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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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Long-running online communities have a challenge when it comes to highlighting newer members. Old members – many of which may not even be active any longer – tend to be the members with the most total posts, most reputation or some other accumulated number.

One of the reasons people participate in communities is for recognition, and one of the ways that happens is through these metrics. If the path to recognition seems impossible, that makes some people less likely to participate.

Community software (or, perhaps, add-ons for our chosen software) can help us here, by displaying metrics that are more timely, in addition to the overall ones.

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CareersIf you are a veteran of this profession – or you are new and hope to one day become one – I’d like to reflect a bit on the career path of the community management professional. Specifically, I would like to encourage you to seek advancement and not sell yourself short.

When we sell ourselves short as professionals, we don’t do justice to the importance of our industry. It impacts the space and those who work in it, in a negative way. It holds us back.

I know that, sometimes, you just have to take what you can get. You have a family to support. I respect that and it’s not what I am talking about. Also, if you are happy where you are and don’t want to take what might be a higher pressure role, I totally get that, as well. Family and happiness should be your priorities.

But then there are those of us who might not be aware of what is out there. Or we just might be a little too comfortable. Or possibly we are a bit too accommodating and too willing to compromise that we do so at our own detriment. You have to know your worth.

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Community and Customer Success Make a Good Mix

Posted by Patrick on May 29th, 2014 in Thinking

More and more, I’m seeing customer success fall under the responsibilities of the community department at various companies, both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). That makes perfect sense.

Where marketing grows your customer base, community aides you in keeping those customers by helping them to maximize the use of your product. Yes, those lines are muddied sometimes, yes, marketing helps you keep customers and, yes, there are exceptions that need not be mentioned.

You might be saying “but Patrick, that’s how it has been already. Community is essentially customer success for many companies and has been for a long time.” You wouldn’t be wrong, necessarily, but I think what we are seeing now is more of a formalization of it. Job titles including something extra and job descriptions making it clearer. David DeWald does this at Thunderhead.com. Meg Christolini did this at CoTweet. And the list goes on.

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Link Walk And Tabletop Track
Creative Commons License photo credit: huskyte77

The whole Comic Book Resources story has me thinking about the proper way to close an online community.

All online communities eventually come to an end. I’ve launched many communities and I’ve experienced unique longevity. I’ve managed KarateForums.com for 13 years, PhotoshopForums.com for more than 11 and phpBBHacks.com for 11 before I gave it away to a member. All of these communities will eventually come to an end – whether I am at the helm or someone else is.

I’ve also closed communities. Because the time had come. They were inactive, it felt like an uphill fight and I wanted to spend my time elsewhere or they had run their course. Whatever the reason – and there are many – your online community will end. For this article, I am going to presume that we have explored the alternatives to closing and decided that closing is the appropriate course of action.

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Lost Stool
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is an emerging technology conference. Since I’ve been going, the internet has been very ingrained in whatever has constituted “emerging technology.” As such, the conference has been very internet centric.

And yet, when I was down in Austin this year, connecting with people and visiting with friends, it reminded me (as it always tends to) that it’s important to keep the internet in context. This is especially true for online community professionals because our work is almost entirely online.

The danger here is that when you work online all day, you tend to get too caught up and place too much importance in your own world. Oh man, this is a big situation. This server is down. That member is angry. Activity dropped this month. Catastrophe! Noise, noise, noise.

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P022513PS-0063

This is not a political article. I cannot stress that enough. Our comments section should remain free of general thoughts about President Obama, the Affordable Care Act or any topic that is generally political and not related to community management, moderation or the circumstance I am about to describe. Thank you.

President Barack Obama joined Quora earlier this week. His first two answers, posted Monday, were both to questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (answer 1, answer 2). They were of good quality, in my estimation. They both answered the question asked and did so thoughtfully. The only negative is that both included brief messages encouraging U.S. citizens to sign up for health insurance prior to next week’s deadline.

Those statements take up less than a quarter of the overall message and, since the discussion is ACA related and this is the President, I can understand how they may be generally forgivable. A tradeoff for getting the President on your platform.

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Billy-Blob's Codicils
Creative Commons License photo credit: epiclectic

Bill Cosby did a show down at South by Southwest. I was at the conference with my brother Sean, and we wanted to go because it’s Bill Cosby, the legend. We decided that we wouldn’t get in line 3-4 hours before the show, like some people did. Instead, we would get there with 1-2 hours to go and, if we made it in, great.

We took our spot in line about an hour and 15 minutes before he was scheduled to go on. At that point, our odds of getting in looked pretty bleak. But we decided to wait it out. We met Anthony Lux, who was in line next to us, and ended up talking with him for much of it, and hit the food trucks with him after the show.

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10 Reasons to Appreciate Your Community Manager

Posted by Patrick on January 27th, 2014 in Thinking

Today is the fifth annual Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD). Check out the festivities taking place today over at My Community Manager’s dedicated website. In honor of the day, I present to you 10 reasons that you should appreciate the manager of your online community.

If you participate in an online community that you enjoy, it might be cool to take a moment and write a note to the manager of that community, letting them know that you appreciate what they do.

Of course, there are many different reasons to appreciate a community manager and it varies by the community and the person. But as I reflected on my time managing communities, what my members have told me and my experience as a member of communities managed by other people, here are 10 that I think are worth noting.

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