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[IPS News] Interview with Michael Rielly of ClausNet.com

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Did you know that the most magical community in the world runs on Invision Community?

For close to 12 years, Invision client @Michael R  has been spreading joy through the Santa Claus Network (ClausNet.com), the world’s largest community for Santa and his followers.

He started building the site in November 2006 and went live in the beginning of 2007, using Invision Community as his platform of choice since the beginning. Michael also founded the James D. Rielly Foundation in honor of his grandfather – a non-profit organization that provides charitable and emotional support to military and first responder families.

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As a tribute to the holidays, Mike was gracious enough to be interviewed by Joel on behalf of Invision Community on how he uses Invision Community and engages with his unique community.  

J:  This is such a wonderful community of passion.  How did you get started?

Back in October 2005, I attended the world-famous Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School. It was a Christmas present I received from my wife. At that time, I had already been portraying Santa for 34 years but was a bit skeptical of what I would get out of attending a “Santa School.” 

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He’s already nailed the Santa look.


At the school I got to meet Santas from all over the World!

It was a wonderful experience and I am still friends with many of the folks, but what I enjoyed most of all was the camaraderie I felt with my fellow brothers and sisters in red. This was the catalyst in creating ClausNet – to recreate the same feeling of fellowship I felt at the school. 

J:  Your membership must be very unique. 

ClausNet is the world's largest online community dedicated to the faithful portrayal of Santa Claus.  Our membership also includes Mrs. Claus, Elves, Reindeer Handlers, and all others who devote their time to bringing the magic of Christmas to children and adults throughout the world!
In comparison to other sites, 2,900 isn’t a lot of members. But based on some estimates it’s about two thirds of all the Santas and Mrs. Clauses on the planet!

We are very selective who of we approve for membership. In addition to Invision’s validation process, I personally email each person who registers for an account. I do this to help eliminate trolls and other Grinchy people, but mostly to keep out the prying eyes of children to preserve the Secret of Santa and keep the magic alive for children of all ages!

J:  What Invision apps do you use, and how do you use them?  
We have all the Invision Community apps and rely upon them for many purposes.
  

  • We don’t sell products on the site but we do use Commerce for donations. Members can purchase Supporter Level Memberships at varying prices.
  • We use Pages and Blogs for posting short stories, opinion pieces, and even business advice.
  • We use Downloads for sharing files such as example contracts and business card templates.
  • The Calendar app is a great resource in notifying and scheduling regional get-togethers, workshops, schools, and training sessions. 

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Articles and short stories written in Pages.

J: What are some of the most innovative features of Invision Community that your members have embraced?

I believe Invision Community is the most robust platform for building online communities. Our members really like the new Clubs feature.  We use Clubs for regional and local groups as well as specific topics such as prop making and costuming.  


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From the Long Leaf Pines to the Northern Pacific, ClausNet uses regional clubs all over the world to foster closer relationship.

J:  There must be seasonality with your niche. How do you keep your members engaged throughout the year and what are some special events that you host?

Throughout the year we run several activities designed to keep up engagement.

  • Member of the Month - Each month, I select a different member of our community to featured. We interview the candidate and post the interview on the site. 
  • ClausNet Gazette Monthly Newsletter - We send out a monthly newsletter of content from the website. Surprisingly, it’s the first time many of the members see the content. It is a great way to keep members coming back to the site.
  • Christmas Card and Ornament Exchange – These are two of the most anticipated events we hold.  Members sign up and are randomly paired with another, so they can exchange cards or ornaments.  It’s very exciting to receive Christmas ornaments from another part of the world!

We also run several other programs such as an Annual Raffle, Countdown to Christmas, Picture Contests, and Latest News.

J: As a longtime Invision client whose passion is the holidays, what are your holiday wishes to other Invision clients and clients-to-be?

As many of you know, Christmas is my favorite holiday – a holiday that lives in my heart year-round! May this holiday season be one of health and happiness for you and your loved ones. Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Festive Festivas, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Nollaig Shona, Boas Festas, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas!

J:  Thank you Mike for graciously spending your time with me and other Invision clients to learn how you engage with members using Invision Community.  Hopefully this interview has helped inspire and motivate other clients with some extra cheer during the holiday season!

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