couple of years though, but no. The real thing that we’re trying to provide is we want a high quality community that allows anyone within the digital marketing community, SEOs, PPCs, whatever, to really have a space where they can learn and grow. We also want to make sure that it’s not expensive or it’s not cost prohibitive for people, whether they are trying to put it through their work, or if they’re doing it on their own. There’s a lot of different people that are out there. So you’ve got the people that are working for businesses. You’ve got in-house people. You’ve got agencies, you’ve got independents. There’s so many different people that are out there doing all of this work. And really, our community is designed to bring people together so that they connect with each other where they wouldn’t normally have the ability to do that.
Jim: And so, the end game would be to allow them to do all of that within one platform so that they don’t have to go through 50 different Facebook groups or five different communities, because each one has a very specific niche that they’re trying to hit. We want to be that community where you can dive deep and go into these really nice in the weeds kind of topics. But then also for the beginners and the intermediate people, we want the ability for them to learn about title tags and how to set up a PPC account.
Jim: So these are all things that we’re trying to accomplish in a way that’s not only intelligent, but allows people to freely move within the entire community and really focus on what they want to learn. So hopefully it works out, but that’s the goal.
Ben: Yeah. At the end of the day, SEO has a long history of community. And I do think that there is value from the best practice sharing each brand, each domain is looked at by Google in its own way. And I think that sharing the tips and optimization tactics, and honestly, some of the responses that we’ve seen from the search engines, is something that inherently provides value to the community and that helps us better understand what the Googles of the world are actually thinking. So, Jim, let me just say congratulations on the early success of the DMO.
Jim: Thank you.
Ben: Thanks for helping to continue and extend the SEO community, and appreciate you coming back and being the guest on our show.
Jim: Thank you. Pleasure’s all mine. I’d love to come back again.
Ben: All right. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast.
Ben: Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jim Christian, the CEO of Blush Digital. If you’re interested in contacting Jim, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes, or you can visit his community’s website, which is digitalmarketers.org.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com. We’ve got summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the voices of search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voicesofsearch on Twitter and my personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed soon.
Ben: All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.