How to captivate and engage your online community: is social media past it?

JK: #MyOscarPhoto was an incredibly fun and crazy project to run. The idea was to make viewers feel as connected as possible to the Awards ceremony. We invited people to tweet photos of themselves which we processed and moderated.

Livefyre then rapid fires 10 pictures a second and a slow-motion camera picks up the whole scene, processes each frame algorithmically, and then tweets back the photo to the correct user. So that within just 10 minutes of tweeting the hashtag, each user should have a photo of themselves stood next to a celeb on the red carpet.

Ideas like these come from a collaboration between ourselves and the brand. They know what their specific goal is, and we help them by technologically making it possible. #MyOscarPhoto was a particularly strong, visual example, but we run projects similar to this all the time with news publishers around certain campaigns or sporting tournaments, or with brands like PlayStation to get real-time feedback from gamers.

TRP: How do you see content aggregation progressing over the next ten years?

JK: I think people's understanding of the word content will change, such that we will see a shift in ownership of brands – by which I mean publishers and corporates – to produce and push content out to media and consumers.

Instead we will see much more curation of snippets of commentary, videos and articles from across the web being brought in to the site. Brands are expected to be much more transparent in their communications today and so taking advantage of the huge volumes of discussion that happen across the web, about your brand or related subjects, is a real no-brainer. It's extremely cost-effective and moves towards common brand goals.

TRP: You help publishers and brands build and engage their own communities – what are the steps you take with your customers to accomplish that?

JK: First off we look at their overall goals – what is the business objective? So often we talk about 'engagement', but without knowing why you're trying to achieve that it's really hard to put in place something that will help the brand and feel authentic to readers.

Once we know what overarching goal we're working towards we always audit their current audiences to understand what the current perception is and base level we're working off e.g. time spent on site, number of pages viewed etc.

From there it's a case of identifying those core groups within the audience that will be the champions and delivering an experience that is well suited to their needs. For example, do they have a short time on site, or do they prefer to contribute longer blog or forum posts, would reviews work best or is there a lot of discussion on Twitter that we should feed in to the on-site discussion. We help our customers to tailor every experience.

TRP: Content quality is a big deal to brands – can you talk through the moderation and content filtering capabilities behind Livefyre's platform?

JK: Creating an online environment which features high quality user generated content is extremely important to publishers and brands. We work with our customers so their readers don't have to encounter unwanted noise, including content with lots of expletives, or plain spam.

We address this in a few ways. One is allowing users to comment on and like other users' ratings. Peer moderation can be an effective tool to ensure authenticity, promoting those reviews that are most useful and sincere, and clearly labelling – and eventually screening – those that aren't.

Another key part of this process is an effective moderation platform, one that can screen not just for profanity but also sentiment, defamatory language and spam. Our Magic Moderation tool analyses content as a user posts it in real-time to identify potentially offensive content and matches it against unique site settings, where customers can designate a particular action based on the type of content and threat level. The tool automatically flags hate speech, cloaked obscenity, insults and other offensive content that most spam and profanity filters don't catch.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.