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online-marketing-inside-out-coverSitePoint has a new book out called “Online Marketing Inside Out” and it’s special to me for a few reasons. First, it’s co-authored by my good friend Brandon Eley, who I’ve known for like 7 of 8 years. The other co-author is Shayne Tilley, who I have talked to many times and like a lot, as well. I’m really happy for them and want it to do exceptionally well for them – I’m sure it will. Finally, I contributed to the book, working as an expert reviewer on a pair of chapters. This marks the seventh book I’ve contributed to in one way or another. My friend Ted Sindzinski served as an expert reviewer, as well.

All of that said, I’ve had an opportunity to read a good portion of it and scan various other aspects of it and it’s a great book, highly valuable to anyone looking to grow their online marketing knowledge. Not just that, but the book is also useful for rounding out and broadening online marketing experience you may already have. For example, you may be well versed in social media – but not in e-mail marketing. Or you may be an expert on e-mail marketing, but know nothing about landing pages. The book will help you to become more well rounded when it comes to online marketing.

Marketing certainly can be a part of managing an online community, depending on the situation you are in as a community administrator or manager, but even if you are not responsible for marketing, it can be good to have an idea about it, as well, so that you can clearly communicate with the person who is.

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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

I love this quote. I think it has great applicability to the community manager.

You have to know who you are and what you want to be – and vigorously pursue that. It’s not about pleasing everyone, it’s not about being loved; it’s about accomplishing goals and catering to your audience.

Think about the people who lead the most successful companies in the world, the most successful ventures, communities, organizations and teams and how they usually have at least some controversy surrounding them and/or a reasonable amount of people that dislike them and make a life out of criticizing them. This is not because they are stupid and not usually because they are overtly doing wrong. It’s because they’ve accomplished something that has placed the attention of others on them and, as such, their moves are more widely scrutinized.

Don’t fall into the trap of operating on everyone’s whim. Listening is OK, but doing what everyone wants is simply unhealthy. Execute the good feedback and follow your vision.

We want people to be happy and we want to help people however we can. But, in doing so, you have to be careful not to set up unrealistic expectations. When a member expresses an expectation that is unrealistic, you need to be sure to set them straight. Respectfully, kindly, but honestly nonetheless.

Moderation is often an area where unreasonable expectations can manifest. So, let’s use that as an example and talk about statements like this:

“Why are there porn links on this site?!”
“Hello, where are the moderators?”
“Can someone PLEASE look at this thread?”

Following through with this example, what you want to try to do (and not everyone will be receptive) is to turn them into people who will report supposed violations to you and/or your staff through the means that you designate.

Your members have to understand that, just as they are allowed to post and have it instantly appear on your site, so can anyone else. Spammers and other unsavory types enter your community in the very same way that legitimate members do. If there was some back door to close that would shut out all spammers forever, we would have closed that door long, long ago.

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In the past four months, since I posted my last book coverage update, I’ve been honored by all sorts of coverage for “Managing Online Forums” and I wanted to take a moment to share the interest that has been shown in this period and thank those that were behind it.

One of the biggest things to happen was the Slashdot review, written by JR Peck of GeekBook. It propelled the book into the top 1,500 books on Amazon.com and kept it in the top 10,000 for a number of days. The Slashdot review was mentioned on the AMACOM Books Blog.

There were also reviews by Michelle L. Rodriguez of Mequoda Daily, Rich Villalobos of Cisco Systems, Dr. Natalie T. Wood in the Journal of Consumer Marketing and Richard Millington of FeverBee. The book received it’s first review on Amazon.co.jp, thanks to Kushi-book-reviews and it’s first review on Amazon.fr, thanks to Dominique.

I participated in text based interviews with Commania, AdminQuest, Des Walsh dot Com (also posted on the International Blogging & New Media Association website and Mr. Walsh was kind enough to mention the book favorably on his blog, as well) and sparkBB. There were new podcast interviews on Podcaster Training and WordCast. A previously recorded interview on PerfCast was mentioned on the Splashpress Media blog.

I attended South by Southwest Interactive 2009 from March 13 through 17 and I gave a book reading (really a presentation around a theme in the book) called “The Art of Responding to Feedback from Your Community”. I also had a book signing at the conference’s bookstore. I spent the signing next to Thom Singer, the author of “Some Assembly Required” and “Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women,” who was kind enough to mention the book, and some kind words, on his blog.

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skimlinks-logoIn “Managing Online Forums,” I wrote about a monetization idea that, to my knowledge, did not yet exist functionally. Basically, I believe that communities should be able to generate revenue from sales generated through their site, passively, if the merchant selling the product has an affiliate program.

I am speaking, primarily, of links included in posts. Of course, you can’t go into member posts and change their links to affiliate links. Besides editing posts in that manner being a no no, it’s also inefficient. So, the only solution would be an automated one, something that automatically includes an affiliate tag onto links out to qualifying sites, without discretion. In the book, I discussed something like this when working with Amazon.com.

While I was at South by Southwest Interactive in March, I met Joe Stepniewski, co-founder of Skimlinks. What is Skimlinks? Well, it’s basically the type of service that I had envisioned. It takes ordinary links on your website and turns them into an affiliate link, where applicable.

Their homepage shows this example: let’s say you were writing about a product from the Gap. You don’t need to mess around with any affiliate code or even apply to be a member of the Gap affiliate program – just post a link to the product like normal, just as if you were passing the link to a friend. With Skimlinks installed on your site, that link will automatically become an affiliate link.

Skimlinks keeps a portion of the revenue generated. But, their FAQ states that they are able to negotiate better affiliate rates than an individual affiliate would be able to get and, because of that, “you can earn up to 110%” of what you normally might.

One of the markets they are targeting pretty heavily is online forums, where people regularly link out to products related to the community’s subject. I’ve had the opportunity to test Skimlinks out on a couple of sites for around a month and I’m ready to talk about the pros and cons of the service, in my eyes.

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I’m a little belated in mentioning this, but the publication date of “Managing Online Forums” was April 28, 2008. That means that the book has been in circulation for over a year. Has it really been a year already?

The book was and is stocked nationwide at Barnes & Noble stores. It’s cracked the Amazon.com top 10,000 on numerous occasions. It has received a total of 43 reviews on the Amazon international network of stores, including 37 on Amazon.com. It is in at least 223 libraries. I’ve been overwhelmed and flattered by the praise that I’ve received not just on review sites, but also in e-mail, on forums and in person at conferences.

I’ve been blessed to have been interviewed countless times for online media, print and even television and to have had the book reviewed by many people of very different backgrounds and levels of experience. I am truly thankful for all of the support that I have received and I have a lot of people to thank.

It starts with the people who support me, my family and my friends, like Brandon Eley, Chrispian Burks, Jared Smith and Stephan Segraves, who gave me kind encouragement before everyone else knew I was working on it. My agent, Neil Salkind and everyone at AMACOM who worked on it, from editors to sales people.

Thank you to everyone who has reviewed the book and/or invited me into their space to talk or for an interview. This includes Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Lee LeFever, Rick Villalobos, Jake McKee, Jim Kukral, Thomas Myer, MarketingSherpa, Des Walsh, Shai Coggins, Martin Reed, Michael Kimsal, Richard Millington, Geek Book, Michelle L. Rodriguez, Dr. Natalie T. Wood, Martin Kloos, Jessica Smith, Rob Diana, Kare Anderson, Manny Hernandez, ONLINE, Brad Williams, Heidi Miller, Travis Smith, Liz Fuller, eModeration, Dr. Jeffrey Barlow, Book News, Rico Mossesgeld, James Seligman, Ray Angel, Andy Staple, Vincent Lauria, David Berkowitz, Midwest Book Review, Ramona Iftode, Andrea Hermitt, Jonathan Bailey, Jason Bean , Jeff Henrichsen, James Fintel, Gary Pollock, Miranda Marquit, Ken Davidoff, Douglas Bell, Ethan Kwassman, Wendy Piersall, David Askaripour, Zack Urlocker, Douglas Hanna, Blake Thompson, John Wilkerson, Jim Turner, David Lewis, Jerry Stephens, Christa Casebeer, Joel Trigger, Jon Scheiber, Pete Carr, Chris Matthieu, Aric Cabot Hoek, Ahmad Jordan, Anne Marie Nichols, Marcquis P. Knox, Sniff Code, Ryan Zieno, Duncan Rawlinson, Edwin Vaughan, Danielle Williams, T. Hooper, Juana Pacheco, Brian A. Pomeranz, Simon Peter Lewis, Matt Whiting, P.J. Dixon, Mrs. K A Rowland, Catherine Archer, Kushi-book-reviews, L. Sutton, sparkBB, AdminQuest, Commania, BloggerTalks, Urban Lifestyle Report: New Media, Blog World Expo, Josh Klein, Performancing, lefora, LIVE Interviews Online, Bill Johnston, Website Magazine, Pete Prestipino, The Daily Advance, Talk Social News, Wayne Sutton, Kipp Bodnar, BlogTalkRadio, WordCast, Alejandro Reyes, The Tech Buzz, Scott Fox, WebProNews, Social Medialogy Conversations, Zane Safrit, New Media Pro.TV, Startup Spark, WordPress Weekly, Fitness Business Radio, WITN, Heather King, Meet the Experts, Inside Digital Media, Thom Singer, Lynn Terry, Esther Schindler, Blogs.com, Barbara Rozgonyi, Gwen Bell, Connie Bensen, Slashdot, Bradley Kelly and so many others.

And I can never thank everyone who has supported me or the book. But, if you have purchased the book, worked on the book, helped spread the word, stocked the book, liked it on FriendFeed, mentioned it on Twitter, bookmarked it on delicious or helped it to reach more people, from the smallest gesture to the largest, please accept my sincere thanks. I really appreciate it and the support means a lot to me.

Over at ProBlogger, Darren Rowse was kind enough to allow me to provide a guest post that I titled “Enhance and Grow Your Online Community Through Appreciation.” In the post, I discuss how simple acts of appreciation can have noteworthy impact on the growth of your community. Here’s the closing excerpt:

Appreciation is a powerful thing. It can open doors, start relationships, give people happiness, bring people back and give them confidence. In the interest of cultivating community, please consider how not just appreciating people – but making sure they know you appreciate them – can enhance your community.

Please let me know what you think about the post.

twitter-logoWhen I wanted to look into the benefits of using Twitter to promote your forums, I did an account search, looking for words like forums, forum, boards, board, community, etc. The most followed account at the time, back in March, was the rkforums account, for the Raisingkids Forums. They are part of the UKfamily.co.uk network, owned by The Walt Disney Company.

The rkforums account has been used to showcase recent activity on the forums, linking to new threads through an RSS feed that is posted through Twitterfeed. To get an insider’s perspective on the value of this type of integration, I spoke with Michael Howard, the administrator of the Raisingkids Forums.

“I streamed the forum feeds into Twitter to see if there was any interest,” Michael said. “I fully expected to get told off for spamming because I set Twitterfeed to the maximum amount of postings (5 every half an hour) – but because we’ve got a fast moving forum, I thought that it would be OK as the content posted to Twitter is always new and different. I’ve had no complaints yet and people can always vote with their feet by ‘unfollowing’ us.”

Approved by the company’s legal team, the account started off as only posting entries from the forums automatically, Michael has begun posting manual tweets, as well, including the promotion of competitions and the monitoring of mentions of the rkforums account on Twitter, in order to engage in conversations and answer questions.

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