B2B Digital Content and Community Management Best Practices


Social networks have been mainstream for less than five years, but HR.com has delivered much of the same value to its members for over a decade.

Founded in 1999, the site today serves nearly 190,000 members, most of them human resources professionals. Its jewel in the crown is an active calendar of webcasts that attendees can attend to earn professional certifications.

The site also has many contributions in the form of blogs and expert articles.  Like any site that’s been around that long, HR.com has had its share of twists and turns. Originally founded as an online magazine, its site was recast as a community when social networking became popular.  

Today, the Ontario, Canada-based company employs 32 people, is profitable, and has a successful model in which members contribute all of the content.  A diversified revenue stream includes advertising, events, and webcasts; speakers pay $3,000 for a chance to get in front of the site’s coveted audience.  

Debbie McGrath calls herself the Chief Instigator of HR.com. A serial entrepreneur with a background in computer science, she founded HR.com in 1999 after selling her previous venture, The CEO Group, to the Washington Post Co..  

This interview is guest-hosted by Paul Gillin of Paul Gillin Communications and was conducted in association with research for an upcoming book on B2B applications of social media to be published later thia year or early next year.

Digital Content and Community Management Topics Discussed: 

0:35 How HR.com was started 1:05 The evolution from magazine to community

2:00 The most popular features with the audience are in learning and education. About 30 sessions are webcast each month, with an average attendance of about 400 people. Contributors can get certification credit for what they learn in the webcast.

3:00 Why experts pay to give webcasts: “They get to showcase their expertise, be a thought leader in the space, and for lead generation in some cases.”

4:15 HR.com’s primary revenue sources include events, advertising and subscriptions

5:25 Requirements for registration.  Anyone can register if they agree to receive one ad per week.

6:15 How forms are administered

6:50 Debbie had no prior experience in VB communities.  She discusses how the characteristics of different professional communities make the learning process a constant challenge.

7:20 Surprises of managing communities. “There seems to be no relationship between quality of content and attendance.” People who charge $60,000 for a one-hour keynote seem to draw no better than unknown speakers.

9:45 The role of HR.com’s surveys and the goal of creating product and service guides. “We believe the Forrester/Gartner model is flawed.”

11:10 The upside surprises of running a community. “I’m shocked at how many people come to us from all over the world.”

12:25 Guidance to would-be b-to-b community organizers: unique domain experts and it’s really hard to get started in today’s crowded market.

13:15 How HR.com runs virtual events

14:25 HR.com’s revenue mix: events, e-mail, PPC advertising, events

15:00 Memorable moments in HR.com’s industry. It was the first site in its industry to do webcasts. Internal resistance to the transition to a social network model.

17:30 Plans for the future: making events more self-service and profitable

19:30 Strictly regulating webcast content. “If presenters gave sales pitches, attendance wouldn’t be as good.”

20:00 Gaining permission to work in the certification program. A large association charges for the same basic information HR.com gives away for free.

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

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