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Always Be Closing

Still Image from Glengarry Glen Ross

There is a famous scene in the film Glengarry Glen Ross, when a character played by Alec Baldwin attempts to motivate a team of salesmen. One of the most quoted lines is: “A-B-C. A – always, B – be, C – closing. Always be closing.” They are salesmen – they should always be closing sales.

However, there is another ABC that most people would probably be better served by: Always Build Community.

When I spoke at CNN, I told a group of professionals there that if they built community around their work at the company, it would not only be good for CNN – it would be good for all of them, as individuals. It is one of the most important ways for them to avoid putting all of their eggs in one basket. Most of them have CNN in their Twitter handle. What I asked them was this: when you leave CNN, and take that brand out of your Twitter handle, will anyone still care about you?

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My friend Jay Baer received a new leather backpack for Christmas. He discovered the bag because of a recommendation made by a mutual friend of ours, Rohit Bhargava. This recommendation was posted in a private Facebook group for frequent travelers. Both Jay and Rohit are members of this group.

He had never even heard of the brand (Piquadro) before Rohit mentioned it. But Jay knew he wanted it and sent the link to his wife, who bought it as a gift. Piquadro has no idea that the sale was primarily generated by a post in a private community of frequent travelers. That community receives no credit, nor does Facebook. To Piquadro, it will simply look like a direct referral.

Listen to Jay tell the story himself in the video below (or read his article, “Why Social Media Will Never Get the Credit it Deserves”).

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Back in August, I wrote a long email to a couple of friends, discussing how I saw community working within their businesses. Here is one thing I told them:

“The point is that as [redacted] companies mature, they should do more than just talk about being a part of the community, they should hire people who can actively cultivate their community. It’ll give them a definitive advantage over others because this whole community thing isn’t going away.

‘Social media’ will go away, because social media just means communicating online, and those responsibilities will be shared and used by different departments based upon their needs, goals and desires. Marketing uses social media, community uses social media, recruiting/HR uses social media, but they all have different goals. Community is here to stay.”

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Mind the GapHere’s one way to think about what community means for many businesses.

Community is what fills the gap between sales and service. Too many companies still only talk to customers when they are selling or when something goes wrong. Sales and service. But between those two things is this huge gap, which we can refer to as everything else.

If you aren’t in this gap, you are vulnerable. It’s risky because there can always be another company that is willing to come in and treat your customers better than you do. That’s why community – real community work, online community building and management, not just general social media marketing and use – is so important to business right now and will only continue to grow in importance moving forward.


Recently, I received an email from a community manager that was dealing with a lot of abuse, harassment and insults, including threats of death and violence. As unfortunate as it is, that stuff happens to many professionals in this space. That doesn’t mean it’s OK or that it should happen. But we have to acknowledge that it does if we are to deal with it.

From this point forward, I will refer to the community manager who emailed me as CM.

The worst part of the story was how the community manager’s boss reacted. The boss forbid CM from taking any action against the members. If they did any of those things to a fellow user, CM is allowed to take action. But if it is directed at CM, nothing can be done. Members can’t be warned, and CM cannot ban them. CM can’t even remove the post they made. The boss has decided to do this under the guise of wanting people to feel comfortable criticizing their site.

This policy is atrocious.

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KickstarterKickstarter is looking for a VP of community and it looks like a wonderful opportunity. Real community work in a challenging, but rewarding atmosphere.

What really caught my eye was this: “The VP of community is responsible for three key areas of our operations: Community Support, Community Engagement, and Integrity.”

An Integrity team that reports to the VP of community. I’ve never seen that before, but I love it, and it works. Especially for Kickstarter.

This is how they describe the Integrity team:

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Most community management issues can be tackled in different ways, but we all tend to agree that simple, easy registration is a good thing. How simple? Well, that varies. I’ve seen registration fields that consist of just an email address or, in cases where a username was needed, two fields. You then receive an email which you click on to set a password.

As software is updated, registration forms seem to get simpler and simpler.

Have you ever considered making it harder to register on your community? I know – the horror – but hear me out. There are potentially good reasons for doing so. Registration is a feature, and like many features, it can be helpful as you face challenges.

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jenna-woodulChief community officer is the highest job title in the land – where the land is the online community industry. Earlier this year, I wrote about the career path for community management professionals, highlighting the CCO title and the first person that I had ever seen with it: Bill Johnston.

Bill informed me that he had borrowed the title from Jenna Woodul, the executive vice president and CCO at LiveWorld. I consider myself a veteran of this space, but Jenna has held the CCO title since before I even started at point A, all the way back in April of 1996. Wow. With experience going back into the 1980s, she is easily among the earliest professionals to call this a career.

I always love talking with the true veterans of our profession, so of course I wanted to interview Jenna. We talked about the chief community officer title, its future and how far this profession has come. I appreciate her taking the time to speak with me.

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The Next 5 Years of the Online Community Profession

Posted by Patrick on September 15th, 2014 in Thinking

Credit: CrystalCC BY 2.0

In June, I visited Brandon Eley and his family in LaGrange, Georgia. Brandon is one of my oldest and closest friends. We have a great time when we get together, but we also talk a lot about business, life and the future. Where we are, and where we want to go. I enjoy these talks tremendously.

During that trip, I published my “I’m Hungry for Change” post from his house. That is a good clue as to one of the topics we discussed: my future and the future of my profession. We talked about how I felt a responsibility to others in this space to accept a role that befit my experience. I laid out what I saw as the future of the online community profession, as far as how the role should fit into companies. Not where it is now, but where it should go.

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Closing Comments Alters Your Purpose

Posted by Patrick on August 21st, 2014 in Thinking

Credit: mjmontyCC BY 2.0

Evan Hamilton wrote the other day about a Washington Post article by Alexandra Petri, where Petri suggests that the idea of a good comment section is too hard, therefore not worth the effort. Petri’s article is interesting and makes some good points, but that’s not really what I want to discuss.

In his post, Evan made two points that he felt the Post missed. First, pointing to io9, that comments can be a reason that you return to a site. That comment sections can be so interesting and engaging that they are a primary reason that many people choose to visit a site. They enjoy the passion, the knowledge and the conversation that happens in the comments.

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