If You Want a Community Initiative to Be Successful, Don’t Forget the Direct Approach

Posted by Patrick on October 29th, 2015 in Community Cultivation
Caption: Varvara (CC BY 2.0)

Caption: Varvara (CC BY 2.0)

If you want a community initiative to be successful, don’t rely only on announcements, prominent calls to action and mailing lists. Pound the pavement, contact 10-20 influential members in the community and ask them to get behind it by participating.

The 14th annual Awards started last week. Over the last 13 years, 128 different members have been nominated for an award. It is completely powered by the community and is a fun time of the year.

Yes, we announce it. Yes, we have a link in our header. Yes, we mention it on our Facebook page. Yes, the staff gets behind it and adds a link to their signatures. Yes, we add some pointers in popular sections.

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Increasing Trust in Rating and Review Systems Through Data

Posted by Patrick on October 26th, 2015 in Community Cultivation

With Fandango’s sabotaging the credibility of their own user ratings and Amazon suing more than 1,000 Fiverr users for posting fake product reviews, I thought it would be fun to talk about building trust in review systems.

If people can’t trust your reviews, you may as well not have them at all.

Having a code of conduct you actually enforce is important. But let’s think about this in a bigger sense, focusing on 3 key ideas that have to do with the systems you use and the data they have access to.

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The Biggest Blind Spot I Encounter in Community Professionals (and How to Fix It)

Posted by Patrick on October 22nd, 2015 in Managing the Community, Resources

As professionals, we are diverse. None of us has all the answers. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. We have areas we are known for (fair or not). We have skills that people don’t know we have. We are always improving and growing.

There is one semi-persistent blind spot I encounter as I talk with community professionals. It’s not the ability to look at numbers and use them to make a decision. It’s not ROI. It’s not growing activity. It’s not scaling a community.

It’s the law. Specifically, the law as it relates to our profession. Even if you have a legal department to run things through – which many don’t – an understanding of the law empowers you to confidently take action and manage your community.

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You Can’t Trust Fandango’s Movie Ratings

Posted by Patrick on October 19th, 2015 in Managing the Community

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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What Community Professionals Can Be Responsible for, Beyond “Community”

Posted by Patrick on October 15th, 2015 in Community Careers

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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You’ll Never Have Enough Account Managers, so Invest in Community

Posted by Patrick on October 12th, 2015 in Community Cultivation, Interacting with Members

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
Credit: Brock University (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: Brock University (CC BY 2.0)

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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Repealing Section 230 Would Harm Online Communities, Not Address Online Harassment

Posted by Patrick on October 1st, 2015 in Thinking

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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