Creative Commons License photo credit: susivinh

I’m a big believer in leaving moderation to moderators and in having a word with any member that attempts to act like a moderator.

By act like a moderator, I mean that they try to tell other people what they can and cannot post and where and when they can do so. Even if they are correct, I don’t want them telling other members what to do.

In the long run, I believe that this sort of thing does more harm than good. I want members to respect one another and treat each other kindly. I don’t want them to manage each other or to feel as though their fellow members are watching over their shoulder, waiting for them to slip up. I want them to enjoy the community and each other and leave the management to the recognized staff members within the community.

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Recently, Jason Falls shared an interesting fact with me. According to his research, collected through NetBase, 90% of the trackable conversations occurring online around banks and bank products were in online forums. Ninety percent!

5% related to consumer reviews, 3% on blogs and less than 1% in each of the four categories: microblogs (that’s Twitter), social networks, comments sections of some form and the all-powerful “other.”

Furthermore, it’s not just banks. In a companion piece for Entrepreneur Magazine, where I was quoted, Jason said that he checked how forums stacked up against other industries, to see if banking was a fluke. It wasn’t. Forums were #1 or #2 for every sector they analyzed.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: marc falardeau

I spoke to a small group of staff members at the CNN offices in Atlanta on Tuesday. One of the things that we discussed is why they should, individually, care about building community online, even if they have no interest in being a community manager or working in digital.

As part of my slides, I put up on the screen a small sampling of people who work at CNN and include CNN as part of their Twitter username. Many people do this (search for CNN on Twitter) and it is understandable why.

When you are associated with such a well known and respected brand, it lends credibility to you and your work. That’s not to take anything away from you at all. It’s just the way it is. Some people are gravitating toward you because of your association with the brand and you certainly get more followers and more people paying attention to you because of it.

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Stream from Foot Bridge
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gord Bell

If you are like me, you have many different social streams of information that you pay attention to.

These streams usually contain information from people that you have subscribed to in some way, whether you call it friending, following or something else.

When we interact via platforms that have some sort of relationship system, where people can add you to the list of people they want to pay attention to, you can add them to your list and we are notified when people add us to their list, there is a personal dynamic.

This is because we all like to have people pay attention to us. When we say, “hey, I want to pay attention to you,” and that person then tells us, “awesome, I want to pay attention to you, too!,” it makes us feel good.

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Do you want the secrets to building community online? I’ve got them. Meet me in this back alley over here and I’ll give them to you for a price. But, let’s keep them just between us. We wouldn’t want the common people to know.

If anyone ever tells you this, run away from them. There are no secrets. There are just things you haven’t learned yet. Are those secrets? I don’t know.

I receive emails, regularly, from people offering to improve my search engine optimization (SEO). They promise that they have the SEO secrets and that they’ll hook me up. Generally, we regard these people as spammers that lack credibility and are looking to take advantage of us. Why should online community be any different?

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Back in June, I wrote about, the social DJ service and music community. Since then, I have spent countless hours playing music on and have accumulated a good number of points and fans. 1,550 and 137, respectively.

According to ttDashboard, a site that tracks some interactions with the site, that places me 1,756th and 345th in those categories overall. From my time spent on the site, I know I have an abnormally high number of fans for my point total. I’ve seen DJs with double my points that don’t have half my fans.

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Bruce Stephenson (@FamilyPhoto on Twitter) asked: “[What is the] best way to start to participate when new to a forum?”

Thank you for the question, Mr. Stephenson.

I am going to tackle this from the perspective of an individual wanting to participate in a forum for personal reasons, such as a passion for a specific topic. If you are looking to do this for commercial reasons, check out my guide to brand engagement on forums and communities that you don’t own.

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Online communities can be very powerful. When a group of people gather regularly around a topic or interest, especially when that topic or interest is directly related to your company or a product that you sell, an established online community can represent a great opportunity to engage with your core audience.

That is why a lot of companies try to engage within an online community by joining and “participating.” But, it is sometimes done in a way that actually has a negative effect because the company either tries to blatantly take advantage of the community or, at least, participates in a manner that suggests that is what they are doing.

Online communities and forums are a different beast than more general, mainstream social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the like. Each online community is like it’s own country, with it’s own culture, laws and societal norms. The backlash that a company can face from disregarding these norms can be painful and that is why a lot of companies are afraid of engaging in these more controlled spaces.

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Sometimes, people get caught up in thoughts that are very limiting, due to their own jealousy, insecurities, a lack of understanding or something else.

One great example of this is a comment I once heard someone make. It was about a celebrity, I forget who. The person said that the celebrity didn’t “deserve” their followers.

The implication being that this person had been on Twitter for a long time, had “worked hard” for their followers and now this celebrity just showed up and in a day or so, they have tens of thousands of followers. This is bad, petty thinking.

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Empire Avenue is a stock market where you can purchase shares in your favorite individual or corporate social media presences. I’m on the service with the ticker symbol IFROGGY.

My friend Damond Nollan has been riding the Empire Avenue wave. He’s a popular user and has dug in pretty deep. I asked him to write a guest post for me and he talked about how you can build community around Empire Avenue and further engage with the people you encounter on EA.

Empire Avenue (EA) is a relatively new social network built upon gamification. On the surface, the site is about buying and selling shares in people using eaves, EA’s virtual currency. However, if you look a little deeper, you may notice a lively community that actively engages both on and off site. In this article, we will explore the Empire Avenue community and learn from existing builders.

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