Meet Connie Bensen: Network Weaver and Online Community Strategist

BlogHer Original Post

Are "the best" or "most influential" lists of bloggers a good thing or
a bad thing? I rather not have a list, but get to know them one-by-one - and these interviews are a way of doing that.

But in the last month, I've come across three "best of" type women blogger lists.

In a recent post on Blogher, Virginia DeBolt mentions the list titled 100 Awesome Webmaster Blogs by and for Women by Jimmy Atkinson. She was on the list and checked it out, finding a wide range of excellent blogs written by women. (I was delighted to
that Holly Ross from NTEN was included on the list) She notes that this is the first extensive a list she has seen produced by a male writer.

In the comments, Christine Martell (who writes an awesome blog called) mentions a list of women edtech bloggers put together by Janet Clarey.

This week NxE published its list of the Fifty Most Influential Female Bloggers. BlogHer's leadership trio Lisa, Elisa, and Jory was in the number 1 spot. This list has included other BlogHers such as Anne Zelenka and myself. I was flabbergasted and happy, but as I looked over the list I noticed some of my favorites were not there.

I was tempted to put together my own list, but I've come to the
conclusion that lists like this only end up being divisive and can get you into trouble.
Instead, I'm just continuing to do these one-on-one interviews with
incredible women bloggers that people who work in nonprofits (and
others) should definitely read.

So, let me introduce you to Connie Bensen who I first started reading when I was researching an article for TechSoup.

1. Tell me a little bit about you.

I live in northern Minnesota with my husband. Our daughter will be a sophomore in college. I'm self-taught & love exploring new mediums. I worked in the public library system for ten years & loved that. After that the shift to building community online was a natural. I'm presently with the social media team at Network Solutions. I blog at Marketing 2.0 & am also the editor for Personal Branding Magazine.

2. How did you get started with social media?

Through my hobby of digital scrapbooking. The community had a need & my sister & I found a product that fulfilled it. Our evangelistic efforts turned into a website. My experimentation with WOM & marketing within the Web 2.0 world was not only intriguing, but addictive! Last fall I began working online full time.

3. What is the definition of a successful online community? What metaphor would you use?

It's
a place where like minded people gather and find value in exchanging
information. It's like the general store of days gone by where the
interaction is a personalized experience. Your suggestions &
requests are listened to & responded to.

4.
Nonprofits are beginning to embrace social media - particularly the
online community building aspect. But, for example, I've seen a lot of nonprofit Facebook pages that are facades without much activity. 4. What would be your advice to nonprofits who want to build lively online communities using social media tools?

1. Have a plan; 2. Know where your stakeholders are at & what is relevant for them; 3. Have people involved in building the community. For sustenance, what
does the community provide that they need/want?

5. What do you think the difference is between online community and network? Is there a sweet spot in between?

Communities are centered around a common interest. A network are the people that you know & interact with. For example, my network would be all of the people that I know. That could be broken down into subsets of communities. Some people in my network would have overlap in my communities. For example, those in my network from the digiscrappers community are fairly separate (although a few read my personal blog & share my interest in social media tools - they're the early adopters). Now when my guest post ran on ProBlogger in that I've gained a new subset of readers that are interested in community building, branding & networking (but they're not digiscrappers, social media junkies or community managers).

6. You are the queen of
networking - I've learned so much from reading your blog. What advice or tips would you offer to nonprofits so they could be efficient?

Networking takes time & a concerted effort. I agree that it's easy to get lost in it. Do your best to be helpful & it will fall into place. My best suggestion is to have a focus, start small (don't get overwhelmed) & build on it. After awhile there is a tipping point where it comes naturally then it's much more fun to enjoy the interactions & keep building on them.

7. I understand you're offering a course. Can you tell me a little about it?

I'm really excited about my course for community managers! There are so many people looking for information & it's all fragmented around the web. My background is in education & I love sharing my skills. The course will be personalized for each attendee in the first session.
Then the remaining five sessions will be small group conference calls. And I've set up a discussions forums at communitystrategist.net to share ideas, suggestions, resources, etc.

Beth Kanter, BlogHer CE for Social Change and Nonprofits, blogs at Beth's Blog.

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