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I’ve known Jim Kukral since June 2008 when I was booking interviews tied to my book. I shot him a note and asked if he’d have any interest in it or in having me on his show. Even though we’d never spoken before, he did and he eventually posted the first (and so far only) video review of the book on Amazon.com. That really meant a lot to me.

We’ve stayed in touch ever since. Now, Jim has a book of his own, titled “Attention! This Book Will Make You Money” and I’m happy to be able to support him and spread the word.

What follows is a guest post from Jim, with tips for engaging influencers within your community online (your site, the subject arena of your community, your area of expertise, etc.).

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Have you ever wondered not just where your community was ranking in Google search queries, but also how many search impressions those queries generated and how many clicks? Well, you can find out.

Google Webmaster Tools is a free, cool service provided by Google that allows you do a myriad of things related to your site, such as seeing how Google is indexing it and if they have any problems, configuring sitemaps, checking site performance and more. But, today, I want to share the search queries area.

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This is the third and final part in my series on building community around your blog. In part one, we discussed the community you have by default and, in part two, we touched on community building outside of your own site. Finally, we’re going to bring it home and discuss the growth of community on your own website, your own domain and your own hosting.

As powerful as it can be to grow community outside of your site, growing community on your own site, in an area where you have full control, can help you to unlock the power of community.

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I recently came across the Apture Site Bar on my web travels, when I saw it pop up on a site I was reading. Simply put, it is a thin, floating top bar that appears when you scroll down below the fold.

It features the logo of the site that you’re on, links to share the page that you are viewing, on Twitter, Facebook and through e-mail (along with the current count of Twitter mentions and Facebook shares) and a search box that allows people to search from your site.

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Elephant in Chobe
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gusjer

You’ve got a brand new community on basket weaving. You badly want people to come to your site. So, you go to the largest basket weaving community on the internet and start discreetly inviting members. Maybe you instant message or e-mail them off site, so that the people running the established community won’t notice. Maybe you use the private message system. Perhaps you even post on the community, too, to appear as a well meaning member. You’re really on your way now, right?

No, you’re not. Instead, I would say that you’re building your site on an old burial ground. And you know how that ends up. Bittersweet success haunted by the ghosts of the past that you’ve violated. Not everyone will agree with me, some will tell you that this is fair game or that it’s not hurting anybody. That it’s simply competition. But, not me.

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wp-greet-boxDoes your online community receive a lot of traffic from sites that are big on link sharing? For example:

  • Social bookmarking sites like delicious and StumbleUpon.
  • Social news sites like Digg.
  • Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
  • Microblogging services like Twitter.
  • Social aggregators like FriendFeed.
  • Or any site that allows and encourages people to easily share links – perhaps sites with a focus on the niche that your community is based on.

If you do, you should consider installing a WordPress plugin. “But, Patrick,” you say. “My site doesn’t run WordPress.” I thought you might say that!

The plugin I am talking about is called WP Greet Box. In short, it recognizes visitors who are coming from these social sites and shows them a custom message that you set, inviting them to subscribe to your site or share content with the site they came from.

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online-marketing-inside-out-coverSitePoint has a new book out called “Online Marketing Inside Out” and it’s special to me for a few reasons. First, it’s co-authored by my good friend Brandon Eley, who I’ve known for like 7 of 8 years. The other co-author is Shayne Tilley, who I have talked to many times and like a lot, as well. I’m really happy for them and want it to do exceptionally well for them – I’m sure it will. Finally, I contributed to the book, working as an expert reviewer on a pair of chapters. This marks the seventh book I’ve contributed to in one way or another. My friend Ted Sindzinski served as an expert reviewer, as well.

All of that said, I’ve had an opportunity to read a good portion of it and scan various other aspects of it and it’s a great book, highly valuable to anyone looking to grow their online marketing knowledge. Not just that, but the book is also useful for rounding out and broadening online marketing experience you may already have. For example, you may be well versed in social media – but not in e-mail marketing. Or you may be an expert on e-mail marketing, but know nothing about landing pages. The book will help you to become more well rounded when it comes to online marketing.

Marketing certainly can be a part of managing an online community, depending on the situation you are in as a community administrator or manager, but even if you are not responsible for marketing, it can be good to have an idea about it, as well, so that you can clearly communicate with the person who is.

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Over at ProBlogger, Darren Rowse was kind enough to allow me to provide a guest post that I titled “Enhance and Grow Your Online Community Through Appreciation.” In the post, I discuss how simple acts of appreciation can have noteworthy impact on the growth of your community. Here’s the closing excerpt:

Appreciation is a powerful thing. It can open doors, start relationships, give people happiness, bring people back and give them confidence. In the interest of cultivating community, please consider how not just appreciating people – but making sure they know you appreciate them – can enhance your community.

Please let me know what you think about the post.

twitter-logoWhen I wanted to look into the benefits of using Twitter to promote your forums, I did an account search, looking for words like forums, forum, boards, board, community, etc. The most followed account at the time, back in March, was the rkforums account, for the Raisingkids Forums. They are part of the UKfamily.co.uk network, owned by The Walt Disney Company.

The rkforums account has been used to showcase recent activity on the forums, linking to new threads through an RSS feed that is posted through Twitterfeed. To get an insider’s perspective on the value of this type of integration, I spoke with Michael Howard, the administrator of the Raisingkids Forums.

“I streamed the forum feeds into Twitter to see if there was any interest,” Michael said. “I fully expected to get told off for spamming because I set Twitterfeed to the maximum amount of postings (5 every half an hour) – but because we’ve got a fast moving forum, I thought that it would be OK as the content posted to Twitter is always new and different. I’ve had no complaints yet and people can always vote with their feet by ‘unfollowing’ us.”

Approved by the company’s legal team, the account started off as only posting entries from the forums automatically, Michael has begun posting manual tweets, as well, including the promotion of competitions and the monitoring of mentions of the rkforums account on Twitter, in order to engage in conversations and answer questions.

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There are plenty of ways to promote a community. After all, a community is a website, so most of the ways that you would promote any type of website will also apply to forums and communities. However, there is one simple promotional ideal that is probably one of the most important ones, as well.

That is: activity breeds activity. With online communities, and especially with a site where forums are the main draw, activity can dictate a lot. When people visit your forums, they want to see posts – they want to see activity. They want to have something to jump into. When they see activity, it encourages them to join in and participate. When they don’t see anything happening, they are much less likely to become a member of your forums.

This may not seem like a promotional thought. Most would associate “promotion” with things like advertisements and word of mouth. But, the activity on your community directly impacts the value you receive from any other marketing endeavor that you undertake. For example, if you spend money on an ad campaign. You don’t want to send people to a dead site because they’ll be more likely to leave and you’ll be more likely to have wasted your money. You want to send them to a site that already has something going on, that has some kind of appeal.

So, if you are looking to bring people to your community, you don’t want to forget the first step, which is to actually create some activity yourself. Whether it’s just you starting topics or discussions or you assemble a group of friends to help you do so, ensuring that your community has something going on, on a daily basis, allows you to more easily engage and retain new members. In three words: activity breeds activity.