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We all get those questions about how to do something within our community. How do I post in this section? How do I change my avatar? How do I upload an image?

Some would tell you that if you get a lot of questions, that means you need to make it easier. That’s not a bad point. But, no matter how easy something is, you will still get asked how to do it.

Why not create a video where you show your members how it is done? This is something that I haven’t yet done myself, that I really want to. I have already seen others doing it.

Now, you might say that you don’t want to be on camera or you don’t have the equipment. Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to be on camera and you don’t necessarily need to spend any extra money to do it.

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Something of the old
Creative Commons License photo credit: tompagenet

Séoghán Mac Mathúna asked: How would you recommend growing and actively engaging a community that is largely only present to seek support?

Support forums and communities exist to give support. There is no getting around that and you can never forget it because if you fail at that, you fail at everything. Certainly, that is the cornerstone.

In running a support communities, you will find that a large portion of the people who register and post are there to get help and go. They need what they need and then they want to get back to their lives – and back to using whatever it is that you are supporting.

You have to understand and respect this. Once you accept that, there are opportunities to go beyond that and to engage people in other ways, hopefully giving them a reason to stay longer.

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A few nights ago, as I was trying to get over some post-SXSW illness, I stayed up until about 2 AM reading a single forum thread.

It was 22 or so pages in length, but there were many guideline violations and troublesome posts in it and I had to read the thread to clean it up properly and to make sure that I understood the context. After this, I needed to document all violations and contact the members affected.

It took about 4 hours, maybe a little more. That’s what it took to do the job right.

If you think that community manager is a glamour role, where you are a “rock star” and you spend all of your time cheerfully chatting with people on Twitter and Facebook, I am here to tell you that it is not.

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Are you familiar with the board game, Monopoly? It’s a classic.

Boardwalk and Park Place are the two most valuable properties on the board. They cost the most and, as such, deal the biggest blow if you land on them when they are owned by someone else.

This makes them the most coveted color scheme, or group of affiliated properties, in the game. They are also the last and third to last spaces on the game board, in the order of movement from where you start. In other words, you pass by all of the other properties first.

There is a tendency, or a temptation, to hold out for these properties. You don’t want to land on them and then not have the money to buy them. There are 8 different color schemes in the game and if you get too invested in the other ones, you may not have the resources to capitalize on the magical dark blue combo.

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I just returned from the 2012 edition of South by Southwest Interactive. I have been fortunate enough to speak at the conference for the previous 4 iterations and this year, spoke on a panel about copyright.

Every year, I hear people complain about SXSW. Which is natural. The bigger you are, the more challenges you face and the more reasons people have to complain. Popular complaints include: it’s too big, it’s too spread out and the programming isn’t good. In a way, SXSW is a victim of it’s own massive success.

Complaints can offer great value and help the conference get better. But, some of it is just a matter of taste, perspective and familiarity. “For those who keep saying they had a bad SXSW or it’s not good… stay home!,” writes my friend Wayne Sutton on Google+. I feel that.

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I’m down at South by Southwest Interactive right now and, having spoken at numerous events over the years, what strikes me most about SXSW is the atmosphere and the energy. It is incomparable to any event I’ve been at.

If you go to a big conference in New York, you don’t walk down the street and only see conference attendees. When you’re in the concentration of people in downtown Austin for SXSW, it is essentially all that you see. It just has a crazy energy, a crazy buzz and that is why people keep coming back.

It’s a culture thing. SXSW has grown so much, but what drives the numbers is the culture. It’s the feeling on the streets and in the halls.

That’s what you want to try to replicate on your community. That excitement, that unique energy is one of the things that makes it unique.

It starts with people, sharing good information and building relationships. People get excited about the discussion, about what others will say and about the replies and attention that their contribution will receive. It’s part anticipation and it drives people to return.

People can certainly include you and your staff, if applicable. While you will need to be the person that people don’t like sometimes, when you are telling them they can’t do something, also make sure that you are encouraging and stimulating excitement about your community.

Thank people who make great contributions, highlight unique and meaningful dialog and help add that excitement and defend it from those who try to take it away.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Ktoine

In my last article, we discussed how playing “Call of Duty” online can tell you whether or not you might be cut out to be a community manager.

In it, I talked about how some players don’t play to the objective – they play to pad their own numbers, ignore the objective and toy with competitors. In the end, the team that first completes the objective, whatever that may be, is the actual winner.

As you can imagine, there are times when you are utterly dominated in this game.  When this happens to me and my brother, we will sometimes be the best players on the team that got crushed – the players who scored the most points on the losing team.

I would always rather be the third or fourth best on a team that wins the match, then to be the best on the team and lose. I won’t lie, being the best on the team is fun, but it is so much more rewarding when the team wins. It’s hollow when you lose.

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Whenever I can, which is mainly when he is on break, I play “Call of Duty: Black Ops” with my brother, who is a college student.

Since community management is what I do, I often relate things to the practice.

Having spent countless hours playing online multiplayer, there are traits that I often see in players that would not translate well, if those players wanted to work in this field.

I’m going to call these traits the “Call of Duty” test. If you play “Call of Duty,” and you play the game this way, then you may not be cut out to be a community manager.

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random highway shots
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kdt.

Josh Barraza asked if I could write about merging two active online forums and the issues that can challenge such an idea. Thank you for the suggestion, Mr. Barraza.

Multiple forums can be merged. It doesn’t just have to be two. It can be more than that. But, for the sake of this article, to keep it simple, we’ll speak as if it is two forums that are merging into one, since that is the most common scenario.

When two forums are merged, the two separate databases are consolidated into one, meaning all members, posts and content will now constitute a single forum. If one forum had 400,000 posts and another had 300,000 – there is now one forum with 700,000 posts.

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