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The value of online communities isn’t lost by major retailers. It is a smart move. Definitely smarter than Facebook fan pages, but that’s my personal opinion to be expressed in another post, probably my next.

This post is about two new online communites: MySears and MyKmart.

Sears Holdings Corp launched the two communities as venues for consumers to read and write reviews as well as communicate with each other in a variety of ways to share information about products, according to Internet Retailer. The goal is to help customers make purchasing decisions.

Here’s an excerpt that pretty much characterizes the features:

The communities allow members to write product reviews, post comments on the reviews of others, participate in discussion boards and post ideas for the community to vote on. They can upload photos, and write blog posts as well as exchange private messages with other community members. Users also can create their own profiles on the sites, and Sears hopes to soon add functionality to allow members to import their existing profiles from other social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

As a community manager, I think this is has great possibilities, and importing profiles from Facebook and MySpace is icing on the cake. This company has done it’s homework, creating niche sites for two different venues when they could have easily and probably for less money, combined them into one.

I hope they hired a community manager and plan to promote the sites in stores. I’ll be watching and will definitely report back.

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If you’re looking for an easy way to get your community members talking, write a quick blog complaining about an issue in your life and they will quickly commiserate.

It’s human nature, and people simply cannot resist the urge to chime in and tell their own stories.  Throw out a topic and let them run with it. Keep in mind though, that it  has to be something they can relate to, so don’t go on and on about something that matters only to you and expect people to care enough to jump on board.

Were you stuck in traffic this morning? If so, you weren’t the only one. Complain about that, and stories of individual traffic woes will follow. Trust me. l do it all the time in my Editor’s Blog and it works.  I even devote an entire chapter to the benefits that complaining can provide in my new book, which by the way is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com.

I recall complaining about  gas prices last summer and I was in good company. Remember those insane prices?  Who didn’t want  to complain about that?

Try it. Everyone can stand a little free commiseration.

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I have to take a few minutes to share what I think is fabulous news. I received word today via email that my blog, Online Community Strategist is now listed on the AdAge Power 150. This is really a testament to your interest in the blog and continued support.

THANKS TO ALL MY READERS!

-Angela Connor


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According to a new poll, not many. Actually…very few.

Here are a few other notable links related to social media that I believe are worth sharing.

Do you use social media to guide purchases? I have. But, perhaps it just isn’t yet mainstream.

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This is a sentiment I share in an interview posted over on Le blog du Community Management.

Have a look.

Many thanks to blogger Dominique, for his interest in my work and his commitment to sharing the importance of community management to his colleagues across many time zones. You can find Dominique on twitter.

He’s @blog_communaute.

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Hannah Montana is a rockstar in my house. Well, she is an actual rockstar, so that statement is likely true in every house… but that’s not the point.

I have two young daughters, and they love her. So I am more than familiar with Miley Cyrus and her hit show, which also stars her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. With such die-hard fans under my roof I knew what I had to do once Hannah Montana: The Movie hit the theaters.

But, while watching the Hannah Montana movie on the big screen with my girls, the theme resonated with me on a different level. There was a lesson there and it was one that I needed as a community manager and blogger who believes in sharing any valuable insight I manage to gain.

As Hannah Montana’s hometown of Crowley Corners was coming together to thwart the efforts of a big time developer who wanted to level their quaint space and build a mega mall, I began to think about online communities and how the same dynamics exist, particularly as the community grows or becomes more mainstream.

There are many members who want to keep newcomers to a minimum. They like the fact that they were there at the beginning and feel comfortable with the original members and the current rapport. They form a real bond in some cases and can become pretty territorial. They value their status in the community and don’t want to see it threatened.

This is an issue that community managers have to be ready to deal with. When that loyalty is extreme, it can become a real problem, and in some cases thwart your much needed growth. As community managers and practitioners, we want growth and new members, but we also want our loyal members who have been with us from day one to feel special and vested in the community. It’s a delicate balance and quite honestly a tough gig at times.

In one confrontation during the movie, Hannah Montana’s grandmother said to the mean old developer in a haughty, accusatory tone: “Community? You don’t know nothing about community!”

It made me laugh because she was so sure that this man who wanted to bring something new to the area had no idea what it meant to belong to a community and that by adding something that maybe even the natives could enjoy and perhaps even grow to love, he was compromising what she held so dear.

What I learned is, community is different things to different people. Not everyone will want the same thing even if it is what’s best.

What that movie needed was a real live community manager, to speak to both sides and find a way to put them both at peace and move forward. This is a testament to the importance of the community manager. Sometimes there is a need for a person who has no allegiance to any side and will put the community first.

If the town of Crowley Corners had a community manager, things may have gone a little smoother. Perhaps I’ll send them my resume.

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Are you feeding your Twitter stream into Friendfeed? Do you ever LOG IN to Friendfeed to see what people are saying about those tweets?

Well, in case you didn’t know, there are people on Friendfeed commenting on your tweets and if you aren’t talking back to them you are missing a great opportunity to build your community.

With twitter becoming so mainstream people are flocking to Friendfeed in droves. So the days of leaving your FriendFeed to its own devices as a location to cull your many RSS feeds, are over. Well, they should be over, starting today.

Pay attention to your FriendFeed and join the conversations. I have been commenting and “liking” tweets, photos, links, Brightkite status updates, YouTube videos, Picasa photo albums, you name it! Someone could be commenting about your blogpost on Friendfeed and you may not even know it.

So go back and see exactly what you’ve got streaming into your Friendfeed account, and start taking action. Just like you check for @responses on Twitter, or use services like Tweetgrid, Tweetdeck, Tweetbeep and others to follow the conversation, you need to check the conversation on Friendfeed regarding those tweets as well.

If you don’t you’ll continue to miss out, because as I always say…communicating with your community is key.

You can find me as @communitygirl on both platforms.

Hope to see you there.

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I’m a fan of Slideshare. I upload all of my presentations there. Well, at least those that I feel are of value to the masses.

When asked for a copy of my presentation after a speaking engagement, I always provide the URL to my personal slideshare space or e-mail a direct link to that particular slide.

But, I’ve learned that Slideshare provides so much more opportunity and value and we should all view it as a social network that allows us to connect with others, much like our other favorites.

Here are a few ways you can connect and build community through Slideshare.

  1. Check to see who has “favorited” and/or “embedded” your slides. This is the ultimate lead. Once you do this you will have a list of people who are genuinely interested in your content.If someone has embedded your slide, click through to the actual post and comment. Thank them for sharing your content.
  2. Visit their profile and view their slides. You may find something you like since you clearly have similar interests. Learning more about their content is a perfect way to decide if you want to connect.
  3. Send a personal message asking to connect. You now have enough info to compliment their work, ask to use their presentation or maybe even get them to guest blog for you.
  4. Search keywords for your topics of interest. Once you do this, repeat steps 2 and 3.
  5. Share your slides on LinkedIn and Facebook. This is very easy to do, and it exposes your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts to your presentations. A win-win.
  6. Post thoughtful comments and offer feedback on presentations. Not everyone will appreciate this, but some will. It’s worth a shot.
  7. Share presentations with others and be sure to let the creator of the slide know about it.
  8. Embed slides (yours and others) in blogposts and on your website. This will bring your current audience to Slideshare and you could be providing new opportunities for your readers as well.
  9. Consider sharing more than just slides. I recently shared the media kit for my book on Slideshare. It accommodates many types of files, so think outside the box and get creative.

The point of this post is to encourage you to do more with this great tool. I was able to connect with @MeriWalker on Twitter after noticing her interest in one of my presentations, and it’s largely because I live and breathe “community.”

You don’t have to live and breathe it, but be mindful of new opportunities and try to look at every tool as more than what it seems. It usually is.
What other platforms are you using to build community?

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The next time you meet someone who doesn’t “get” Twitter, and you don’t have an hour to make a believer out of them but you really feel they’d benefit a great deal if they understood its power, send them a link to Brandon Uttley’s 15 page ebook, This is Your Brain on Twitter.

I am a big fan of what I call the “101 Approach” where people who are clearly in the know about a certain topic, explain it to to others without the least bit of condescension and the ultimate goal of educating them. That is what Brandon has done with this ebook.

He acknowledges that it can seem puzzling at first, which in my opinion is the first step to building trust with the reader, particularly if they’ve been struggling to wrap their arms around all of the recent hype.

Uttley offers useful tips for businesses, such as “Monitor keywords relevant to your brand or industry,” but instead of leaving it at that, he shares various tools to help the reader get started including Monitter, TweetGrid, (one of my personal favorites) BackTweets, TweetBeep (love that one too…) and Tweetlater to get email alerts on keywords and phrases. This information is listed under a section called Top Ways to Lurk More Effectively on Twitter.

The more I read, the more I learned, and it became evident that this ebook has something in it for everyone. Not only does this ebook offer excellent advice and tips for newbies, it’s a resource for veterans as well because you are bound to learn something new.

The format is easy on the eyes and the cost was my name and email address over on Brandon’s blog.

I would have paid more.

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This is a cross post from the American Society of Business Publication Editor’s national blog.

Engage or Die: Why your publication must embrace social media

Would I like you to click the link and read the post? Yes, but that is not the point of this particular post. I am bringing it to your attention to highlight a different lesson altogether. It’s one that I believe is greatly overlooked but can be done almost daily, and without a great amount of effort if you’re passionate about a topic.

Let me tell you how I got the opportunity to blog over there.

It all came from a thoughtful comment I left on a post that was recognized by the editor who later contacted me and asked me to write on a specific subject. That was not my goal when I left the comment. I was just doing what I do: Participate in the conversation, add value when I have it to offer and share my passion about online communities, social media, journalism and a few other topics that I pretty much live and breathe.

But the opportunities didn’t stop there. I was also asked to come speak to a group of editors in Washington, DC next month. All from one little comment.

Do you see the amazing value in that?

This is why I always say that we have to communicate like the whole world is watching. Chris Brogan often talks about providing value and readily sharing what you know. I think comments is one of he easiest ways to do that on a large scale.

Have you ever seen entire posts on popular blogs that stem from the comments? That is often where the reading gets good and the conversations reach a whole new level.

There’s power in the comment box. Share what you know, and scour the comments section of your own posts for nuggets of wisdom and ask for more. It’s the ultimate community builder.

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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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