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With everyone talking about the disgusting domino’s fiasco, I just had to share a blurb I posted on twitter the day before the news actually broke and Domino’s found itself in the ultimate PR nightmare.

As a community manager, I am very pleased when people open up and share. In fact, I spend a great deal of my time encouraging them to do just that. I’m pretty good at it and my community is growing. But there is a such thing as sharing too much. And simply being stupid.

Enter: THE COMMON SENSE FACTOR

Did you hear about the couple evicted from the house they were renting after posting pictures of wild parties and the house being trashed on Facebook? The common sense factor was not applied in that case. What about the guy who was fired from Goldman Sachs for spending too much time on Facebook? Nope, not a shred of common sense applied there either.

I won’t even go into the Fed Ex incident.

At the core, this isn’t about Fed Ex, Motrin, Domino’s or Facebook. It’s about people. These are technologies and tools and we decide how to use them. We are the thinking beings. The superior species. We control these outside forces, and when we let them control us, the outcome will never be a good one.

So put down the video camera if you think you’re going to lose your mind and record yourself doing something stupid enough to land you in jail. Turn off the computer and decompress. Do yourself a favor, and communicate like the whole world is watching, because some day, that may very well be the case.

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I’ve come across quite a few posts lately about the qualities one has to possess to be an effective community manager.

With all of the attention these types of positions are getting and the warp speed at which they are seemingly being created, it is certainly understandable why this is a popular discussion.

I’m seeing a lot of phrases like “love what you do,” “have a passion for people,” and “be fun and engaging.” While I absolutely agree with all three of those, in addition to the five “essential skills” outlined in this article on Mashable I feel strongly that a lot is being withheld.

I am a community manager. I love what I do, have a passion for people and I can be pretty doggone fun and engaging.

But that is not enough. None of that gets me through the day when I’m fighting off trolls, enforcing unpopular rules, settling disputes among members or working hard to diffuse tensions or postpone a major revolt.

My love for people is pretty much non-existent when I get an email filled with hate spewed by cyber-bigots hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. The personal attacks, name-calling, unfair accusations and overall pettiness cannot be successfully met with my engaging personality and sunny disposition.

Those types of situations require an entirely different skill set. I’m talking about razor-sharp interpersonal communication skills, the ability to exhibit an enormous amount of tact, an extremely thick skin and a boatload of compassion for people you would rather not give an ounce. Did I mention grace under presssure, courage under fire, openness to criticism and tolerance beyond belief?

It’s time to be open and honest about what it takes to manage and grow an online community. It’s not all roses, and it isn’t always fun. The general traits will only get you so far and if that’s all you’ve got you won’t know what to do when the storms arrive and believe me, they will.

So before you accept a job as a community manager, talk to people who are already doing the job, across a wide array of industries. No two jobs are the same because no two communities are the same, but the challenges do exist and it would be foolish not to learn more about them and seek out others who can help.

I’m always good for a story, or two. Maybe even three if you have the time. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a fun rewarding job. But there is no handbook and most of us are making up a lot of it along the way. So, move away from the theorists and seek out the practitioners.

That way, you’ll move beyond the general and into the specific.

Believe me, we’ll tell you everything you want to know, and then some.

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If you want to manage or grow a successful online community, I suggest stocking up on a few action verbs. Here are five I use daily:

  1. Share
  2. Ask
  3. Relate
  4. Commiserate
  5. Congratulate

What are your valuable verbs for growing community?

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Here’s a post I never thought I’d have to write.

A longtime, faithful, beloved member of my online community died today. It is a painful day for so many as he had TONS of friends. He was only 30.

I can’t even tell you the emotion I felt upon learning this, and the outpouring of emotion shown by community members is a true testament to the power of online communities.

HE was known in the community as “Studweiser.” I interviewed him once, and met him three times. Once at our one-year anniversary party. He invited me to his 30th birthday party. I didn’t attend.

I wish I had.

I have posted a tribute to Studweiser on the homepage and will leave it there all week.

I plan to attend his funeral.

That is nowhere in my job description, I know…but it feels like the right thing to do.

Studley loved the GOLO community. He supported my decisions and encouraged troublemakers to do better. When his partner started going through his cell phone to notify his friends, many of the numbers listed belonged to members of the community.

There is an empty place in the community now. And I never knew this could hurt so bad.

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I think the work that goes into fostering community and building relationships online is grossly underestimated.

It takes  an enormous amount of work. You have to have personality, tact, an amazingly thick skin and a work ethic that will not quit. You also have to genuinely like communicating with people.

Let me repeat that: You have to genuinely like communicating with people. All types of people.  Even people you would likely detest if you were to meet them in person.

You must learn to trust your gut and make tough decisions even when you know they will cause an uprising. And when that uprising happens, you have to know how to deal with it, manage tempers and steer the ship back on track.

What’s most important in all of this, is you have to do it every day. Yesterday’s work means nothing tomorrow. If you can’t communicate on a micro-level, then you can’t grow a successful online community.

I learned all of this by being in the trenches and growing a community from zero members. It was trial and error. And 21 months later, it still is. Some days are very frustrating.  I certainly know a lot more than I did at the beginning and I’m pretty good at engaging the masses, but I am not as good as I will be in another year, or even another month.

I wanted to make this known. Everyone is talking about the importance of building community. If you want to do it right, it has to be more than lip service.  I wanted that to be known.

That’s why I wrote a book about growing online communities.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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