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phpBBHacks.com, the largest unofficial resource for the phpBB forum software and a website and community that I have managed since day one, will turn 10 years old on April 6.

This is an incredible moment, one that seems absolutely amazing and insane, when considering the passage of time and one that is also emotional and personal to me.

This is a special site and a special community and one that has helped so many people. I could never estimate, but we’re talking hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps even getting over the seven figure mark. I faced tremendous challenges in growing the community, obstacles that the average community will not face, and emerged with the help of others to reach a place I am proud of.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Etsy Ketsy

Have you ever thought that, when you thank someone, you are building community? Well, you are.

Appreciation is one of the strongest ways that you can build community, online or off. Whether you are talking about customers, audience or registered members, retention – getting people to come back – is crucial to building community.

Why do people come back? One of the main reasons people come back is because they feel like their presence and their contributions are appreciated. People who feel unappreciated will be more likely to look to some other resource.

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pleased to meet you
Creative Commons License photo credit: reegmo

In just the last couple of months, I have run across three new or relatively new community platforms that have really let me down. Not in their feature set or technology, but in how they talk (read: market) and how they are choosing to spread the word about their products.

I’ve been managing online communities for nearly 11 years and this is my passion and my profession. I want to meet people who are new to this space and also want to help them however I can. But, there is a flip side to that. There is a personal requirement that I have. The flip is that if you are going to be a professional in this space, I expect you to act like it, to treat it with respect and to know how to engage respectfully.

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Forums are great. Forums can develop into great communities. They can generate a lot of traffic from search engines. Traffic can equal money. This is not a secret.

What this means, though, is that people will try to take advantage of “forums” in order to generate poor quality websites that they hope will rank well in search engines, which will lead to traffic and, yes, money. And so, we have Auto Forum Poster (no follow).

Recently, I received an e-mail from someone, introducing this product to me as a means of automatically generating content on a phpBB forum. They were interested in buying advertising from me on phpBBHacks.com and also mentioned that they had an affiliate program offering 50% commissions for each sale. The basic product costs $47, while there is an “up-sell” that could take that up to $97 and, he said, 33% of people take the up-sell.

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Larchmont, New York
Creative Commons License photo credit: dougtone

No matter the size of your community, you will have the opportunity to celebrate milestones or some other form of success.

Milestones tend to be number based: 5 years online, 1,000 posts, 20,000 members and 100,000 threads. But, success and notoriety can come in many forms. For example, being mentioned in a book, a major publication or on television might be a noteworthy achievement and exciting for the community.

Instead of simply letting these moments pass, seize them as opportunities to share an accomplishment with your community and to thank people who have helped you earn it.

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Yesterday, I delivered my presentation at South by Southwest Interactive 2011, titled “27 (Fun!) Ways to Kill Your Online Community.”

The premise was simple: I have spent the last 11 years or so building my reputation in this space as part of a simple, but brilliant plan: I want to kill online community. Once and for all.

People think I’m passionate about online community. They think that because that is the image I’ve cultivated. But, it’s all a ploy. Online community is disgusting and without worth and I want it to end.

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Scales
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

This post is part of the “How to Generate Revenue From Your Online Community” series. View all of the posts in the series.

Before I get too deep into the various methods that you can utilize to generate revenue from your online community, I wanted to first talk about why it can be important to do so and why it isn’t a bad thing to think about, even if some may tell you that it is.

Mentioning “money” with “online community” can sometimes be a contentious thing to do. I can understand why, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s necessary to be on the defensive about money or monetization.

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Whether you manage your community full time or as a hobby, your ability to generate revenue can have a direct impact on the long term feasibility and stability of your community.

For some, managing a community may be a hobby – but, nonetheless, a hobby that may take time away from your job or other areas of your life and may also cost money, in the form of software, hosting, domain names and more.

For others, managing a community can become a full time job and full time jobs can’t usually be hobbies as you need to live, advance and to accomplish your goals in life, as you would with any profession.

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It’s one of those ever present questions from people who are looking to start their own forum: what is the best software? I’ve been asked it or seen it asked countless times.

In some way, it’s a frustrating question because it brings out the people who treat software as if it is some sort of religion and act like some sort of extreme fanatic, as if the world somehow darkens when someone chooses Invision Power Board over phpBB or vice versa.

And sometimes you have developers, some of which are just as bad. Our solution is the best! We’re not bloated like the others! We’re the next evolution of forums! We’re here to save you! Gracious. No.

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