Playhouse Winefest Community

Every community has great beginnings and the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is no exception. From a humble start with a single event featuring one winery to today’s 60+ events and hundreds of wineries, the Festival’s community has supported this growth.

What I find fascinating is that such a large Festival can still nurture an intimate feeling of community. It’s very likely that you’ll bump into friends and colleagues at Festival events even amongst the 2,000 ticket holders at Saturday night’s International Festival Tasting Room. Even the strangers you meet are jovial.

In part this sense of community comes from a common interest: wine. But it also comes from shared experiences and ongoing dialogue. That conversation now continues year round through the Festival’s use of Facebook and Twitter (@PlayhouseWine). Added to that is the knowledgeable and articulate voice of Executive Director, Harry Hertscheg on Twitter (@HHonWine).

So, if you have an interest in food and wine why not join the fun at the 2011 Playhouse Winefest? As I write this, tickets are still available for Divas at the Met, Fetzer’s Great Beginnings Appetizer Challenge and the International Tasting Room.  For a current list of available tickets click here. I’ll be there as a guest of the Festival (disclosure) and look forward to seeing friends old and new.

Guest Blogging

As your reputation grows, you may be approached by different online communities to create content for their blogs, e-magazines etc.. Some requests will be one-off articles while others might ask you to become a regular contributor. It’s a very exciting moment when you get invited but pause and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this community the right fit for my products/services?
  • Am I building new relationships or reaching a new audience?
  • Do I have content ready to go that suits the request?
  • Do I have the time to create new content for this purpose?
  • Is this opportunity of promotional value to me? Is that enough?

Some blogs will ask for contributions on the basis what they are offering the creator promotional value. This can be very useful in reaching new audiences. Essentially, you are being invited to demonstrate your expertise on someone else’s web page. However, as your reputation grows some invitations may be extended because the host wants to benefit from your reputation. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself if you are getting value from the blog exposure or is the blogger benefiting from your “big name” being on their blog. Ideally, it will be a well-balanced exchange of benefits.

If they are offering payment then that makes for another income stream – a good thing, assuming they will actually pay. Some bloggers offer to share advertising revenue from the page where your post is published – this sort of commission based fee is tacky, in my opinion. I’d rather see you offered a modest honourarium or a proper fee for writing the content. If the site generates income from advertising, paid memberships, product sales or something else then they should be compensating contributors. This could mean cash payment, goods or services in-kind or the opportunity to include your products in their online store, if they have one.

The rates for blog posts vary wildly from nothing to a few hundred dollars or much more per post. I would evaluate it based on how much time it will take you to write and edit the post, how long is the post (two paragraphs or 5,000 words), whether or not the blog wants editorial control and consider other content requested – a photo, a sample song, a custom video.

Judging a website’s value is tricky. You can look at www. Alexa.com to see how it’s ranked against other sites. Blogs in the top 100, 1000 or 1 million have more traffic. Other blogs may have value even if the traffic is smaller because they reach a niche audience. As with anything numbers based, take Alexa ratings with a grain of salt – my site is 14 million something but still has value in my niche.

Also remember that the more guest blogs you do the more exposure you get but then each post is less valuable. Perhaps set out a schedule where you agree to one guest post a month (or whatever interval works for you) so that you aren’t spending all your time writing blog posts and promoting them. You’ll need time to promote your post through your social media channels. I would also ask the blog host about how they promote their blog as their tweets, status updates, etc will enhance the value of the guest post for you.

Reputation is also a key thing to consider. You want to make sure your brand appears only on blogs that relate to your topic and values. For an extreme example, you may not want to guest blog on a parenting blog that is anti-abortion if you are pro-choice, or vice versa. You could limit the invitations you accept by creating some guidelines about the types of blogs you’ll contribute to. For example, children’s musicians might focus on blogs that related to parenting, kids, education and music. This policy is a good idea, even if it’s informal, so that you can gracefully turn down an invitation – remember that bloggers have an audience and may be slighted if you say no without a really good reason. The last thing you want to do is make them cross and, potentially write bad things about you. I know it seems petty but there are lots of petty people out there. Overall, do what your heart tells you.

If you decide to accept an invitation, then keep these tips in mind for being a great guest blogger:

  • Stay on topic.
  • Don’t shill your goods and services.
  • Stick to your word count, if there’s a limit.
  • Deliver on time.
  • Support the post with your social networks.
  • Thank the host for having you contribute.

And with that, I thank you for reading this post.

Cirque du Soleil Builds Community

The social media team at Cirque du Soleil did a great bit of community building leading up to the BlogWorld & New Media Expo.  They reached out to delegates and invited them to see them to see Viva ELVIS, their newest show in Las Vegas. As a theatre lover, I was delighted to respond and had a chance to see the show for free.

Viva ELVIS is a marvelous experience from the ushers sparkly grey leather jackets to the “get up and dance” curtain call at the end. As I’d expect from Cirque, the sets were gorgeous, the performances were amazing and the effects kept delivering new surprises.  Although, I was a little wigged out by the fake Elvis hair (pun intended).

Smaller businesses can also use this technique to reach out to a community even without the resources of a large scale organization like Cirque du Soleil.  A local event, conference or other activity that brings people to your area is the perfect time to extend an invitation. Offer a complimentary coffee, a free sample or a no-charge experience related to your brand and see who responds.  Build relationships with those that do respond. Don’t expect promotion and remember some people will have negative things to say.  Communicate graciously with everyone and you’ll be well on your way to building your community.