Content Marketing and Online Communities – Endless Possibilities!

Posted by Olivia Rainford

Image credit: Nicholas Raymond at

Last week I returned from a fantastic trip to New York and Chicago (yes, I realise how lucky I am!) I’m not here to brag though… and the trip was leisure not work – so it would be inappropriate to tell you tales of baseball and Macy’s. Instead, I want to share a few reflections about being part of a global travel community in the digital age.

Hang on, that statement is a little grand – to manage your expectations – I am actually going to keep the philosophising to a minimum and instead focus on content and marketing. Or content marketing as it is more commonly known. And to be clear, I’m not being paid by a well-known website that promotes itself as facilitating a global travel community either!

No no, in fact, I was prompted to write this blog when, last night, in the middle of dinner no less, I found myself chatting about an email I received after submitting some reviews to said undisclosed website (nerd alert). Reflecting afterwards on the disappointment I felt when my passionate analysis and evaluation was not met with similar interest (not even feigned interest) I decided to put my thoughts down in a blog.

The email was titled ‘Olivia – see how many people have read your reviews’. Well, either this website knows me exceptionally well, or they’ve got some clever marketers working behind the scenes. Not only did that title appeal to my inner competitiveness, it actually prompted me to go and write another review. Clever, clever marketers. Well done.

Beyond the obviously enticing subject line, the email went on to flatter me no end, and incentivise even more online reviews. I’d even go on to say I’ve become a little bit of an advocate for review writing. I was keen before, but now, well, now I’ve taken to writing blogs about it. I’m not sure where that puts me on the engagement scale, but I reckon it’s pretty high up!

Before I break down some of the clever things these marketers included in the body of the email, I’ll be honest, the relationship between communications and online communities is a personal bug-bear of mine. I often see great attention being paid to design and UX when it comes to the build of a new website, but rarely the same attention being paid to the communications strategy that will pull or push community members to the website on a regular basis. Part of my role at BrightLemon is to make sure that holistic perspective is taken right from the start. Having been responsible for community communication strategies in the past, I take this stuff very seriously!

Rant over. Back to the ‘see how many people have read your reviews’ email (1439 in case you’re interested…!)

Three things stood out to me: 1) The analytics were incredibly simple 2) There was a map 3) I was given the challenge to complete.

I’ll start with the first one.


I hate numbers. I really do. But I have this love-hate relationship where I know that analytics are absolutely crucial today when it comes to not only building but sustaining a successful online community. Why? Because being responsive to what’s happening in your community is a no-brainer, and the best way to be responsive is to know what’s actually happening. Numbers lay it bare.

So for me, when I open an email that includes analytics, they have to be really straightforward. At the top of this email were three simple figures: the number of reviews I’d completed, the number of people that had read my reviews, and finally, the percentage breakdown of the top four countries my readers came from. This final one is pretty cool. I travel, the marketers know this. They also know I am a keen traveller who likes to share things (on account of my reviews). So telling me that 67% of my readers are from the US, 6% from Australia, 6% from Canada and 21% from other countries are likely to be something that I take satisfaction from knowing.

The map

The accompanying image to the country statistics was a map. A pretty plain map to be fair, but a map of the whole world. It wasn’t even clickable. It didn’t matter though. Combined with the simple analytics, the map was the icing on the cake when it came to reinforcing that I am part of a global community. Great stuff.

My challenge

‘You’re just one review away from your restaurant specialist badge’

Restaurant Specialist?! What? Well… OK, if you insist. Ridiculous as it may sound, I kinda like the idea of being a restaurant specialist. In fact, I didn’t even realise I was a ‘senior reviewer’ – my other badge!

I know that the next time I have a great experience in a restaurant that halfway through I’ll be thinking about the title of my review (I really need to improve upon ‘best eggs ever’ – the last one I did). Interestingly, I’ve only ever completed reviews when I have travelled outside of the UK. I have a feeling that this one little email, analysed beyond belief I know, has probably managed to make me a committed reviewer at home and abroad.

I won’t go on about the email any more. It’s pretty straightforward really. It made me feel like a valued member of a community. There were no special effects, no expensive marketing campaigns, it was simply an update for me on, well, me. And who doesn’t like that?! My advice, if you’re setting up or running an existing community, make sure your content marketing (AKA your emails) is up to scratch. Go out and ask your community if need be!

In conclusion:

  • Am I feeling part of a community? You bet.
  • Will I continue to review? Absolutely!
  • Do I want anything in return? Nope! (not yet anyway…)

For some extra inspiration on this subject matter, I’d recommend the TED talk ‘The currency of the new economy is trust’. I am also keen to hear other people’s experiences of reviewing – either reading them or submitting them. Does anyone read reviews all the time but never submit their own? Why not?

By the way. If you’re wondering how many reviews it took for me to submit before I received the email… it’s a grand total of seven!