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I wrote a guest post for SmartBlog on Social Media that was published on Monday. It’s called “4 Simple Rules for Generating Traffic from Forums.” That title is pretty descriptive – it’s a simple, straightforward guide for those who want to participate on forums in an effort to drive traffic to their own site. The four steps are:

1. Observe first, act second.

2. Fill out your profile, especially your signature.

3. Want to be there.

4. Don’t mention your website.

The article goes into more detail. If this is something that you are interested in, I hope that you find it useful.

At Blog World & New Media Expo 2008, I was lucky enough to be on a pair of panels, sharing the stage with some great people. My friend Chrispian Burks was kind enough to record the panels for me and, in November, I posted the video from the “Avoiding Disaster: How Not to Use Social Media” panel.

The other panel was called “How to Deal with Trolls, Spammers & Sock Puppets.” Here is the panel description:

You just wrote the greatest blog post you’ve ever written. You researched the subject, spoke with sources, conducted interviews and completed a well thought out, well written article. You hit the post button and your baby is up. Here comes the praise! The first comment you receive? “You’re stupid, you’re ugly and you’re writing sucks.” Whether you call them trolls, haters or griefers, they’re out there, waiting to ruin your day, harm your community and taint your world.

Or maybe the first comment was something like, “Hey, nice article, check out mine!” Just like there are people who’d like to harm you, there are also people who’d like to cheaply benefit from your work and your audience. Spammers can do their own sort of damage.

But, neither of these two groups need harm you, if you know how to deal with them. This panel will give you the knowledge you need to tackle it.

I was invited to join this panel by Rick Calvert, Founder of Blog World Expo & New Media Expo. It also featured John Chow of John Chow dot Com, The Tech Zone and TTZ Media and Jeremy Schoemaker of ShoeMoney and ShoeMoney Media Group.

The panel was a lot of fun and a great experience, being that it was the first panel that I had ever been on. Afterwards, we had a great Q&A. Here’s the entire session:

In addition to Vimeo, the video is also on YouTube (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8).

meet-me-sxswDuring the second week of March, I headed to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) 2009. The conference itself ran from March 13 through March 17 and I arrived on March 12 and left on March 18. Since it is still fresh in my mind, as I did last year, I wanted to provide a recap of the experience. This is my epic and unnecessarily detailed and long (even boring by some standards) recap of the conference. This is the “WHY DID YOU WRITE ALL THAT? NOBODY CARES.” recap. It’s for me personally, to remember the event, as much as anything else, but if you want to read it, you are definitely welcome! Good luck.

March 12

Let’s start with this: I’m sitting in the Charlotte airport on wifi, waiting for my flight to Austin, and a guy walks by. He looks like a much older version of Kevin McCallister’s mean brother Buzz, from the movie “Home Alone,” which I loved as a kid. I tweeted this out at the time. The next day, after I’ve arrived in Austin, a girl at the convention center hands me a promo for a movie called “The 2 Bobs.”

I look at it and notice that this was the guy on my flight. And then the girl who hands it to me says that he was in “Home Alone.” So, it was the guy. His name is Devin Ratray and he was in town doing promo for the film.

On the flight from Charlotte to Austin, I sat next to Scott Brewster, the Director of Online Learning for The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and we got to know each other a bit, for the duration of the flight.

I got in town at around 5 PM and it took me an hour and a half or so to get to the hotel and get checked in and settled. After considering various dinner options, I saw a tweet by Paul Boag of Boagworld. I had hoped to meet up with him at some point, but he said he was having an informal dinner and I made my way over to his hotel lobby to meet up.

But, first, I went to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my badge for the conference. The line for the general attendee pickup was very, very long. About three quarters of the first floor – four people deep. But, the panelist registration had all of two people in line when I got there. Yes! So, I was able to pick my badge up very quickly, but not before chatting with Grant Robertson of Download Squad and meeting Victor Agreda of Weblogs, Inc.

When I made it to Paul’s hotel, I realized that I had only a hazy idea of what he looked like (basically, my best memory of his Twitter avatar, with him looking in a downward direction). But, I spotted him rather easily and joined him and a group that included Niqui Merret, Marcus Lillington, Phill Tran and John Morton. I actually ended out hanging out with Phill at various points of the conference, as well. All cool people. After dinner, they headed to Buffalo Billiards… I headed to bed.

Read More

There are plenty of ways to promote a community. After all, a community is a website, so most of the ways that you would promote any type of website will also apply to forums and communities. However, there is one simple promotional ideal that is probably one of the most important ones, as well.

That is: activity breeds activity. With online communities, and especially with a site where forums are the main draw, activity can dictate a lot. When people visit your forums, they want to see posts – they want to see activity. They want to have something to jump into. When they see activity, it encourages them to join in and participate. When they don’t see anything happening, they are much less likely to become a member of your forums.

This may not seem like a promotional thought. Most would associate “promotion” with things like advertisements and word of mouth. But, the activity on your community directly impacts the value you receive from any other marketing endeavor that you undertake. For example, if you spend money on an ad campaign. You don’t want to send people to a dead site because they’ll be more likely to leave and you’ll be more likely to have wasted your money. You want to send them to a site that already has something going on, that has some kind of appeal.

So, if you are looking to bring people to your community, you don’t want to forget the first step, which is to actually create some activity yourself. Whether it’s just you starting topics or discussions or you assemble a group of friends to help you do so, ensuring that your community has something going on, on a daily basis, allows you to more easily engage and retain new members. In three words: activity breeds activity.

At the end of March, I joined the Online Community Research Network from Forum One Networks. From their site:

The Online Community Research Network (OCRN) is a collaborative effort of online community professionals to better understand the principal challenges of building and managing online communities.

A number of people I already know and respect are in the network already. They provide some interesting data and I look forward to getting more familar with it.

Below, please find the video for Father MC’s 1990 single “Treat Them Like They Want to be Treated,” featuring R&B group Jodeci and a young Sean “Diddy” Combs dancing. The chorus goes: “treat them like they want to be treated… you should treat them right.”

As community managers or administrators or, to break it down further, webmasters and content creators, it’s always important to respect your fellow administrators and creators and treat them with the same respect that you would like to receive.

Do you want people to take posts and articles from your site? Then don’t take theirs. Establish solid quoting practices that limit excerpts, link to sources and encourage content creator benefits.

Do you want people to hotlink images to your server? Then don’t allow your users to randomly hotlink images to servers where they don’t appear to have permission to link.

Do you want people to use their community as a complaint department for yours? Then don’t allow your community to become a complaint department for how other random communities are run.

Do you want people to respect the guidelines on your community? Then respect the guidelines of communities that you participate in.

But, let’s be clear: it’s not just about treating them like you want to be treated. It’s about treating them like they want to be treated. If you allow people to post random links to their own website, don’t expect me to allow you to do so on mine. If you allow people to drop four letter words on your community, don’t expect that you’ll be allowed to do so on mine.

Understand that the rules change when the domain changes. Check the policies of the site you’re entering and check the social norms before you jump in.

In short… treat them like they want to be treated. You should treat them right.

April Fools’ Day 2009 on My Communities

Posted by Patrick on April 2nd, 2009 in Humor

April Fools’ Day is always a fun time for me and that is reflected on the iFroggy Network and my communities, where I collaborate with my staff and others to brainstorm ways to have fun with our visitors on April 1. Here’s what we did this year:

On KarateForums.com, all logged in members were granted admin panel access, via a link in the header. The link took them to this page, encouraging them to prank others by talking about their new found admin access.

On phpBBHacks.com, we announced that phpBB 2 support was coming to an end on the site. But, this is not the case.

At PhotoshopForums.com, we announced plans to support only Photoshop CS4. Basically, if you asked a question on the community, it would have to relate to Photoshop CS4 and no prior versions. If you created a graphic or example and posted it on the forums, it would have to have been created with CS4. That’s not something we are going to do.

Finally, on Bad Boy Blog, we did a couple of jokes. When I was coming up with ideas, I had been thinking of fun story ideas that I could write about. One of them was “Exclusive: Sources: Jordan McCoy Joins Boyz N Da Hood, Replacing Gorilla Zoe.”

For those who don’t know, Jordan McCoy and Boyz N Da Hood are both acts signed to Bad Boy Records. McCoy is a 17 year old pop/rock singer who is also a member of Dream, which is a pop girl group. Boyz N Da Hood is a southern, hard core rap group consisting of rappers Big Gee (signed to Bad Boy as a solo artist, as well), Big Duke and Gorilla Zoe (also signed to Bad Boy). Jody Breeze is another member, but his status is up in the air and it sounds like he’s out.

So, really, what I was going for here was some Onion style humor. Something that is rather obviously absurd, but written in a serious, believable manner. Jordan and her manager, Debbie Hammond, are friends of Bad Boy Blog, so I decided to see if we could make it bigger by involving them.

We didn’t have a lot of time, but we pulled something together. First, I posted my report late on March 31. Then, in the afternoon on April 1, her MySpace layout was updated to include “The Newest Member of Boyz N Da Hood!” in the header (see it here). She blogged about it on MySpace and jordanmccoy.com and tweeted about it. I then wrote a post, announcing her confirmation of my report.

So, we collaborated to pull off a pretty good joke and gave her fans a laugh. After I announced it was a prank, she did the same and her MySpace layout was reverted to it’s normal form.

The other joke we did at Bad Boy Blog was to supposedly post a new single from Diddy. While it sounded believable, anyone who clicked the audio player link in the post was taken to a page announcing the prank.

Another April Fools’ Day in the books!

Question for the Comments: Did you pull any pranks or jokes this year? If so, what did you do?