:: shine online ::
meredith barnett of eBay's The Inside Source

This week's Shine Online is a goodie, folks! We have the lovely and savvy Meredith Barnett, Editorial Director of eBay's popular online design mag, The Inside Source. Meredith also created the very resourceful shopping social community, StoreAdore. We are lucky to have her on the Sweetline blog so enjoy taking a read of Meredith's perspective on presentation, defining one's voice and sticking with it plus the power of community.

You're the Editorial Director of ebay's The Inside Source, the rich online destination that " harnesses the eBay shopping community’s real time buying and selling activity to curate proprietary insights that shape the retail industry and American consumer’s lifestyles." You also provide tons of content that is relevant to the style of site you are producing - which makes reading the stories more cohesive and easy. I would say you have been very thoughtful about your "online voice". How important is it to define one's online voice and stick with it?

I think it's important to first be thoughtful about who your audience/reader/user is, and then the voice evolves from that.  The The Inside Source, which we describe in brief as eBay's digital style magazine, our audience is a female who is interest in style (fashion, collecting, interior design) but not an expert or a professional. She likely reads Daily Candy and Lucky magazine and loves to shop. She may be a rabid eBay shopper, or she may be more of a casual fan, but she is aware of the bounty available on the online marketplace, though she often feels overwhelmed or unsure about what to look for. Our job is to curate the eBay shopping experience (200 million products and counting!) to help her unearth the coolest, chicest most stylish stuff. Our "voice"--one I would describe as conversational and informative, but never didactic--comes from that.

We love The Inside's Source's idea of "curating" a large community. In this case, ebay! The online world of blogs and sites can be overwhelming and many social media newbies don't know where to begin to even start joining other social media communities. (there's millions of places to visit online!) What tips would you give to someone who is looking to engage/curate other social media communities that are relevant to their personality and/or company to then join?

The word "curate" is a hot one right now. It has been used to talk about everything from how vendors are chosen for a store or flea market to how music is selected for an event. (See this recent article in the NY Times on the topic: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/fashion/04curate.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=curate&st=nyt) At The Inside Source, our definition of "curate" is really to edit the eBay shopping experience according to what is fashionable, trendy or stylish. We do that through a variety of content types. For example, our trend reports look at what is hot from an "expert" perspective (what's on the fashion runways, etc) and interpret it using products that are available on eBay. We also do frequent profiles of major style makers to find out what they are obsessed with in fashion and interior design. It's always fascinating to see what these influential folks are searching for right now.

Examples of trend reports:
  • ZigZag Trend: http://www.theinsidesource.com/topics/home_and_garden/view/trendlet-alert-zigzags/
  • Neon Trend: http://www.theinsidesource.com/topics/fashion/view/suddenly-everywhere-high-voltage-neon/

Examples of profiles of style makers:
  • Designer Lars Nilsson: http://www.theinsidesource.com/topics/fashion/view/designer-download-lars-nilsson/
  • Designer Rachel Roy: http://www.theinsidesource.com/topics/fashion/view/designer-download-rachel-roy/
  • Interior Decorator Miles Redd: http://www.theinsidesource.com/topics/home_and_garden/view/decorator-download-miles-redd/

If you are asking about curating a selection of online communities to be a part of for either personal or work purposes, I would say that the nice thing about the internet is that everything is interconnected. So start with a few sites or blogs you like (or ask friends) and then go to the ones they link to (check out the blogroll) and so on. For example, on The Inside Source, we often profile other sites and bloggers that we love or think are influential.

I also think traditional trade publications shouldn't be forgotten about, especially for business purposes. In fashion, for example, Women's Wear Daily is still a really important resource--whether you read it in print (like I do!) or online.

You created online store location community, StoreAdore, where you believe " in the wisdom of crowds." Love this idea in many ways, in particular, to the power and strength of social media communities. What advice would you give to a company that hasn't jumped into social media yet?

Also, you've given your community members a fantastic forum to share their voice about stores and the cities themselves. As social media has become more mainstream, has your own community become even more vocal and willing to share? What trends are you seeing this year?

StoreAdore.com (www.storeadore.com) is a web-based guide to the best boutique shopping around the country and online. Our site combines editorial reviews/profiles of stores and user reviews. We also allow users to participate in the conversation via message boards. My advice for other companies looking to build up a user community is 
  • Don't underestimate the size of the audience you need to generate substantial user-generated content. I recently read a statistic that says that something like .1 percent of users who go on a site actually post content. You need a LOT of users to generate substantial content. 
  • Think about ways that you can "reward" users for posting content and becoming "leaders" in the community -- Yelp and FourSquare have done a good job with that. 
  • Think about how you can engage with -- not compete with -- the big guys
{thank you, Meredith!}

Definitely connect with Meredith! Follow @storeadore and @theinsidesource

Check back every Friday for a new Shine Online interview that will inspire your online presence.
Up next |The talented Timothy Dahl, creator of home design and diy network, Charles and Hudson.


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