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photo credit: Brandon Eley

Following my engagements earlier this year for CNN, Dell, South by Southwest Interactive and Virtual Community Summit, I have made a conscious effort not to pursue any speaking opportunities, so that I could be head down, getting some work done.

Specifically, I released the “Monetizing Online Forums” book and launched two video efforts: Soda Tasting and Patrick and Sean. But, I have a couple of conferences coming up that I wanted to tell you about.

On November 17, I will be speaking at indieconf in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s a one day event focused on freelancers and independent web professionals. The conference is in its third year and is put on by Michael Kimsal. I have spoken at the first two and I can say that, for the $99 ticket price, Michael delivers a ton of value. I will be presenting “An Introduction to Monetizing Your Website.”

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flat cat
Creative Commons License photo credit: dotpolka

Back in July, when I asked what you’d like me to write about, Ben asked about lurkers. Specifically, how to convert lurkers to active contributors without changing the forum platform in use.

In Ben’s case, his forum is for a browser based game. 50% of the people who play the game have a forum account and 2% of those members are active on a daily basis. Are those numbers poor? It depends. But, not necessarily. Lurkers will represent a large percentage, usually a big majority, of the traffic for most publicly viewable, successful online communities. Still, it never hurts to consider how you can improve.

Lurkers are a common concern for community managers and a persistent topic when it comes to growing an online community. When it comes to converting lurkers, there are two big areas that you should focus on.

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Artiste
Creative Commons License photo credit: Funky Tee

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the quality of the comments left on the things I share online.

There are a lot of different things I am involved in. There is this blog, Bad Boy Blog and my forums. There are the responses to things I share on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, including comments on my writing, both on my accounts and on accounts dedicated to my projects. I co-host the SitePoint Podcast and the Copyright 2.0 Show and I am one half of Patrick and Sean. And there is more.

Comments are open, so I get comments, which is great. I appreciate comments. When no one cares enough to comment or share your stuff, that is when you should be most worried.

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I received a package today from Amazon.com. It was some lighting equipment that I purchased.

Inside the box of lighting equipment was a small, glossy postcard. It read:

“Please go to the item that you have purchased and leave a review of the product. If the review is at least 4 or 5 stars, you can enjoy 5% off of your next order from [company].”

This made me feel really uncomfortable. I don’t mind being asked to review a product. That’s totally fine and it is a good idea for them to ask me to do so. No, what made me feel weird was them tying an incentive to the score of the review.

To use a scientific term, that just feels icky. It makes it seem like you aren’t incentivizing honest reviews, only positive ones. If the product is good, you don’t have to do that.

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Community Management is Not New

Posted by Patrick on September 13th, 2012 in Managing Staff

There is a problem that I’ve found with a good number of people who refer to themselves as online community managers, builders or professionals. They dismiss, choose to ignore and, in general, don’t really respect what came before them, most of which is still relevant to this day.

That’s a mistake. And it is what separates a poor or mediocre community manager from a good one. It is the difference between having perspective and being short sighted.

Online community isn’t new. As such, community management is not new. I’ve been managing online communities, hands on, for 12 years. Moderating even longer than that, into the late 1990s. But, online community has existed much longer.

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Hearts
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jetske19

I love phpBBHacks.com. I spent 11 years managing it. It was my biggest, most successful community. And that is why it was so hard for me to give it away.

phpBBHacks.com was launched on April 6, 2001. I created it because I needed it. As someone who used the phpBB forum software, I wanted an organized directory of all of the hacks and customizations that were available, so that I could make my phpBB do what I wanted it to.

I wasn’t alone in this. The site grew to be visited by tens of thousands of people every day. What I created was the largest unofficial resource for the most widely used community software in the world.

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Pumpkin Tree!
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

Have you ever had a member who says that you did something that you actually didn’t do?

For example, a member of one of my communities recently posted in public, on a thread within our community, suggesting that a member of staff had told them a post they made earlier in the thread was “wrong.” Beyond the fact that we don’t allow posts that reference moderation decisions, there was one gigantic problem with this: it never happened.

No one on my staff had told them that there was anything wrong with their post. The post itself was still on the thread, untouched. When a post is made that violates our guidelines, it is removed – not left. No one contacted them.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: up to 2011

Much of community management deals with matters that most members will never know about. So then, how does the average member form their perception of the manager? By what they know – largely, how the community manager participates in the community.

Participating can feel like a lighter part of the job because, well, it probably is. Talking about a movie, sharing an experience, starting a topic or replying to one – whatever you are doing, you are doing something that you probably do naturally with others, anyway.

Though I might not need to convince you that participating in your own community is a good thing, perhaps there are benefits of doing so that you are not yet aware of.

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