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ICANNYou will soon be able to own a yourname.community domain name, thanks to ICANN’s New Generic Top-Level (gTLD) Domain Name Program.

In case some explanation is needed, ICANN is the organization responsible for the domain name system. A top-level domain (TLD) is what comes after the period in your web address. .com, .net, .org. These are all examples of top-level domains. The new gTLD program has been in the works for years, with applications initially opening in January of 2012.

During that period, many companies and organizations applied for gTLDs, for different reasons. For example, Amazon applied for .amazon. They also applied for .book, .movie, .author and many others. But .book and .movie both have multiple applicants, so Amazon will be one of several companies vying for them. Applications aren’t cheap – $185,000 each – and that doesn’t include the ongoing costs tied to maintenance and whatever goes into managing a TLD from the applicant’s end.

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Invo at UXPA Boston
Creative Commons License photo credit: juhansonin

Earlier this week, I wrote about organizing low-key meetups with your community members at conferences and events. This approach is limited, though, because if you are not sponsoring an event, you should really only engage in behaviors that do not compete with the conference and its sponsors, otherwise you risk breaching conference policies or ethical standards.

By sponsoring an event, you open yourself up to a bigger world of opportunities. You are simply allowed to do much more. Each event will vary, but sponsorship has its perks. In how you can interact with attendees, how you can promote your community and how much the conference organizers can help you.

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Yeah right.
Creative Commons License photo credit: jadakatt

I have a new online community. I am going to go to other, similar online communities and tell them about my community and they will join! I’ll post threads about it or, if I want to be really sneaky, I’ll send private messages to the members there, telling them about it. The community manager will never know!

So said far too many people. It’s a tactic of the inexperienced, the naive, the lazy and/or the unethical. People justify it in ridiculous ways. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to get permission! No, it’s not. It’s embarrassing and it fails to pass a basic test of humanity: treat people as you want to be treated.

If you don’t care about those reasons, you don’t care about your own credibility or self-respect, let me give you one more and this one you ought to really care about. It’s a waste of time. Efforts like these tend to fall on deaf ears. Here’s why.

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coming out
Creative Commons License photo credit: loop_oh

Being small is generally seen as a bad thing. We want to be bigger, we want to have as many members as possible. But if you are small, while you are small, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are provided with a laser sharp focus on what really matters.

When you only have 3, 5, 10, 15 regularly active members, you have a great opportunity to make sure that they are enjoying the community, that they are appreciated and to see if there is anything that you can do from them. You have the time to do so because they are truly all that you have.

That is how communities grow. 1 by 1. For some it is faster than others, but it is always 1 by 1 and the members that you have now form the foundation for future growth.

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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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Leader lock
Creative Commons License photo credit: Joybot

Your community is a brand. And it’s a brand worth protecting on third party communities and social platforms, especially the ones that you may one day engage in.

In other words, secure your username. I run KarateForums.com. What is the ideal username, on a platform I don’t control, for KarateForums.com? karateforums. If that isn’t available, then I have to settle for a much, much weaker second one. Try to be consistent on your fallback username.

No matter how great your fall back, people will always first guess that the ideal one is what you have. This impacts you when you go out to build outposts and community outside of your site. On Twitter, for example, they might guess that you are @karateforums, for example. It creates more work (and more missed opportunities) for you if you don’t have it.

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Office Space
Creative Commons License photo credit: WallTea

Last week, photo sharing community Flickr, responding to a member suggestion, enabled code that blocked Pinterest users from pinning photos where the photographer has turned off sharing options or marked a photo as private or adult.

Though VentureBeat reported the story initially, Aaron Hockley has the most concise, accurate run down of the move (which I found through Flickr member Jake Rome).

The code that Flickr integrated was introduced by Pinterest just two days prior to the suggestion being made, in an effort to address dissatisfaction with how the service manages copyright infringement.

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Since the beginning of time (relatively speaking, of course), online forums and communities have held contests and giveaways in an effort to grow their member base.

It gets them some attention. They notice an influx of new members. Then the contest ends. Shortly thereafter, most of the new members they noticed are gone.

It’s a repeating story and if you run a contest or a giveaway, it’ll happen to you. Doesn’t matter how great your community is. It’s nature.

You can do things to mitigate it, certainly. You can tie contests and giveaways to meaningful contributions to your community, giving people an opportunity to fall in love with what you offer and, at the very least even if they leave, you have some great conversation that remains after they are gone.

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Josh Barraza asked if I would talk about how you can revive a “dead” online community. That’s a great suggestion.

Before we talk about the how, there are a couple of simple truths that we need to keep in mind.

The definition of “dead” will vary by person, by community and by person running the community. You may look at something as “dead” when someone else sees it as fine.

If you are running the community and you consider it dead, then that is one thing. But, otherwise, be careful how you view, and judge, other communities. They aren’t always intended to have regular activity or to grow on an activity basis. Everyone has different goals.

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Apples
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gonmi

Treat people as you want to be treated.

I apply the golden rule to a lot of different circumstances, including how I manage my communities, with respect to other communities.

I’ll give you a few examples.

It’s not unheard of that a member of a community, not necessarily mine, but any, would complain about another one that they have joined previously and participated in and/or been banned from.

That community is the worst. The administrator is a jerk and a megalomaniac. This community is so much better.

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