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Case Study: Shoemocracy (A new online community about shoes)

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Shoemocracy recently launched an online community for shoe lovers.

It makes for a good case study about the interplay between the elements of social psychology and platform design.

So if Shoemocracy was a client, this is what we would tell them:

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The Concept

A community for shoelovers is ok, but it’s competitive. It’s a community of interest. There are a LOT of communities about shoes out there. It’s competing against fashion communities, sportswear communities and a variety of other shoe niches. Generalist sites will never beat the niches.

They should apply Ramit’s two-qualifier rule. A community for shoelovers {qualifier 1} who  who … {qualifier 2}

This ‘qualifier 2’ should be either a demographic qualifier (young shoelovers, old shoelovers, shoelovers in San Francisco, budget-shoeshoppers etc…), a habit qualifier (who who love to go clubbing, who are shopaholics) or a psychographic qualifier (who believe in recyled materials, who hate shopping malls, are introverts etc…).

In the conceptualization phase you deliberately narrow down the total target audience to better resonate with a specific audience. The more relevant your community is to that audience, the more successful it will be.

They should also consider changing the community from one of interest (which is highly competitive) to one of the other types of community (place, action, practice, or circumstance). A community of practice for example for people that are actively hunting out the best shoes in their town/city. You need to stress the benefit and tickle the motivation of your target audience.

They also miss the benefit. Connecting with others only works when we care about the others. We need something more tangible here.

e.g. Find the next mainstream shoes…become the shoe-maestro (?) in your town, get advice from experts on what shoes to wear and when to wear them, promote rare shoe designs.

Don’t overlook the importance of getting this conceptualization phase right.

The Platform

Everything is hidden behind a registration page. Not only do you kill your search juice, you also repel most of your visitors. What could possibly be so sensitive about shoes that it can’t be discussed out in the open?

The activity of your community is your greatest promotional asset. Don’t waste it by hiding it between a registration wall. Display the latest activity on the homepage to unregistered members.

* It’s also best to avoid the marketing fibs. We all know that a community which has just launched can’t be the ‘hottest shoe community’. 

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Beyond registration the platform isn’t terrible. It’s different from most communities, in that it’s not based around a forum pages, but that’s ok. Shoes are graphic. However, this ignores the rules of landing pages.

Landing pages need to shoe what’s new, what’s popular, who’s new, and who’s popular.

This solely shows what’s new. It doesn’t show which shoes are the most popular. It also doesn’t allow for a content/news page. Or make it easy for people to interact with each other.

Having a tab for popular shoes is good, but not enough. Most people are lazy. They don’t click on the popular tabs. You need to shoe it for them.

This would benefit greatly from regular content such as ‘shoe of the week’, or ‘shoe hunter of the week’, interviews with top members, and showing the most popular shoes in a different area. There needs to be a greater narrative around this community than what we see here.

At the moment, a lot of the narrative has been outsourced to a Facebook page.

To gain a high conversion rate, people need to identify something to participate in before registering to join.



Converting Newcomers Into Regulars

Like most communities, Shoemocracy makes the mistake of directing newcomers to fill out their profile when they first join.

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This is a mistake.

The absolute first thing you want a newcomer to your community to do is participate in something interacting. You want them to enter your notification cycle.

Once someone has registered, the very next page should be to a topical discussion they you think they can participate in, or a major event/activity/popular shoe they can give their opinion on right now. You can change this page on a regular basis to keep it fresh.

They also don’t use any welcoming e-mails, greeting from the community manager or provide any other means of learning more about the community. Here you want people to begin to buy in to the community identity. So an e-mail about the greatest shoes to ever appear on the site, isn’t a bad idea. Or an e-mail with top tips or recommendations for finding great pictures of shoes, works well too.

Anything here that helps better explain the culture of the community is useful.

Tone and Language

Throughout this platform it feels like the copy has been written by a marketing flunky than by a member of their target audience. Which is strange as the founder (Patrick) is such a huge fan of shoes.

The words you use and your tone of voice matter a lot. They help shape the community identity. People need to decide whether to accept or reject that community when they join the community. It needs to appeal to them.

At the moment (and with the caveat of wearing trainers which are 6 years old), I doubt this appeals to shoe lovers. You need to use their language. You need to speak to the target audience directly and identify their symbols. You then use these symbols within the copy of your site and when interacting with members.


There seems to be a lack of active community management on the site. Many of the posts about shoes receive no response at all. There is no clear narrative to follow. New members aren’t welcomed to the community. There is very little to shoe that the community is being actively managed.

The focus at the moment appears to be on developing the technology further, and not the people in the community.

Inception Stage Activities

This is a community in the inception phase of the community lifecycle. It’s just getting started. At this stage, you want to hold back on your promotional assets. You want to focus on directly inviting people to join and participate in the community. You want to master how to keep people engaged and sustain high levels of participation. 

Over time, as the community becomes self-sustaining, then you can move on to the promotional activities. But at the moment, make sure you’re spending your time on the correct activities and plan your week accordingly.

If you want to learn more, enroll in the Pillar Summit’s Professional Community Management course. We have weekly live lessons, a library of case studies, incredible guest speakers, access to key academic journals, template scripts/documents, and unlimited access to our consultancy support.

Applications close on February 20.

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