Posts Tagged ‘Online Communities’

Ayloo is the World’s First Conversation Network

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Shaun Swanson, who is a member of the Ayloo team. Post interview, I wrote: “Well, it’s official. You’ve completely have my respect and admiration. This interview will be one for the memory books. Very impressive!”.

Shaun expressed his desire to establish separate voices for his Ayloo team saying “I think allowing for us to have our own individual opinions, separate from Ayloo’s, also cushions us in a necessary way – separates us from the politics a bit – which allows us to be very open with our ideas and beliefs, so that we can effectively communicate them to our users and the blogging community giving us the necessary feedback we need to remain relevant to our users. That’s a pretty Important thing for Ayloo, I think: communicating and listening to our users and peers. And that’s something that I think is missing from current social networks. But I’m sure we’ll get to all that below.”

So let’s get started finally, eh?

Q:  Can you briefly explain what Ayloo is and why people should join?

A: Most succinctly, I would state that Ayloo is a ‘conversation network.’ Since we’re kind of coining that term, though, I’d better go into more detail so people don’t just shrug and walk away! :P

Ayloo is a place to have meaningful conversation with the people you know and the communities you care about. This is the one-sentence spiel we’ve been toting around a lot lately, and it’s quite loaded so I’ll spend this question really breaking it down. The justification for why I believe this sentence is true will be addressed in the following question (as, really, our focus on conversation is what separates us from current social networks and makes us unique).

What do we mean by ‘meaningful?’ Well, I think I can speak for a lot of current social network users when I say that it can be difficult sometimes to find an interaction where people are really digging deep into a subject. Being from a technical background myself, I can recall a lot of times when I’d post a status update on Facebook that would start a technical discussion I was enjoying… and it would be pretty much quelled by the third or fourth comment.

I’m not saying that every interaction on Facebook (or any other social network) should be technical, or ‘deep,’ but I do think it’s difficult to have those interactions when you want to using current networks. So I would claim Ayloo is a place (for reasons specified in question 2’s response) where these kinds of deeper interactions can occur… and they can occur as often as you’d like!

Now why ‘people you know,’ and why mention ‘communities?’ Well, we are going for a Facebook-like social graph, in the sense that we would like people to mostly connect with their friends, family, co-workers, etc. Actually, that’s only partially true. From what I’ve seen with our beta community, people mostly connect initially with people they know, but when they start to join in on the communities on Ayloo (which I’ll discuss in a second), they end up getting to know many people they didn’t originally.

So maybe I should refine my previous statement to say that only initially is your graph Facebook-like. But no matter what it evolves into, I believe you can always argue that your contacts are people you ‘know,’ either in real life or through interacting on Ayloo. And we give you the means to interact with self-defined groups of your contacts on your own terms via our ‘contact lists’ feature.

Ayloo hosts local communities, called ‘streams,’ which are connected through our social graph. They are ‘local’ as defined with respect to you (not necessarily geographically). This local nature is Important for what we’re trying to construct with Ayloo – no matter how big Ayloo gets, you’ll mostly join streams that your contacts are in. So at any given moment, you have defined with respect to yourself a social graph of relationships with people in your life and the communities they form online.

A good example of the non-geographic nature of this ‘locality’ is a public stream called ‘World news.’ It’s made up of people who are in each others’ contact lists – so they know each other – but they’re from the U.S., Sweden, etc. And that really allows for the inclusion of many different perspectives in a conversation, which is quite valuable (and is actually something we’re pursuing further through some of our marketing efforts).

Q: How does Ayloo compare to Google+ and Facebook? What makes Ayloo unique?

A: The main difference between Ayloo and other networks is that, rather than focusing on connecting as many users and content as quickly as possible for brief interactions, we aim to improve the quality of the interactions (conversations) on our network through support of relationships formed, interests shared, and communities built between our users.

I’d like to state right off the bat that I don’t think we’re in direct competition with Google+, Facebook, or Twitter (In fact, we just integrated Twitter into our site in a pretty big way just recently). The goals of our ‘competitors’ are way different from our own. Their style of social networking provides a steady stream of content in a certain way, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing… it’s simply not what we’re aiming for.

People are going to use current social networks to stay in touch through status updates and to share content quickly and briefly with their friends for the foreseeable future. We just want to put our service out there for when people want to talk more substantially and consistently about topics they’re passionate about.

Now here’s the part where I justify everything I’ve claimed above! Ready?

Our network empowers users to take control of their identity online, and offers the proper context or interactions so you can feel comfortable and speak your mind. Through the streams that form on Ayloo, people with similar interests gather to discuss topics they’re passionate about. So, through proper context, control, and the ability to find relevant and interesting content, we foster more meaningful conversation.

Let’s go into them in more detail (I hope I’m not boring you to death!).

Context: We are the only network out there right now that gives you complete context for every interaction on the site. Facebook’s new privacy push allows you to see who your friends have shared with (i.e. Friends of Friends) but not the people specifically. Google+ does better in allowing you to see specific people who were shared with, but they cut off the number after about 23 or something.

Context on our site is central and we believe the communication we have on Ayloo is better because people feel comfortable and can be themselves (or whatever version of themselves) around others. This seems natural, and leads to less broad-casting and self-branding and more genuine interaction.

Content and Control: Facebook’s new privacy features have improved the ability of their users to control who they send content to (as we’ve dubbed ‘user output control’), which is basically what Google+ pioneered with circles and what we’ve had on our site in the form of contact lists. Neither network currently has good ‘user input control,’ however – where you can really control what content is coming at you.

We feel there’s an abundance of (often) irrelevant content hitting your eyes every day on traditional social networks and in order to fix this we’ve focused our site around the aforementioned online communities where people can join and find the content that interests them at any given moment. And on top of input and output control, we are also heavily feedback-focused.

We believe our users should have control of the direction of the site itself. Instead of making them feel like our customers, we really want to treat our users as peers — and we believe Ayloo should constantly evolve to keep up with their desires for the network.

To really seal the deal, we also provide the means to evolve conversation organically. Our ‘Sprouts’ feature keeps conversation fresh and gives users the opportunity to explore interesting directions within a conversation that they may have overlooked otherwise.

Q: What are the main selling points of Ayloo?

A: Since I’ve already covered a lot of the selling points, I’ll interpret this question to mean ‘Who would be interested in Ayloo?’

Of the tools available on the internet today, two of our stream types most closely resemble traditional blogs and forums. To the best of my knowledge, no one before us has combined them together with a social graph, however, which I believe actually enhances all three components.

We’ve already covered how adding streams to a social graph benefits the users in terms of input control and content discovery. Ayloo will also appeal strongly to bloggers who have had trouble in the past establishing a steady audience and to forum-goers who wish they could easily integrate people they know into discussions they’re passionate about.

Q: In the “Working With Us” section on your website, it explains how Ayloo can be used for business. Do you have an example of how a business can benefit from using Ayloo and where you envision this going in the future?

A: First and foremost, I want to make it clear that our users always come first in any decisions we’ll make. As a company, Ayloo doesn’t condone the act of gathering our users’ information to sell to third parties. We are currently exploring monetization options that will keep our users’ privacy secure and will actually add a lot of value to their experience.

In my opinion, ads aren’t tremendously effective. We’re getting immune to them. And even if data doesn’t back me up on that, I’d still argue that they lead to pretty weak branding and hardly ever add value to the user’s experience.

Our first step will likely be to move ads out of your personal space online. Private streams and feeds for contact list posts will be completely ad-free. Ads will likely show up in Ayloo’s public streams, but the power will be in the users’ hands – they get to choose what brands to feature for their community based on aesthetics, brand-loyalty, interactions brands may have with these (often) interest-based communities, etc.

But we don’t want to stick with ads forever. We have bigger plans, but we’re not yet ready to reveal much. What we can say is that we’re hoping to give brands the tools they need to create unique social experiences for those public streams that choose to enhance their communities with an interested brand’s presence. Vague enough for you? Haha.

This dedicated branding channel on Ayloo is not yet established, but we will allow interested parties to sign up for a brand invitation during the sign-up process. We’ll be releasing more information concerning these efforts in the near future.

Thanks for the interview! :)

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How to Nurture Your Twitter Community

@scottporad on tweeting in the context of community at the 140 Characters Conference

“I nod to a passing stranger, and the stranger nods back, and two human beings go off, feeling a little less anonymous.” —Robert Brault

This feature film stars Robert. He captures the potential for human beings to connect in a paradoxical world, where we have increasingly broad ways to connect with our fellow men and women, yet many of us feel disconnected in the online world. We yearn for ways to engage with our tweeple, bloggers and customers.

Freeze frame, in comes @letsconnect. She is following 4,500 people, with 3,550 following her. She wonders who to create a dialogue with and how to shed the veil of anonymity.

Cut to a scene starring @socialmediautopia, our protagonist. He carefully selects those people who form the background of his Twitter community. Flowers are pollinated and birds chirp incessantly. Welcome to the land of retweets, @ mentions, plus ones and blog comments.

Who you choose to nurture will vary from person-to-person depending on your product / service and goals, whether personal or professional. I give extra attention to my fellow Triberrs and people I interact with on Third Tribe Marketing and retweet at least one of a batch of my new follower’s tweets.

Next scene, @cynic. He is our antagonist. He wonders who has enough time to fly around Twitter sprinkling fairy dust on their tweeple when corporate strategies need to be developed and two year old Mary has needs her diaper changed.

How will this story end? Will followers trip over each other, trying to unfollow aggressive sellers that push out guerrilla sales tactics right before their horse has left his gate? Whoa horsey. Create value for your Twitter community. Some days “value” will translate into a 30-second investment, other days 20 minutes will be spent sharing the love. The point is that there are options.

Lets toss out the no brainers right from the get go, so we can broaden your knowledge and flex your higher brain functions.

1. Retweet, retweet, retweet. You expand your followers reach and give their post your personal stamp of approval.

2. Thank people who follow you and retweet their tweets. There are different school of thought considering Twitter etiquette here. How responsive have you been to said tweets? Get a feel for what works for you. You are letting your new followers know that they are on your radar.

Okay, lets kick things up a notch.

3. Use Klout to +K someone in their area of expertise. You’re allowed five +K’s per day, so choose them wisely. It only takes a second and improve their Klout score. For example, you could type @socialmouths in the search box and +K Francisco for his social media prowess.

4. Let others know why you are following certain key folk. This may inspire others to follow said folk, thus broadening his or her reach. For example, “I follow @lorirtaylor for her entertaining, quality and informed tweets. She is a thought leader in social media and could be your secret weapon.” Done.

5. Let others know something specific you have learned from them. Again, this promotes your tweeple and gives their voice a larger audience. Such a declaration can take this form: “Awesome post about relationship marketing: URL from @monmorong.

6. If they have a blog, take time to comment on their blog. Don’t shy away from promoting your product if it helps others meet their needs.

7. Share their blog posts / website(s). If you only have time to use one social bookmarking site, choose StumbleUpon. This will likely bring the most amount of traffic to their site. I also use Digg and Reddit on occasion. Promote the blog article on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social media tools / sites, such as BizSugar where appropriate.

8. Think outside the box. I run a monthly “10 Awesome Tweets From My Followers in [insert month]” and more recently, “10 Awesome Tweets From People I Follow in [insert month]” on my blog. This results in a win-win situation. Your blog gets lots of traffic and tweeple get recognition / greater bang for their tweet bucks, meaning access to a larger audience. Use Refynr to sift through tweets using keywords, which will save you loads of time.

9. Add tweeple to your Circles. This says ‘your important to me’. Enough said.

10. Offer to give something they value. For example, you can ask your tweeple to tweet you key links that they want to promote (do you have any you want me to promote?). Offer early access to invite-only sites, such as Google+. Btw, if you need an invite to join Google+, give me a shout at

How do you nurture you Twitter community?

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10 Awesome Tweets From My Followers in April

Twitter Follower Mosaic

Wish you could have someone sift through brilliant tweets related to social media on Twitter without having to lift your finger? Look no further my friend. My fingers just got a good work out.

Congrats to my followers and thank you for your great tweets. Keep them coming!

1. How to gain influence on Twitter? Focus – #cnn #fb @mogulette

2. Flight of the Conchords – Business Time @socialmedialogo: killer tweets for learning about social media. This post is not directly related to social media, but is way too fun to pass up = lets get you laughing!

3. Birthday Wish: Use Your Influence To Make Meaningful Change. @Georgina_Lester

4. Bufferapp seems to be the latest talked about twitter tool @sfihomebizz

5. Small Biz Twitter Tips: @DezFutak

6. Top 100 Social Media, Internet Marketing & SEO Blogs – 2011 … @TinaSymone

7. Understanding the Power of ReTweets (RT’s) | – @ploked

8. A place to see/share all those creative Facebook campaigns. @theadliber

9. Amazing restoration photos from 76-year-old Photoshop Master in China @RodHarlan. In a word: wow!

10. Finding the balance between personal and professional on Twitter @markschaefer

Thank you for introducing me to hundreds of different valuable links / articles.

Visit 10 Awesome Tweets From My Followers in March to read more Twitter jems.

What are some brilliant tweets have your followers tweeted this month? I absolutely love hearing from my readers. Please leave a message and I promise I will get back to you.

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Can You Buy Your Way to More Targeted Followers?

Image representing Featured Users as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

Perhaps the number of Twitter followers you have are growing at a turtle’s pace and maybe said turtle has injured its foot, thus slowly down to a mere shuffle.

Truth be told, as I lower my voice to a whisper, with a little bit of the greenback, you can promote your account to a targeted audience, meaning one that decides to follow you based on interest in what you have to say.

Twittercounter: You get more follows, either on a monthly basis starting at $65 per month or a one-shot deal starting at $245 and you can expect to received over 500 followers for purchasing the basic package, but results will very. The site boasts at being the #1 Twitter stats site and is powered by Twitter. Twittercounter tracks stats for over 10 millions users = jaw drop, so you will receive some stats to monitor your progress.

TweetFind: There are three separate kinds of packages you can use to promote your account on TweetFind on a monthly basis for$30 or $40 per month and on a yearly basis for $19 per year. Each option advertises certain claims, such as getting indexed by search engines and displaying up to 10 keywords for $19 per year. You may not see a significant gain in followers, so if you decide to go with TweetFind, try a monthly package, before committing to a yearly package.

Twiends: Lets you follow and be followed by working on the credit system. When you follow someone you get credits. Your credits decrease every time someone follows you. You can target people to follow based on similar interests / country and a ‘twust’ score, which gives you an indicator as to the quality of the account. You can also purchase one-off credits that start at $29.95 or a subscription package that starts at $6.95 per week. You can get a significant amount of followers this way. There is also a way to get many ‘Likes’ on your Facebook fan page. Twiends state that they adhere to Twitter rules. There is one very good reason not to use this service. Chances are that the majority of people following you are there to gain followers, not because they are interested in what you are tweeting, rendering your follow list virtually useless, however, if your only goal is to boast to others about how many followers you have, this option is for you.

Featured Users: You can purchase banner ads at Featured Users if you believe your followers are on their sponsored site. This allows you to create banner ads to promote your Twitter account. Banner ads start at $40 and lets you know how many clicks your banner has received.

All of the above sites allow people to follow your tweets, based solely on interest except Twiends, where everyone, there dog and maybe the odd cat will follow you, even if they are not interested in receiving your tweets. This is a key difference that will effect how useful / effective your Twitter account will be in achieving your personal and professional objectives.

At the end of the day, quality content and dialogue are very important factors in attracting and engaging your followers and keeping them interest, but just because you build it does not mean that they will come.

On to you, what other sites can you promote your Twitter account for a fee? Do they adhere to Twitter rules? Do you think it is ethical to advertise your Twitter account? My hope is to stir-the-pot, sort of speak and get a healthy debate going. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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