Community Engagement & 43,000 Cookie Monsters

Several Search Engine Watch authors have broached the topic of community engagement, whether it’s on understanding your social consumer engagement scenario or on the metrics involved in measuring your community engagement, but are you actually actively engaging your community yet?

Does your Facebook account reply to comments on your wall, or are you just posting items and letting your fans talk among themselves?

Does your Twitter account just push your articles, or do you use it to engage your followers?  If you run Tweetstats on your company account is the quantity of @’s somewhere between zero and a number just slightly higher than zero?

Engagement and Your Brand

What can increasing your engagement do for you? It can absolutely create a good brand impression. Back in March I checked in at my hotel in San Francisco on foursquare, within the hour I had a tweet sent to me from the hotel twitter account (@westinsf) asking if I was enjoying my stay.

Last month I tweeted about a problem I was having with my headphones, Bose contacted me within minutes to see how they could help (a change of battery was all that was needed).


In both of these examples, my experience improved my perception of each of the brands. Companies that don’t engage in such a manner lose an opportunity to solidify their place as a brand of choice for their customers or potential customers, and miss a chance to create brand advocates.

One of the sites I work with at the AOL Huffington Post Media Group is The Huffington Post. Last week we decided to step up our consumer engagement on Twitter.

I believe that with a greater level of engagement we’ll see higher level of engagement returned back to us from the community, more retweets, more click throughs, etc. But it’s going to take time to see if I’m right, and I’ll hopefully be able to show some of those results here in a follow up post in a few months.


The Woot Community

But community isn’t exclusively a Twitter or Facebook thing.

One subdomain of deal site is their T-shirt site ( This site has been around for just shy of four years, and is heavily community driven. (Before there’s a comment, there’s no disclaimer here as the only way I’m affiliated with Woot is as a customer and community member).

The premise of the site is that approved artists send them designs, of which four are chosen every week and go up on daily sale from Monday to Thursday.

The community part comes in for the other three days of the week.  Each Thursday a derby theme is announced and starting on the Friday anyone can submit designs (within the rules of the theme), which are then voted on by the community.  The following Thursday voting is closed down, and the top three voted designs are then placed for sale on the site from Friday to Sunday.

But that’s not the only part that the community plays, they also have to buy the shirts that are produced. The top 20 shirts for sale every week are retained for sale the following week, the seven lowest sellers are ‘reckoned’ and removed from sale forever.  What’s interesting about this process is they provide analytics for every shirt on the site, beyond just the rankings, so you can see which shirts are selling well, and which… well… aren’t.

You can find out the number of shirts sold (running total), the average length of time between purchases, how many shirts people buying this one have bought before, how many shirts they bought, where in the U.S. the shirts are being sold, and the sales percentages by date and time.


By providing this data to their community it’s another way they’re increasing their engagement. Some community members track the sales numbers to analyze the likelihood of a shirt falling below 20th position for the next week, and post their postulations, which then sparks other conversations.

With the weekly theme voting they’re not only engaging the community to vote for shirts they want to buy, but they’re also engendering a sense of ownership over a particular design, community members get excited about the prospect of a particular design being printed and, if it makes the cut, typically go out and purchase it.

Their community then goes out and wears these designs, which aren’t branded as Woot shirts in any way, but they are so unique that their wearers are typically asked where they got them from, thus utilizing word of mouth as another sales channel.

How has this worked for Shirt.Woot? Well, so far their top seller is a shirt titled “The Binge” by Tjost, which has 500+ comments, has sold over 43,000 shirts to date, and features a certain well-known Muppet who may have overdone the cookies and milk…


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