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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People Move On

Posted by Patrick on October 5th, 2015 in Interacting with Members

The Long GoodbyeCarrie Jones writes about the idea of celebrating the “right kind of churn.” She draws on an example from Alex Hillman’s Coworking Weekly podcast, where Hillman explained that when a company leaves his coworking space to move into their own office, they celebrate the occasion.

They celebrate that the company has reached a level of growth where they require a bigger space to continue that growth. They might be losing a tenant, but they recognize the success of an alumni.

I believe in this. Your community members are a lot like the cast of Saturday Night Live. I’ve never sought to dominate the lives of the people who join the communities that I manage. You don’t collect humans. We’re all alive for a relatively short period of time. During that brief moment, we gravitate in and out of many different groups and communities, based upon where we are in life.

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As online comment sections propagated throughout the web and faced people-related scaling issues, mainstream media sites become a popular example of low quality discourse. Some chose to invest meaningful resources into their comments, but many did not.

In recent years, an assortment of news publishers and noted publications have closed their comment sections. I don’t necessarily see that as a big deal or even a bad thing. There’s an ebb and flow here. Many people rush into tools without enough thought, then wonder why they don’t work. There is an eventual correction as they find its not for them or something shinier attracts their attention.

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Marcus LemonisI’m a big fan of Marcus Lemonis, who helps struggling small businesses on CNBC’s The Profit. I even tweeted recently that I’d love to work for him. I really identify with how he goes about his business, and it reminds of my Dad and the lessons he’s taught me.

One of his mantras is that successful businesses need the three P’s: people, process and product. This is a great, simple way of expressing how to build an enduring company. It’s just as applicable to building a successful online community.


Community professionals are not a dime a dozen. There are great ones, bad ones and plenty in between. Some are just starting out, others have been in the field for more than 20 years. Your budget often dictates who you can hire and how long you can keep them.

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You should look at moderation as an opportunity to educate, not criticize. Specifically, the act of removing content and informing a member of a guideline violation. This is a great moment, where you can guide the member to a more fruitful existence in your community.

I don’t see removed content as a strike. I’m not counting to 3 and then kicking you off. Context is everything. Mistakes happen – it’s all about how the member responds. I like to invest in the members who are trying to get better – and get rid of the ones who don’t care.

This is part caring and part process. The caring aspect is mental. It’s the thought that you want to have as many great members as you can and the understanding that there are people who need some help to become that great member. You need that mindset, and you need to surround yourself with people who have it.

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reddit Alienreddit is currently the talk of the online community world. For me, it’s a lot of old lessons coming back to the surface, yet again. Which is why I haven’t written much about it. But I saw a great comment on reddit by Slickdeals chief product officer Bryant Quan. I’m a long term user of Slickdeals, and I found his executive-level perspective to be quite compelling. His thoughts are re-published here, with permission.

I was one of the original founders, former CEO and now the Chief Product Officer, and as such I’ve had the opportunity to put a lot of processes in place, as well as help ask the right questions whenever we do things. Naturally all communities have their nuances and differences, but in the end, it boils down to respect. Respect the community: honor your users and content contributors for the work and effort they do.

Often this results in us taking a tradeoff in what we call “technical debt vs. community debt,” where instead of creating friction for our users, we take on a technical burden instead. For instance, we launched a redesign recently, and instead of forcing everyone over, we maintained a classic version of the website. We told ourselves that we would maintain two versions of the site for the foreseeable future and do our best to improve the redesigned version to the point that it compels people to switch (“lets make it so much better that they willingly switch”).

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Flickr Auto TagsWhen I opened Twitter on Monday, one of the first tweets I saw was this message from Heather Champ. Champ, a well-respected mind in community circles, is the former director of community at Flickr, a role she held for five years.

In the tweet, Champ criticized Flickr’s decision to automatically apply tags to previously uploaded photos. These tags were generated by image recognition technology. She called the move “so community hostile that I fear my head may explode from even thinking about it.” In a follow up tweet, Champ further highlighted a settings page within Flickr where she had specifically indicated that she was the only person who could add tags to her Flickr uploads.

Jessamyn West, also well known in the community space due to her work on MetaFilter, tweeted similar criticism.

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I’ve been a fan of Fabolous for a long time. Recently, the rapper has been releasing a freestyle every week as part of his Friday Night Freestyles series. My favorite, thus far, is his “All for the Love Freestyle,” which uses the beat from “All for the Love” by The Lox. Please note: the song, embedded below, is explicit.

The original “All for the Love,” which features only Jadakiss from The Lox, has been a longtime favorite of mine. Fabolous’ freestyle has a number of great lines that stood out to me, but perhaps none as much as this one:

“Money ain’t the root of all evil now. Attention is.”

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As artificial intelligence (AI) gets farther along and is adapted into more products, there will be more and more opportunities to use automated systems to converse with people in community and customer support efforts. Especially when they are asking something that a lot of people have asked.

For example, is a neat service that helps you schedule meetings through an automated personal assistant. Ryan Leslie, through his Disruptive Multimedia platform (which I like), encourages fans to text him and then puts them through an automated text message conversation to confirm that they have joined his music club.

We’ll only continue to see this more and more. There’s a lot of potential for it.

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Earlier this year, a member of reached 25,000 posts on the community. The member, Brian Walker, is also a member of my staff, and I recently interviewed him for a feature on law enforcement officers who are also moderators. When he hit the mark, we posted an announcement and various members congratulated him and talked about how much he’s added to the community.

But I decided that I wanted to do more, to recognize Brian’s outstanding contribution to our community. I started a private forum thread that all staff members, except Brian, had access to. I used this thread to ask for ideas as to how we could honor Brian.

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