Interviewing Community Leaders for Fun and Traffic

About a month ago I started my community manager job at eVenues. It’s a small tech startup based in Seattle that has spent three years quietly putting together a online marketplace for meeting rooms and event spaces. We’re still pretty small, and although we have a pretty good list of meeting rooms in Seattle and on the West Coast, we have yet to ramp it up in other areas.

It’s been my job to get the buzz going, to reach out to the bloggers and websites whose readers and customers organize events and meetings and to get them talking about the product.

I quickly realized that we didn’t yet have a strong or cohesive community. I was, however, already connected to leaders in other communities whose subjects of interest aligned with those of eVenues (e.g. events, event planning and technology). Because I frequented many of startup events and parties, I had a list of folks whom I could reach out to to get tweets, links and traffic coming our way.

Interviewing influential folks within a community and posting the interview on your blog is a great way to do just that. Since eVenues is all about events and event space, I decided to interview Red Russak, the organizer of the highly successful Lean Startup Seattle meetups. These events had everything from big name sponsors, distinguished speakers, beer, pizza, a bartender with a bow tie, and great turnouts every time. I shot Red an email asking if he would be interested in doing an interview for me, and he quickly accepted.

I published the post, and to promote it I tweeted it out on my personal twitter account, cc’ing a few key members in the tech startup community who happened to follow me. Also, I put the blog post up on Hacker News and with a few votes from Red, his crew (and mine) it managed to stay on the front page for about 3 hours. Also, I left a comment on the Lean Startup Seattle Meetup page with a link to the post.

Within the first few hours the post received thousands of pageviews, 24 tweets by influential folks in the Seattle tech community and a few facebook shares thrown in for good measure. The readers of the blog post were happy because I was able to get some great tips from Red about event planning. Red was happy because his Lean Startup Seattle meetup got a ton of exposure on our site, and eVenues was happy for all the traffic and tweets.

Some Takeaways

I had done several interview blog posts in the past, but none of them had the level of success that this particular post did. In retrospect, I have some ideas about why this particular interview managed to do so well:

1. Your interview shouldn’t be about the person – If you ask only personal questions for the interview, then you’ll only get a bio in Q & A form. People share things because they’re unique and useful. If your interview rehashes info that’s already out there, then people won’t have any reason to share it. The interview wasn’t about Red. It was about a particular tech event and the secrets behind its success. People love to share secrets.

2. See if you can get the interviewee to mention influential people – When writing my interview questions, I didn’t consciously do this, but one of the questions in the interview encouraged Red to mention some prominent folks in the Seattle Tech Startup community (along with their favorite alcoholic beverages). I quickly realized these folks would be happy to tweet out articles that mention them, so I sent the link out to the folks who were mentioned in the interview.

3. Sharing + Pageviews = serious SEO mojo – Without even trying for it, the blog post was #6 for the keyword “tech event” on Google the day after it was published. Obviously, tweets, shares and (possibly) traffic spikes mean a lot for a site’s overall rankings. If you have a successful post on your hands, be sure to include a link somewhere in the body going to an important page on your site. You’ll notice that on the eVenues blog post there’s a link to our Seattle venue listing page, a page we really want move up in the SERPs.

Interviewing event organizers is not just for a site like eVenues. Remember, events are the lifeblood of any community. If you’re working for an education company, then interview the organizer of a successful education event. If your company is all about mobile tech, then do one for a mobile tech event. Find that person, that community hub, and get them to talk about that community. It’s as simple as that.

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About the author

Kenji Crosland

Community manager for, founder of, and blogger at After five years in Tokyo as an English Teacher and later Headhunter, Kenji moved to Seattle to join the vibrant startup scene there. In his free time Kenji writes, codes, and practices Vipassana meditation.