Dan Sullivan is the founder and CEO of Crowdly, an advocate management platform for Facebook. He's also an entrepreneur. Before starting Crowdly, Dan founded Appswell, a TechStars alumni company and leading mobile crowdsourcing platform.

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Previously, Dan worked as a senior strategist at Dell, co-founded and served as president at Speak with a Geek ,and served as community manager at CollegeClub.com.

I invited Dan to Marketing Smarts to discuss how brands can most effectively work with brand advocates and influencers, as well as his recent MarketingProfs post about the psychology of trolls.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Get help managing online conversations from the people who comprise your brand's "ozone layer" (07:32): "College Club...was a pre-bubble startup, so everybody slept under their desks and did whatever, and what I realized there was, as much as I could spend 10 hours more a week trying to do all these things myself, if I could find those 200 people that this really mattered to, and activate them to represent me, kind of give work like a gift, those people will love it. Finding and tapping that core group...is really important. With any strategy, segmentation is really valuable, but particularly, you're going to have a really small subset that really is kind of like that 'ozone layer.' It's not a large number of people, but it's a very important group of them.... Finding and fostering those champions, those advocates—especially for the large brands—matters a tremendous amount."

Before you send a request to your brand's community, ask if you'd send it to a specific person (09:27): "If it fails sort of the common-sense, 'I shouldn't do this to a person' [test, don't do it.] Communities are made up of people. [Ask yourself] 'if this was me and this person in a room, would I feel comfortable doing this?' I think, occasionally, the anonymity of the Internet or the aggregation of big numbers, it's easy for us to say 'well, I wouldn't do this, but people in brand communities do this.'"

To effectively manage your brand's community, you need to be part of it. (09:48): "So many failures are born from [deciding] to build something for 'people not like me,' or manage a community of 'people not like me,' or try to communicate with 'people not like me.' If you think they've got intrinsically different motivations than you, they probably don't. There's some core humanity that we do strip out in the aggregate, but if this is truly an audience that you don't see eye to eye in, this is the wrong community for you."

To learn more, visit Crowdly.com, or follow Dan on Twitter: @Danielmsullivan.

Dan and I discussed much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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