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I have a wonderful staff over at KarateForums.com. My team is comprised of 9 people, including 5 moderators. Those 5 moderators have been with me for a combined 35 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days (these are real numbers and those 3s are purely coincidental). This group of 9 is the strongest team that I have ever had the fortune of working with. They are excellent people with strong character.

Of the 5 moderators, two work in law enforcement. Brian Walker, who has been on staff since July 31, 2006, is a patrol deputy in Kansas. Alex Embry joined our team on December 2, 2008. He is a sergeant in Illinois and a member of his department’s SWAT team. As long as they have been with me at KarateForums.com, they have been working in law enforcement even longer.

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Jay Baer recently wrote about the importance of owning your “social community.” The idea of building community in spaces that you control is something I’ve always felt strongly about, and it’s good that someone like Jay is talking about it. That will help the message reach more big brands.

His article led to a discussion on Google+, where someone pointed to some examples provided by Jay – like The Home Depot Community – and questioned if they represented real “engagement.” They mentioned that there were discussions with a handful of replies and “no likes.” There were plenty of views of the discussions, but not a lot of replies. So where is the engagement, they wondered?

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Credit: peasap (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: peasap (CC BY 2.0)

I was watching TV recently when I saw a commercial from Nationwide. The commercial, embedded below, revolves around a handful of little kids who are on the receiving end of some unsatisfactory customer service.

There is a boy on the phone, and he’s told by an automated greeting that his call is important, but his wait time is 55 minutes. This is followed by a girl attempting to get the attention of a server at a restaurant – the server walks right by her. You get the idea.

In the final example, a girl is frustrated and looking at her damaged car. Then a Nationwide representative appears and tells her that they’ll take care of the problem. Instantly, she turns into an adult woman. In other words, Nationwide is treating her as an adult, not a child.

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Facebook: Send for $1Last week, someone posted a question on PhotoshopForums.com. They had purchased a Photoshop action, which is a file that tells Photoshop how to do something, allowing it to perform that action on multiple files repeatedly. They work for a government agency and had used this action on approximately 70 images for their employer.

Unfortunately, they recently had some computer issues and, due to that, the action was gone. The company who sold it to them was also gone and had stopped selling actions. The person joined the community to ask for help finding the action. If they couldn’t find it, they would have to redo those 70 images – probably in addition to a few new ones – and it would create a bunch of work.

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I was watching an episode of Shark Tank recently, and there was an investment opportunity that interested two sharks – Daymond John and Lori Greiner. The entrepreneur was negotiating and deciding which of the two sharks to go with.

The entrepreneur was doing what they should do and wasn’t really belaboring the process. But, suddenly, Mrs. Greiner said that if the entrepreneur didn’t choose her immediately, that she would take her offer off of the table. Instantly, I said out loud to the TV, “decision made – you choose John” (or something like that). And sure enough, the entrepreneur did. It was the right choice.

When you are engaging in a good faith manner, and someone threatens you with isolation if you don’t choose them, you should pretty much always not choose them.

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RetroHash by Asher RothIn April, rapper Asher Roth released his second album, RetroHash. His first album was released by a major label, but he put out this one independently, following an open letter explaining his desire to release music directly to his fans.

Asher is an acquaintance of mine and supremely talented. We came into contact when I was putting together a panel about fan interaction for a conference. He’s a digitally savvy, fan-centric artist, and I love watching him interact with his community via social media. He’s the opposite of arrogant.

I was really impressed with how RetroHash was distributed online, and I think the music industry as a whole should follow Asher’s lead. I would describe his strategy as a best-of-all-worlds approach that put the music in the places where people actually consume music, rather than forcing fans into a particular box. I want to walk through the layers of this strategy, as I see them.

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Flickr has begun selling canvas prints of images uploaded to its photo sharing community. Some of the images that are available for purchase use the standard copyright license, meaning that Flickr has secured permission from the photographer, or rights holder, to sell the image as a print. These creators are getting a cut of the proceeds.

However, Flickr is also making available countless photos that have been released under a less restrictive copyright license, one of the Creative Commons (CC) licenses. In these cases, they aren’t asking the photographers for permission – or paying them anything. This has led to a bit of a controversy.

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Credit: 10ch (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Credit: 10ch (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We don’t spend too much time thinking about the private messaging feature of the community software that we use. But as a tool for the community manager and staff, I would never want to be without it.

Most of a community manager’s best work happens in private, and much of that is private messages. That is where we manage the situation. Where we deal with troublemakers and push well-meaning members back on the right path. If you correct someone in public, in front of everyone, that’s a confrontation. They have to save face. They have to defend themselves. If you do it in private, it’s just a conversation between you and them.

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Over-Communicate

Posted by Patrick on November 10th, 2014 in Interacting with Members, Managing Staff

You should tell your members and your staff. You should tell them what you expect of them. You should tell them what to expect of you. You should tell them what challenges you are facing and share the details. You should ask the same of them.

Over-communicate. Don’t assume. Over-communication is one of the secrets to building trust. When you don’t, that leads to surprise (the bad kind). Bad surprises destroy trust.

That’s why I over-communicate. Under-communication is miscommunication.

When you are making a big change, like changing a 10 year old design, you need to communicate that change like crazy. You can’t just flip a switch. You can’t just say, a week before, “we’re doing this.” You have to really talk through it.

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“Never understood why companies block replies to confirmation emails,” my friend Ted Sindzinski recently remarked on Twitter. “Fastest path for help = better service = better name. Any time a customer is forced into ‘system,’ it’s going to frustrate. Figure out how to capture without them doing the work.”

I’m a believer in this. That is why my email address is the reply address on every automated email that my community software sends out – and has been for at least 13 years. Not just confirmation emails, but any sort of notification message, too.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to put a real email address on every automated email – but at the very least, you should do so for every email that requires an action. When you ask a person to complete an action via email, you should make it easier for them to contact you if they have a problem completing that action. There is no easier method than hitting reply.

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