You may love your onboarding process. It might be a beautiful, well-thought out series of steps meant to make people feel more comfortable and begin their journey as a contributor.

But if I can’t skip it, it’s a mistake.

Last weekend, I found myself on a somewhat well-known social media platform (and online community, of sorts), going through their onboarding. It started off simply enough: with a list of suggested topics I could follow.

Here’s the thing: I virtually never do suggested topics or follow suggested users. I skip. I don’t want to pick suggested topics because suggested topics lead to notifications via the site and email. It clogs my feed and my inbox. I don’t want any of it.

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We Recommend You Follow… Us

Posted by Patrick on December 14th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

I opened Instagram the other day and there was a list of suggested accounts to follow at the top of the app. The first account listed was the official Instagram account.

That just seemed odd to me.

A case can be made that the account is an important follow. That it connects users to important news, new features and service-related announcements. But I wouldn’t make that case. I’m not even sure the account should show up on the suggested follow list at all, let alone at the top of it.

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Your Community Has Holidays, Too

Posted by Patrick on November 26th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

Just like different countries and cultures have different holidays, so does your community. Or it can, at least.

It’s common for a country to celebrate the birth of their nation. The day that your community launched can be a holiday. As can the half-birthday, if you so choose.

If you have any sort of annual program, the start of that program is a type of holiday. For example, a yearly awards event where members nominate and vote for their favorites.

They don’t all have to be so serious or structured. Remember that day when Christopher Walken registered and posted on your forums? That shall now be known as Christopher Walken Day on your community.

There is a lot of room for creativity, but just like holidays bring people together throughout the world, they can do the same for your members. Create a list of the community holidays that you celebrate, and post it where everyone can see. And don’t forget to celebrate them!

When Gamification Gets in the Way

Posted by Patrick on November 12th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

My friend Michael Kimsal recently visited a company support forum, with a problem that he needed to fix. Instead of a solution, he received an email announcing that he had earned a “first post” badge on the community. He found this frustrating.

“I’ve got a *problem* that I need *solved*,” Michael wrote on Facebook. “Quit emailing me ‘hey, great, you earned a “first post” badge!’ Just fix my problem. Even thinking that someone spent a load of time coming up with gamification rules for this community, instead of just spending more money on making the service better in the first place…

“I do *NOT* plan to spend my time in a support forum – this is the last place on earth anyone should give a crap about ‘badges.'”

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Traditions can be a lot of fun and create some great memories for your online community members. They don’t have to come from you, necessarily – they don’t even have to be organized or spearheaded by you, though that will often be the case. Even if you just make sure they run smoothly and are well-supported.

What traditions do you have in your community, that you and your members look forward to? Let me know in the comments.

There are numerous traditions that we have at There are threads that are revived or restarted annually. There is a member of the month award, a yearly awards program, the celebration of various milestones and more. Earlier this year, I had an idea for a new tradition.

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Caption: Varvara (CC BY 2.0)

Caption: Varvara (CC BY 2.0)

If you want a community initiative to be successful, don’t rely only on announcements, prominent calls to action and mailing lists. Pound the pavement, contact 10-20 influential members in the community and ask them to get behind it by participating.

The 14th annual Awards started last week. Over the last 13 years, 128 different members have been nominated for an award. It is completely powered by the community and is a fun time of the year.

Yes, we announce it. Yes, we have a link in our header. Yes, we mention it on our Facebook page. Yes, the staff gets behind it and adds a link to their signatures. Yes, we add some pointers in popular sections.

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With Fandango’s sabotaging the credibility of their own user ratings and Amazon suing more than 1,000 Fiverr users for posting fake product reviews, I thought it would be fun to talk about building trust in review systems.

If people can’t trust your reviews, you may as well not have them at all.

Having a code of conduct you actually enforce is important. But let’s think about this in a bigger sense, focusing on 3 key ideas that have to do with the systems you use and the data they have access to.

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There are a lot of companies that make great tools. If your tool is great, your marketing is slick and your call-to-action is amazing, you’ll convince people to sign up. Once you have them, how do you keep them?

The funny thing is that, if your tool sounds amazing and your marketing is convincing, you may have your customers expecting a miracle: a tool that requires no effort whatsoever on their part. When that doesn’t happen, they won’t blame themselves. They’ll blame you. You let them down.

The big challenge isn’t getting them to sign up, it’s ensuring they use the tool correctly, improving their odds of success. For many companies, the answer to this problem is to hire account managers.

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Call of Duty: World at WarCall of Duty: World at War was released on November 11, 2008. 7 years is a long time in gaming, but it’s especially long for the Call of Duty series, which produces a brand new, big budget title every year.

I’m a big fan of the Call of Duty series and have spent many hours playing the games. The zombies mode, introduced in World at War, accounts for a majority of those hours. Most of that was co-op with my brother, Sean. My youngest brother, Trent, joined the team when he was old enough.

The zombies mode is such an incredible value-add for the series. I have never, ever felt like I didn’t get my money’s worth out of a Call of Duty game. I spend around $100 for each game. $50 for the game itself, and then another $50 for the extra content they release over the next year. For the amount of time I spend playing zombies alone (putting aside the main game content, as well as online multiplayer), the value I receive for that $100 is immense.

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I live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we have a substantial tourist season in the summer.

I don’t spend much time at Starbucks. I’m not a coffee drinker. The only coffee I drink is a Coffee Frappuccino. But even with the brief moments I have spent in the store this summer, I have seen multiple people purchase the North Carolina mug from the Starbucks “You Are Here” series.

The mugs depict various landmarks, cities and states. The company has released several series of these location-based coffee cups. People travel around the country and collect them to mark their stops.

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