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Seven online community building lessons: Our findings from Social Jozi

In November 2012, we took on the challenge of building a common interest community for people who want to explore Gauteng. The basic idea behind Social Jozi is; solve the problem of people constantly going into shopping malls while their bucket-lists, of things to do around them, kept getting bigger.

We collaborated as with other creative teams from Momu, AFROmedia, Crayonsky Giant and, of course us, WordStart. This meant we had access to multiple skill sets from the start. After four months and five events, more creative teams expressed an interest in building the community. We then collaborated with Shigo Creatives and Lorato Tshenkeng.

The solution? Start Social Jozi, a common interest community that has at least one outdoor event every month; create an easy going environment for people to share culture; and create original content as part of the process. It sounded easy enough and fun enough. Six months in, the community continues to grow and here are some lessons we picked up along the way:


1. Find the common interest

The key was to find something that people wanted to engage with and it became evident that people want to meet people. As simple and basic as that is, it remains true. The second part was to get people to engage with their surroundings through interesting activities that we tend to overlook and narrow that down to outdoor activities.

As the community grows, we are realizing that inasmuch we all want to be out there playing and meeting people, not all the activities will appeal to everyone in the community.


2. Community building and the art of Content Marketing

“It all began with a plan” is how this sentence was meant to start, and it did. We created a content plan and strategy that we stuck to from the beginning and this includes finding activities and content that the community gravitates towards. This is not necessarily pictures of kittens, which we like as much as the next guy.

We are finding that more people on Facebook are likely to share content than they are on Google+ and Twitter, as such, most of our attention goes to Facebook where most of the community is.

Soon after we began, in March to be precise, we were called by PiE Magazine who wanted to feature the community as a social alternative in Johannesburg. As an experiential community, they either had to do a shoot at one of our events, or we should have done a high quality shoot before the piece. This was the least expected content, on our part, to come in useful for interviews and we had collaborated with Vimage Media, a team of photographers and visual media specialists. (More about collaboration later.) The images were used as original content about the community.

PiE Mag - May 2013 issue


3. Collaborate

In the case of Social Jozi, we realized that there are far too many activities that people would be interested in. We stumbled upon adventures and events that we knew would require a much larger community to plan – from inception to hosting – so we collaborate with the organizers and teams to give our community access to more activities.


Vimage Media

Our two most successful collaborations to-date are with Vimage Media who sponsor our photography and the guys from Pure Rush who run some of South Africa’s top extreme sporting activities. It enables us to host a close-knit social explorer and adventurer community while creating original visual content that can be used at a later stage.


4. What matters to you might not matter to the community

This tends to be quite a tough one to swallow, because when you build a community you assume you know what’s right and you make the “rules”, then you soon realize that you don’t. Letting go of control for the community  to participate was hard for us, and it continues to be, that’s when the results start to show themselves.

The Social Jozi community is interested in events and activities that we did not expect and where the community goes, we facilitate the process. When you see yourself as the facilitator of a movement or community, growth starts to happen because the people themselves make the “rules” and it begins to self-organize.


5. Don’t chase the numbers, connect with people

When you build a community the idea of increasing numbers rapidly is very tempting, with Facebook promoted posts being as little as ZAR96.00 (approximately US$9.00) you can reach out to more people easier. Google Adwords and other options are also quite affordable.


Promoting posts on Facebook

The mission is to realize what people are interested in, as pointed out earlier. Once you know what it is – content and activities of interest – leverage that to increase engagement and connect with people.


6. Build a platform that spreads itself beyond you

In a recent study by Syncapse, it was revealed that the value of a Facebook “like” is  $174.17 which is far less than the mere $9, cited I earlier, to promote an update per day. That alone can be tempting if engagement isn’t an important factor, for you, in the community you are building.

We opted to build a platform where Social Jozi community connects with us, each other and the activities that are of interest to everyone. In this way, the community owns the platform and engages with it.


7. Influencers appear from the least expected places

When we started, the idea was to build it and identify influencers, potential brand evangelists and early adopters from the start. We identified the early adopters whom we thought would take an interest in Social Jozi and its activities. At the time, we had overlooked that some of those people would come from some of the least expected places.

In the past six months, Social Jozi has been adopted by people with a keen interest in its growth and activities. These are people who want to see the community grow, the ones who attend every single event and evangelize the cause. They are the ones we focus on, because they the people who are likely to tell us when we lose our bearing.

Who are some of the interesting communities that you follow? Tell us in the comments how you find them to be and why you love them.


Sep 10, 2012

Win a Free ticket to The Internet Show: A Web and Mobile Conference

WordStart got an opportunity to attend the two day Internet Show which is dubbed ” the only internet business show for digital marketing and online business”. It kicks off tomorrow (11 September 2012) at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.

I’ll be speaking on Day 2 at the Content Management World. Naturally, because we know that you know someone who might want to attend – here’s your chance to win a prize valued at over R9 000.


The will give you access to:

  1. Cloud Computing World Africa 2012 – day conference that explores strategy and opportunity for cloud computing customers and their technology partners.
  2. Social Media World Africa 2012
  3. Digital Advertising  World Africa 2012
  4. E Commerce and Payments  World Africa 2012
  5. Content Management  World Africa 2012


2 Things get the ticket

  1. Tweet this post and CC @WordStarters, or share it on Facebook and CC this WordStart page.
  2. Write a short punchy comment below telling us why you want it.
  3. We’ll send you an email at 4:30pm the latest to let you know if you’ve won.

See you tomorrow.


WordStart is looking for a young sales rockstar

WordStart is in search of a rockstar to join us, someone who can close deals and get large companies signing new campaigns. If Glengarry Glen Ross’s “coffee is for closers!” grabs you half as much as it does us, then you may be the person we are looking for.

About WordStart

We are a word of mouth startup, with a growing community of young upwardly mobile and savvy South Africans. We get cool brands and products talked about by influencers, through blogs and social media platforms. We also track and measure conversations for our clients.

We recently WordStarted Gareth Cliff’s book, which reached over 105 000 people through conversation and became a bestseller in 2011.

What we have

In the first year, we developed the business from an idea, to an early stage startup that is still at proof of concept. Now we are working on growth and that’s where you come in.

As part of our team you get:

  • Social media and campaign strategy.
  • Access to a network of early adopters and influencers.
  • Awesome internal campaigns that connect you with some of the coolest experiences ever.
  • Exposure through popular and industry specific platforms.
  • A constant flow of campaign ideas.

We are in search of a sales director who will be involved in early campaign ideation, setup our sales management and create new networks.

Stuff you need to know before taking the leap:

The first prize for us is the ability to learn and adapt rapidly.

  • You will facilitate access to networks, clients and agencies to collaborate with.
  • Sell campaign ideas and pitch for new business.
  • You need to think on your feet and be able to brainstorm campaign ideas.
  • Manage deal flow for new and existing campaigns.
  • You have basic social media knowledge.
  • Someone who can confidently ask for the dough.

Does this sound like sound like you, or someone you know? If so, make that call. Put that coffee down!

Contact: Mongezi on mo at or on 083 757 3163.

Jan 31, 2012

Calling all early adopters: Get the latest stuff you want

Your friends and the people in your network trust you. When you recommend a night club, phone, a pair jeans and even a car; they are most likely to get it. Or tell someone. Chances are, you are an influencer, an early adopter, the kind of awesome person we want to give access to things.

Do you ever think companies and brands should reward you with early access to the latest products you want? Well, now you can get rewarded.

WordStart is looking for people with clout in their networks, rockstars like yourself who:

–          Dig having the latest products to test.

–          Make an impression in their network.

–          Talk honestly about what they like or don’t want in new products.

–          Tell their friends about the latest and best things out there.

We’ll make it simple for you to get the latest phones, clothes, test-drive new cars and whole lot of things you want. You’ll tell us.

First things first:

The first thing is to get to know you. The last thing you want is to get access to a test-drive when you own a chauffeur-driven stretch limousine. So, to get the process started click here and let us know who you are. We’ll take it from there.

Look out for the latest gadgets, books and experiences.

Tell us what you like below in the comments and click here to get started.


Image by: Gothick_Matt on Flickr