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Peak Ace on Air #48: Community building with Nick Eubanks

I personally had high expectations for this episode, and they were definitely met. We were joined by Nick Eubanks, a serial entrepreneur from the States, whose work history will leave you stunned (and wondering why you haven’t even managed to do laundry this week…).

Nick has co-founded multiple companies and helped even more of them to grow their traffic and products. One of his many projects is Traffic Think Tank, an SEO training academy for SEO professionals with members from companies ranging from Google to Hubspot. As the guys said before going on air, there’s no real equivalent for the European SEO community, so it was super interesting to hear about his journey with TTT (as Nick himself calls the community) and how he got it to where it is today. To help you out, we’re going to go through Nick’s 6 top tips in this post. 

Tip #1: Start small, aim big

One popular marketing tactic nowadays is exclusivity (Clubhouse, anyone?). If something is hard to get, its appeal can sky rocket. In the beginning, TTT was a small, closed community, consisting of around hundred people. In 2018, a Slack channel was created around it, but it wasn’t open to everybody. However, exclusivity wasn’t the reason behind this.

The reason that the channel wasn’t open to everybody was that the guys wanted to keep the noise to a minimum. Anyone who has ever been part of a Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram group will know that sometimes keeping track of the conversation can be impossible and important information can get lost all too easily.

Even if you’re aiming big, don’t be afraid to start small. You can keep things better under control that way and build a great community from the ground up.

Tip #2: Moderate and contribute to the community

Starting small also makes sense because you need to make sure you’ve got the muscle to moderate discussions in the community. You don’t want to tolerate any abusive behaviour, otherwise you’ll just be creating another 4chan.

On the other hand, you do want to keep the conversation going. In the beginning you might even need to start a lot of conversations yourself, depending on the type of the community you’re in and the people in it. Nick told us that creating content for the TTT members has always been a big part of community building, and it continues to be to this day.

Tip #3: Understand why people want to come together in the first place

Nick learned a very important lesson from another community builder and co-working pro Alex Hillman: “You need to build the club before the clubhouse.” This means focusing on people and working to understand how to bring like-minded people together to talk about a topic. People will create the dynamics of a community even if they don’t yet have a place to do so, especially with today’s technology, so you don’t need to focus on offering the best possible place for people to come together. Put your people first and your location can follow.

The guys also discussed how live events largely kept the SEO community going before Corona. Pre-pandemic, there wasn’t much online action. People could easily travel to different events and meet each other. As a result, COVID hit the community pretty hard. Luckily for TTT, they had their Slack channel up and running pre-pandemic. However, during the pandemic, new Slack channels were set up too. These had nothing to do with SEO, or even work, but were simply places where people could relax and exchange funny messages and memes.

It’s clear that a community needs to also offer people a sense of escape from everyday life and support – even beyond the topic at hand.

Tip #4: Appeal to people’s desire to help others and learn from them

This may seem a bit similar to #3, but it’s worth saying again: people like to help each other, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. We especially love to share our own knowledge and often want to learn new things and develop our skills, especially in our work. These two principles are heavily integrated in the dynamics of TTT: to offer a place for people to ask questions and learn from those who have more knowledge, or just to hear other opinions on a topic. After all, two heads are better than one.

As one member of TTT put it: “TTT is like an SEO insurance policy.” If you are struggling or can’t figure out a solution to a problem, someone in the community will be willing to help you. And isn’t that what we all want?

Tip #5: Have a content plan

Planning is half the job, especially in the world of community management. If content plays a big role in your community, you need to have a structure behind what gets published and who creates it. As Nick stated, it’s important to be aware of the content the community wants and in which format they want it.

To achieve that, TTT have hired some external content creators and are working on a set of guidelines. They previously did this ad-hoc and in-house, which can work okay for a while. However, if you want to get more professional with your community you should consider hiring people to help.

Another important point is knowing your strengths. As Nick (very honestly!) put it: “I just suck at teaching.” If your strengths aren’t writing content but you’re great at hosting webinars and talking to people, then stick to what you’re good at! Let other people take care of the things that they’re good at in return.

Hey, while we’re on the topic of TTT content, we actually referenced their mobile-first piece in our previous episode about mobile-first indexing. Check it out for more info.

Tip #6: Keep members active

Nick gave us a glimpse into the plans he and the other core members have for the future of TTT. One of them is to introduce gamification into the community, offering rewards and certificates for certain activities. Gamification in marketing is not a new concept: subscriber vouchers and frequent flyer miles are just a couple of examples of measures to convince people to stay loyal to a business. It’s obviously also a good way of incentivising people to comment and post in the community as well.

These certificates have a larger meaning as well, as Nick explained. He strives for the day when a company could hire a TTT certified SEO professional knowing that with that person comes with proven SEO knowledge as well as a thriving community of other SEO experts behind them. With one expert, a company can indirectly access the wisdom of dozens of others. In that sense, a certificate would be great for community members as well. It’s a win-win-win.

Wrapping up

At the end of the episode, the discussion moved on to cover the recent Google developments. Nick also reminded us digital PR folks that although digital PR, linkbuilding and content marketing have been gaining popularity in recent years, they are still just one of the many marketing tools at a company’s disposal. As soon as a new buzzword appears in the marketing world, it is often seen as THE way to finally fix all your customer acquisition and lead generation issues. If only! No, it’s just one (important) piece of the whole marketing puzzle.

And that’s a wrap! It was such a pleasure hosting Nick and hearing his thoughts. Let’s hope we can get him on board some other time in the future as well! Next week we’ll have our last episode before a short summer break – tune in then to hear about a cookieless world. A third-party cookieless world, to be exact. Of course, there’ll be some interesting guests on board! Don’t miss the episode on the 20th of July.

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