FandangoIf you are going to have online ratings and reviews on your website, community or app, they need to have integrity. Or they are garbage. It’s that simple.

Walt Hickey at FiveThirtyEight published an interesting, in-depth piece about how Fandango, the overwhelming leader in online movie ticket sales, is manipulating user reviews to cast movies in a more favorable light.

Usually, when a reputable online review site rounds the average rating to display a star-based rating, they will round to the nearest half star. For example, when my book received a 3 star review earlier this year on Amazon, it dropped my review average to 4.7. This meant that the book was listed as 4.5 stars, because they rounded down, to the nearest half star. Later, after I received a couple of 5 star reviews, my average went up to 4.8, and the book was 5 stars.

This is the behavior that we generally expect, as consumers. It’s not what Fandango is doing.

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It feels like I’ve been talking to companies about career opportunities all year. There have been at least four distinct interviews and several loose conversations. While I may have collected a funny story or two, I haven’t found the right match.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed, during this process, is talking about what a progressive community role looks like. What can community mean, responsibility wise, beyond the traditional idea of what community is? Because, while companies do try to shove any number of unrelated tasks under the community banner, there are some areas of responsibility where it can make perfect sense to combine the tasks under the community role and, as those tasks grow, a larger community department.

If you are looking to expand the role of community in your organization, here are four specific areas to think about.

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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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How to Build Strong Volunteer Moderator Teams

Posted by Patrick on October 8th, 2015 in Managing Staff

I have always prided myself on identifying community leaders and building strong teams of volunteer moderators. I have been very fortunate to have many amazing, wonderful people join the communities that I manage and become a part of my teams.

Recently, I was thinking about my team building philosophies, and I identified a set of principles that I adhere to, that have served me well. I’d like to share these principles with you.

While some of this depends on scale, most will apply very well to 99% of online communities – and the remainder can probably be altered to apply to the rest. For instance, if your volunteer program is so large that one person can’t handle it, that might be a clue that your organization needs to commit to community in a more meaningful way… and pay more than one person.

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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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Online community professionals in the U.S. are quite fortunate, legally-speaking, as compared to our counterparts in other countries, like the United Kingdom and Australia.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a big reason for this. It might be the most important law on the books that relates to our work. It discourages frivolous lawsuits and allows us to host critical speech of the powerful, without serious fear of a lawsuit.

The Delfi ruling is a reasonable example of what can happen without it. A large company, and a rich man, demanded that an Estonian news outlet remove not only comments that vaguely threatened violence, but also comments that referred to the man as a “bastard” or a “rascal.” Even after they removed the comments, the company and man further demanded damages and, when rebuffed, sued the news outlet. A 9 year legal battle ensued – and the news outlet lost.

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Call of Duty: World at WarCall of Duty: World at War was released on November 11, 2008. 7 years is a long time in gaming, but it’s especially long for the Call of Duty series, which produces a brand new, big budget title every year.

I’m a big fan of the Call of Duty series and have spent many hours playing the games. The zombies mode, introduced in World at War, accounts for a majority of those hours. Most of that was co-op with my brother, Sean. My youngest brother, Trent, joined the team when he was old enough.

The zombies mode is such an incredible value-add for the series. I have never, ever felt like I didn’t get my money’s worth out of a Call of Duty game. I spend around $100 for each game. $50 for the game itself, and then another $50 for the extra content they release over the next year. For the amount of time I spend playing zombies alone (putting aside the main game content, as well as online multiplayer), the value I receive for that $100 is immense.

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Amazon.comAmazon’s Vine program connects prolific Amazon customer reviewers with products in need of reviews. I recently wrote about community monetization alternatives to display ads. The Vine program could serve as inspiration to certain communities, especially those who are dominant in a specific niche.

Vine is largely a win for everyone involved. While you won’t have to look hard to find criticism of it – especially from writers who feel their book was unfairly reviewed or that the average person is not qualified to critique their work – for the most part, it works really well.

Win #1: More Product Reviews for Amazon

Product reviews drive sales. Good and bad ones. The more products that Amazon has reviews for – and the earlier they have them – the more likely that Amazon will convert a viewer to a buyer. In some cases, Vine products are sent pre-release, because the manufacturer wants to have some reviews before it is available for purchase. Amazon then grants the Vine reviewers the ability to publish a review early.

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When Monetizing Online Forums was published, back in July of 2012, we wanted to show community professionals and owners that there were more ways to monetize a community than traditional display ads. We talked about display advertising, and how to do it right, but we discussed several other methods that could allow you to shift away from display ads while potentially generating even more revenue.

I was reminded of that goal this week when the discussion around ad blocking reached new heights, thanks to Apple. I don’t want to talk about ad blocking today. Instead, I want to help you diversify and discover new methods of generating revenue, that won’t be affected by ad blocking. If you want to know more about these methods, Monetizing Online Forums is a free download.

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Companies who sell products, especially high-end goods and those that stand for a certain mark of quality, should consider the power of community in the form of an owners club.

When I say high-end, that doesn’t necessarily mean $1,000 or $50,000 or $500,000. It’s relative. A high-end pen might cost $200. Obviously, a high-end automobile is much more. What is often true is that people who purchase a high-end good are making a commitment to a particular practice or interest. Not all of them are wealthy. Many save and plan to be able to make that purchase.

A person who buys a high-end woodworking tools is more passionate about craftsmanship than someone who buys cheaper ones. A person who spends $2,000 on a suit is excited about a certain level of dress. A person who spends $300 on a pen finds more enjoyment from the act of handwriting (or simply collecting pens). On average, anyway. Cost doesn’t always equal quality, and spending money isn’t always indicative of true interest. However, more often than not, someone who makes that type of commitment to a product has a much higher level of interest in what it stands for than someone who does not.

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