HysterSisters has been an online community since 1998. How do you keep the website and community up to date in today’s online environment?
What I do is not unique to the lives of other web-managers even if our topic is different than other communities. Staying up to date is a daily foot race. Since I launched HysterSisters in the early years of the Internet, I've continued to keep the website up to date by showing up each day, knowing my community, remaining a learner, determining to be the authority in our niche and expanding my brand. I remember WHY I do what I do - which fuels my passion.
What do I do specifically?
I show up each day
An online community won’t run itself – even with an awesome staff of moderators. I’m a daily presence within our staff forums and using text messages, iMessage and other chat platforms that were never available back in 2000 with access for our moderators. I meet regularly with our content team via phone, text or email. I schedule regular monthly staff meetings online. I show up today with a plan for tomorrow and an extended plan for my website for the next year. Each year, I plan a new expansion project. 2012 was the year of the APP (iPhone, iPad and Android). 2013 was the year of our video series using doctors. Because I set a yearly project in place, I make daily plans that lead to weekly plans that lead to my big projects goals.
I know my community
And as I show up every day, I’m on hand when the moderator staff is making decisions about a challenging member. I’m aware when a new topic of discussion takes off and I work with our editorial team to research and write a series of articles for our content. I read through the forums finding questions that we could use in our Ask the Doctor video series. Our newsletters go through me first for topic and then again for final approval before we send. News that pertains to our community will show up the same day it makes it to Fox News or CNN.
I am always a learner
Within the last year, organic search engine rankings were altered with new algorithms and it affected our incoming traffic somewhat. Instead of shrugging my shoulders, I started to make phone calls and sending emails in a search of what I might be missing with the changes in SEO. It turns out I needed to adjust and make use of the newer “toys” on the Internet. We already had a presence on Facebook and Twitter but we learned how to step things up. I learned how to make use of Pinterest and Google+ as an extension of what we were doing within our community. I discovered that each of these (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+) should not be treated equally or with the same content. Each has a specialty behavior that should be used to point back to your community, your content and your expertise.
I become an expert
Our niche is narrow: We are a patient support website for women’s GYN surgery specifically the hysterectomy. Expertise means I research and continue to learn from the medical professionals (specifically teaching doctors) and our patients who ask personal questions within the community. With the combination of medical professionals and patients, content is created as I learn.
We’ve always taken content seriously and write articles for our niche at a rate of five new articles each week. We send a monthly newsletter that is article driven and another that is community related. We started partnering with doctors who loved what we were doing within the medical community with a video series – expanding our content within the digital realm of videography. When I’m invited to a surgeon's event, I go. When I find a way to hold hands and partner with similar passionate women’s patient support groups, I do it. I surround myself with the best of the best and I hope a bit of it rubs off on me.
I expand my brand
Back in 2005 I had a short period of time when a big search engine “de-indexed” our pages. While I was fixing the problem and getting the pages back in the search engines, I made a big decision. It was simple but huge. I had to make sure women knew our brand even if the search engine never “liked” the website ever again. I had to know that women could find the website whether we had great SEO or not. It was a watershed moment for me. I began to share HysterSisters.com offline through doctors and women’s groups. I wanted the medical professionals to think well of our brand. I wanted women to identify our brand as "women who care". Now, the main keyword that brings women to HysterSisters.com is in fact: HysterSisters.
I have many personal stories related to expanding my brand offline. My favorite: I was in a little town in east Texas, population 24,000, at an antique store. As I was browsing, I could hear women whispering at the cash register. One woman was telling the other woman about our website – and how it helped her. The other was writing down the name. They had no idea who I was or that I was easedropping. But that day, shopping in that antique store and hearing their conversation made an impact on me. My brand was now offline within the conversations of women. And while I was back in the good graces of the organic search engines, I was also being branded organically offline, too.
My bottom line - I stay passionate
Today’s online environment is definitely a challenge for any website community.
But it is my passion that fuels each step of the way. It is the grid that each decision I make - in the community, article topic choices, video questions or plain old business - must pass through. I show up each day with a plan for greatness to help women through a hard time. I remain faithful to my passion for women’s health education and support.
Kathy is the President and CEO of HysterSisters, the woman-to-woman's website for hysterectomy patient support from diagnosis to surgery to recovery, and GYN related patient support concerns: GYN cancers, menopause, hormone therapy, pelvic floor, adhesions, myomectomy, ablation, and more.