Monday, December 21, 2009

Building our shoe community

In order to take our bespoke shoe startup to the next level we know we'll need to start building a community around it. Over the last week we've been giving this a lot of thought. However we'd love to brainstorm some more ideas on our blog with you!

The purpose of building our community is to:

  1. Make our site more "sticky" so people want to come back again, and hopefully bring their friends.
  2. Give potential customers more confidence to purchase designs they have created.

It's also important that we build the community in a way that is consistent with our brand. In other words, we don't want create something that is insulting to the intelligence of our customers or relies too heavily on gimmicks.

To kick off the brainstorming we reviewed some popular websites to see how they've managed to build their communities. Here are some of the sites we reviewed:

TypeTees -- a sub-brand of Threadless -- makes funny t-shirts from slogans submitted and voted on by the community. The great thing is that you receive almost immediate feedback after you post a slogan.
Etsy sells arts and crafts made by independent artists and designers from around the world. They have many community tools on their site such as forums, chat rooms, voting communities, and smaller support groups called "teams" that support particular geographies or crafting mediums.
Foursquare is a location-based game played on mobile phones. Users "check-in" to places they frequent, such as cafes, nightclubs and restaurants. If they are the person that checks-in to a particular location the most, they are crowned the "mayor" of that location. They are also awarded points for their check-ins and, over time, their aggregated activity will unlock various badges as they achieve certain milestones.
Yelp relies on the community to provide all of the content for their website. To keep people motivated they keep track of a wide variety of statistics, such as the number of "funny", "useful" or "cool" reviews a person has submitted, the number of "first" reviews each user has submitted, and the number of "compliments" a user has received. Really active users are selected annually to join the "Elite Squad" - which gets them a special badge on their profile page and invites to exclusive events.

After looking at these sites, and some others, we've got a number of ideas about how we should design our community features. However, we'd love to know what you think! Do you have any favorite websites with great community tools? What would you recommend we do to help build our community?


  1. Brand awareness is about being seen - one thing you should make it easy to do is post pictures of your shoes out and about - actually being worn by the punters - maybe offer prizes for the best framed ankle. A "sole diary" or similar where punters can post shoe stories [seed it carefully with trepidation followed by delight stories], "shoe spotting" where you plant someone wearing them in a public place/event and get punters to search, report, vlog the chase ...

  2. @Wonko - thanks Pete, these are great ideas! Threadless has a great section where you can submit photos of you wearing t-shirts. If they publish they picks, they give you a cash(?) prize. I really like the "plant" shoe idea. That's neat, and could generate a lot of great content. Thanks :)