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There is a time and place for everything, including public humiliation. United Airlines, for example, had it coming. Many of the companies and individuals who find themselves publicly humiliated are deserving. Once doled out by the select few who controlled the media, high-level humiliation is now at the fingertips of many. Denounce an individual’s character or slam the customer service rep who put you on hold and you could become a star. Well, maybe not a star but you will be heard on some level, depending on who you are and your presence across the social web.

As a journalist I am all about free speech and I think it’s great that we are all empowered by the internet and the fact that the voiceless now have a voice is pretty amazing. But I am beginning to think that some people sacrificed class in order to receive that voice.

While it is easy to slam someone on Twitter, in your blog or on YouTube and other social networks, it may not always be the best choice. It is not necessary to slam everyone who gives you grief, at least not publicly and certainly not all the time. Have we forgotten how to vent to a friend and let it go?

I am seeing a constant stream of complaints and gripes about everything from the blogger whose email rubbed someone the wrong way to the first and last name of the unsuspecting store manager who really couldn’t get the repairman out to make a person’s shopping experience a little less humid.

I know, I know…we all have every right to share this type of information and content and I can certainly opt-out of reading any of it.
But to those who claim they want to build community and relationships, stop publicly slamming everyone who doesn’t do things the way you think they should be done.

If someone pitches you in a way that you find off-putting, try telling THEM and not everyone else. Perhaps there is a lesson you can teach them. If you have a bad experience at a restaurant, try talking to the manager about it. It isn’t always necessary to exploit simply because you can.

Let’s not let our ability to be heard hamper our ability to solve our own problems.
Use your insight to help others and build your community that way. Who knows what kind of good karma it will send your way.

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Community managers have to stay on top of current events. If you know what’s going on in the world around you, you will always have fodder to successfully engage the masses.

From national news to local news to quirky and even strange news, take some time each day to brush up on the latest happenings and conversation pieces and bring the conversation to your community.

One of the things we did in every morning meeting at every TV station I’ve worked is answer the question: “What are people talking about?” Answering that question almost always yields a ton of great story ideas and makes newscasts relevant to the communities they serve.

As a community manager, you serve a community so figure out how to deliver relevant information to that community and you will see a new notice a new level of engagement. Start with current events and you can’t go wrong.

Now, it wouldn’t be my style to leave you without examples, so here are a few select links to blogs I posted in the community I manage over the last few months, based on current events

Do you see where I’m going with this? Tap into the treasure trove of news out there and make it your own. Give the community something to talk about. It’s the first step toward building a highly engaged community.

Keep me posted on your success.

-Angela

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The good folks over at eModeration have impressed me once again with their amazing insight into what it takes to successfully moderate communities populated with teens and tweens. In their latest white paper, How to Moderate Teens and Tweens, author and company CEO Tamara Littleton reviews some of the  common online behaviors of our youth that could lead danger right to their doorstep.

Much of the information was new to me, as my experience has largely been with moderating and managing adult online communities.

As a community professional I was surprised to learn some of what I’d never considered but as a parent I was  grateful for the information which has certainly given me a heads up on what to discuss with my daughters about online activity and what I should look for when considering which communities they are allowed to access.

Here is an excerpt:

“In our experience of moderating online environment for tweens and teens we find that tweens in particular are more likely to give up personal information about themselves online. This is the single biggest problem for moderators.”

Such personal information, according to eModeration,  could include phone numbers and street names and with teens, is often conveyed using clever wording or clues in an effort to fly underneath the radar. When filters are present, teens get creative and might type something like this: “My number is Too Tree Tree Ate On Fort Hive Steven.”

Alarmed yet? Wait, there’s more. This comment was taken directly from a large children’s brand:

“your my hero as i have no dad. i’m your biggest fan. please call me. my number is (XXX-XXXX)

Here’s another eye-opening excerpt, which the report says includes the jigsaw pieces of which could be enough to identify and befriend a child for a predator:

“My name is Louise and I love your shows! Are you coming to Iowa anytime soon for a show? I love to play soccer. I play number 11. and I know your favourite animal is a lion which is my school mascot.”

Here’s why this should cause concern. Consider this: If there is one middle school in Iowa with a school mascot of a lion, one could find the school, go to a soccer practice and see the young girl wearing a shirt with number 11.

I don’t know about you but that pretty much raises my spider senses to a new level. This is an excellent  whitepaper filled with highly valuable information and is definitely worth your time.

If you’re a community professional this is a topic on which you should become knowledgeable.   If you’re a parent, this is information you can’t afford to be without.

Kudos to eModeration for continuing to provide safe online environments for kids and keeping us all in the loop on their findings.

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Dear United Airlines:

You messed up big. You know it. There is no need for me to rehash it because it is all over the web, TV, radio..you name it. I’ve watched the video twice and even showed it to my husband last night, many days after my first viewing. I couldn’t help it.

The tune is actually catchy, the video funny and well, you really had it coming. The next time someone vows to (In Carroll’s words) l “write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world” I think you should take them to heart.

What I talk about on my blog is community building and engagement and there is still hope for you if you’re willing to put in the work. Right now you are in heavy damage control mode and that is quite understandable. But if you can step back for a minute and think of ways to connect with people who are talking about you in droves right now, you can take this big bowl of lemons and start making lemonade. There was a post by Dan Greenfield earlier this week that chronicled your responses on YouTube and Twitter and compared them to the number of comments made by the public. They completely dwarf your numbers. That is somewhat understandable but you could probably do better.

The key here is that people are talking about you. It may not be in the best light but they are talking about you much more than they were before this happened. You will have to kowtow to Carroll a bit, but that should not be your only strategy. Try building community around all of this chatter.

Here are a few ideas I offer you, free of charge:

Ask people what you could have done better. Seriously. Start your own forum or Facebook page asking people what you could have done better in this case. Don’t worry about looking stupid. That has already happened. This could turn into a good thing.

Find Weird Al Yankovic and have him write a spoof to Carroll’s song on your behalf. Remember this rendition of Michael Jackson’s Beat It, coined “Eat it?” Why not get in on the action? I bet he can fit you into his schedule.

Ask Carroll if someone from your company can be in his next video. He may not be as mad at you by the time the third video is produced and if you keep giving him everything he asks for he may even start to like you again. Big maybe on that.

Read EVERY.SINGLE.COMMENT and reach out to bloggers. Get a team of people to read every single comment and blog connected to that video that you can. Comment heavily.

Create some cool sticker with the YouTube logo and Carroll’s face on music equipment reminding baggage handlers to be careful. You see where I’m going with this. Get your team together and start having fun with this thing.

Think long term and get people talking about how you handled all of this with a bit of humor, after the fact and cared enough about your reputation to let the world help you do better.

Yours truly..and good luck,

Angela Connor

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It’s a phrase that’s  tossed around more than a football at the Superbowl, and everyone claims to have the secrets of success. I’m talking about internet marketing. I’ve written many posts about the failed marketing efforts I witness in my online community and even offered tips on what to avoid when marketing through online communities. So who’s getting it right? I’ve received some valuable advice from Miller Mosaic’s Phyllis Zimbler Miller and Yael Miller (who designed my book website) so when I heard they were launching a new affordable business to help others wrap their arms around the concept I felt compelled to share.

Here is a Q&A with Phyllis Zimbler Miller about her new endeavor.

What void are you trying to fill with this new endeavor?

When I started learning internet marketing, the information was frequently so much that I was overwhelmed and yet the information was not specific enough for me to act on it.  And then I would find expensive programs or programs only on one aspect of internet marketing when I wanted to learn about all the major aspects.

The Miller Mosaic Internet Marketing Program is designed to provide one internet marketing topic each month at a reasonable price and in a manner that won’t overwhelm people and that they can implement in easy-to-follow steps.

What are some of the common misconceptions about marketing on the internet?

The major misconception I believe is that people marketing on the internet often act as if their potential customers/clients are mind readers.  Because the people marketing products and services know the benefits of their offerings, they don’t make it easy for potential customers/clients to quickly grasp what’s on offer.

How will your new program help build community and how important is having an established community to successful marketing?

The program will help build community as people going through the program become more confident and reach out to others on social media sites and blogs for cross-promotion and joint ventures.

The expression “no man is an island” is especially apt for internet marketing.  As an effective marketer you want to have as many people as possible to help you spread your reputation as you help them spread their reputations.

There is an ongoing debate about the percentage of marketing one should do on Twitter. Most say less is better. I’ve even heard a 70-30 ratio. What are your thoughts on that?

I’ve heard this same ratio and other ratios.  For me it all boils down to common sense.  I try to share as much information as I can and to support as many other people as possible.  These efforts come before promoting my products and services.

While I can’t give a ratio because it varies for different people, one thing I can caution about is sending an automatic direct message when someone first follows you that gives a link to a product or service being sold.  To me this is “in your face” marketing, which is not a good strategy on Twitter.

How do you successfully market without becoming “that guy?” You know the guy that sells every time he opens his mouth.

You need a sharing mindset.  All my life I’ve always shared information with others.  Thus for me internet marketing is an extension of my natural inclination.

If this is not your natural inclination, you should cultivate a sharing mindset.  What do I mean by this?  I mean first thinking of how you can help others on the internet and only second thinking of how you can occasionally get out the word about your products or services.

How do you gauge success? It has to be more than sales, right?

Correct, it’s more than sales.  For me it’s the connections I make with people.  And these connections don’t have to pay off now.  I’m patient and I believe that, if I sincerely help others, eventually people will help me too.

Do you feel that “social media marketing” is a new phenomenon or is that just a new term for something that has always existed on some level.

When you need a plumber, don’t you ask a friend for a recommendation?  So this level of asking for personal recommendations has always existed.  And now social media marketing has expanded on this concept to create a global village where we can all share our recommendations.

How do you separate the good advice from the bad? So many people claim to know the secrets of internet marketing.

Number one, I’m leery when anyone says he/she is going to reveal the “secrets” of internet marketing.  Do I believe there’s good information that only a few people know?  Absolutely.  But I’m leery of the promise of “secrets.”

In the Miller Mosaic Internet Marketing Program we are NOT revealing secrets.  We are revealing the information we wish we’d known when we started doing internet marketing.

And it’s an ongoing project to separate the good advice from the bad.  I constantly read new material and evaluate it in terms of what I already know.  I have the kind of mind that puts together pieces of information from different people to see what the result is.  Thus many of my internet marketing decisions result from a synthesis of advice I’ve received.

Okay, now tell us about your service and what you hope it will help others accomplish.

The Miller Mosaic Internet Marketing Program at $19.95 per month is designed for busy people who want to learn how to market their brand, book or business on the internet.  The minimum “requirement” is listening to the one-hour monthly conversation teleseminar on their computer or downloaded to their iPod or reading the transcript of the teleseminar.

Then if people have time for another hour of information in that month – they can participate in or listen to the replay of the mid-month question-and-answer teleseminar, which can clarify any questions about the topic of the month.

There’s no long-term commitment – this is a month-to-month program.  If you’re a member that month, you get access to that month’s material.

Our goal is to make it easy for people to learn internet marketing to promote their brand, book or business without feeling overwhelmed and giving up.  And we want to make it easy for people to implement what they learn.

You can get more program information now at www.WeTeachWebMarketing.com.

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It is important to have community guidelines. They are imperative for any online community. Members need to know what is expected of them and what types of behaviors are frowned upon or prohibited within the community.

I remember creating the guidelines for the community I manage. It was laborious but imperative.  I scoured the internet for guidelines from other communities and then thought a lot about what kind of community I’d like to see take shape.

Writing such guidelines can make you feel as though you’re building an environment where all will be well. You think that people will refer to these guidelines and perhaps even follow them.

But having those guidelines in place does not make every call I make as a community manager, an easy one.  In fact, I rarely go back to them when making tough decisions. Guidelines are a starting point. Interpreting those guidelines is how you become an effective community manager. The way you do that interpreting can make or break you.

This job is not about being a robot. It’s emotional and we are human.You can stare at the guidelines all day long and never get the answers you need when things get complicated. I know that many of my peers will argue the point and say that guidelines are guidelines. You follow them or you go.  But it’s not that easy with me.

Let me illustrate why I feel this way:  A few months ago a long-time member had posted several comments and even a blog or two that were directed at another member. The comments were mean and degrading. It was really out of character for her. Were those comments abusive according to the guidelines? Yes. I could have stopped right there, marked her comments and blogs as abuse and she would have lost her posting privileges, community profile, the works. In most cases, that should probably be the outcome.

BUT…I knew that her dog had just been hit by a car and died because she’d been blogging about it since the day it happened  and it looked like she was responding to someone who had been taunting her about that.  His comments, however,  had NOT been reported as abuse so it all looked very one-sided.

I sent her an email letting her know that I was not going to dock her for the comments because I knew she was in an emotional state. But I also warned her that she must take control of her emotions because I would not do it again.

She responded with great gratitude and apologized profusely for allowing herself to get sucked in by someone else and for resorting to such antics. She said that she just couldn’t take it because she was feeling guilty about letting her dog run out into the street and his comments about her negligence pushed her over the cyber-edge. She did not want to lose her privileges.

For me, that was time well spent. I know it doesn’t scale, and that’s a real issue for me as the community grows, but that’s the kind of community manager I like to be. One who can empathize and know enough about the members to make a difference.

Guidelines don’t empathize.

You can.

This post was inspired by #CmtyChat, (created by Sonny Gill and Bryan Person) a weekly meeting of the minds where community enthusiasts chat via Twitter about all that ails us and then some.

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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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