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Before I begin to answer that question, I will share a snippet from a post over on the Harvard Business Review:

Firms that lack leaders with social media skills are often tempted to outsource community management to outsiders, such as web development firms or advertising agencies. Unfortunately, this increases the risk of failure. The problem is that when community development is outsourced, the organization doesn’t learn and people inside communicate like they always did, even though the use of social media might have speeded up internal communication and flattened the hierarchies. As a result, the company is often very different from the face it portrays online, which almost always gets discovered.

I’m not completely sure what my opinion is on this even as I type, because whatever it is, I know it’s not firm.  I do agree, however, that when community management is outsourced, organizations do not learn. But I also know based on the work I do that there are many out there who don’t want to learn, so they probably don’t see that as an issue.Is there anything wrong with not wanting to learn anything about managing a community? Maybe. Maybe not.

Someone posed the question on twitter early last week about outsourcing moderation and I tweeted my disagreement, but then thought about it a little further as the conversation ensued. Actually, it really depends on what type of content is being moderated. If it’s a forum that has clear guidelines and very little controversy, it’s probably not that big of a deal.  My moderation experience is rooted in news, so that is why I was so quick to disagree.

When I hired and managed a team of moderators for WRAL.com, it was very important to me that they understood the news, the content associated with the comments they were moderating and general familiarity with the regular posters, as well as the related stories. Now, that may not be required for other websites.

I did some contract  work moderating a forum associated with a popular children’s book series over the summer and knowledge of that series was not required because the guidelines were clear. So for them, it works.It’s also important to note that their outsourcing is with a very reputable company that has experience in the space and contracts with the right people to do the job. So, they did their due diligence in selecting this company for outsourcing.

But I think there is a distinction to be made for overall community management, and it makes sense for someone internally to own it . I don’t think that  failure is imminent if this isn’t the case, but an internal advocate is important.

I do think that agencies can handle community management if they have someone on staff with that kind of experience. But given the fact that it is a full-time job in most cases, this could be a costly endeavor for the companies doing the outsourcing.

The issue that must be revisited, is whether or not the company really wants a community. Many say they do, but their idea of community can range from a group of brand advocates who spread good cheer about them all over the web to a forum where visitors can ask questions and wait for them to respond. We can debate all day on whether either qualifies as a community.

At any rate, the post that sparked the idea for this one  is a good one. I only shared one part of it. So go on over to the Harvard Business Review and read it.

…and I’d love to hear your thoughts on outsourcing.

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I heard a bit of disturbing news today about a community manager at a local competitor.

She has been reassigned, and it was not voluntary.

It turns out that the media company feels as though she has created such a robust community that it is now self-sustainable and no longer requires her services.

That’s really a shame. I wonder what their plan of attack will be when people stop contributing or the quality of content begins to spiral, which it will.

You would think I’d revel in this this news, as this is a competitor, but I can’t do it. It’s a hit to the craft and the importance of our work. Nothing about that brings me joy.

What are your thoughts on this? We all know that building it isn’t enough. They built it and people did come. But they only stayed because someone made it worth their while.  I wonder what will happen next. Whatever it is…chances are it won’t be pretty.

I’ll keep you posted.

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You probably know by now that in every online community, there will be highly popular, influential members. Sometimes their star rises quickly and they can become a very important part of your strategy. They morph into a high-profile, go-to member who seems quite vested in the community and displays a great deal of ownership. This type of member can be a community manager’s dream.

When this type of member take on too much ownership, there can be trouble.

If you start to depend on them too much or place them on a pedestal believing that their intentions are always pure, there could be even more trouble.
This may or may not happen because there are many factors to consider and so much depends on their specific personality traits. But it might happen, and you need to be ready.

If an influential community member starts creating havoc, they must be dealt with and you cannot be swayed by their status. If they become a dominant, larger-than-life force throwing their weight around at others expense, you have to do something.

This person could be your very first member. They could be the ultimate creator of content and have hundreds or even thousands of friends. People might get upset if they believe he or she is being ousted. And, this person and/or their die-hard followers may even turn against you in a very public manner.

Remember those essential skills for community managers I wrote about a few months back? This is when they come into play. This is when you need to have a thick skin, make a decision and move on.
Sure, you can try to reason with them. And most community managers will give you several ideas on how you should go about doing this.  I agree that you should do what you can to salvage the relationship and keep the member without compromising your integrity.

If it doesn’t work, let them go. You will live to see another day. Trust me. I did.

This is just one of the lessons I’ve learned while doing this job called community management. Many think it’s glamorous and all fun, games and kumbaya. It isn’t.
When you’re in the trenches of this work, you learn quickly that there may not be a right answer and you learn as you go.

That is why I write this blog. It is documentation of the fact that I learn as I go. That is why I appreciate everyone who sends me emails saying how much they appreciate what I share and how my strategies are working for them for them.

I will continue to share my lessons learned and even more so as part of a new project series specifically for community managers. If you want to know more about it, sign up on my book website and you’ll be one of the first to learn about this new endeavor.

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In most online communities, there are those who’ve been there from the very beginning. They were the first to blog, visit daily and pretty much confirmed for you the fact that you built something valuable and worthy of their time. That lead you to believe others would follow suit, and they did. You are grateful for this bunch.

Because of their valiant initial efforts, the community is flourishing and these people are like the elders of the community, even if it’s only a few years old. They remember the old days, (yes, 20 months ago constitutes ‘the old days’ in community-speak) discuss them often, and may have even broken off into their own old-timers group, with an “us against them” attitude to boot.

They have a lot of influence (good and bad) and pretty much treat your community like it belongs to them. This is a good thing, right? Yes it is… on some level.  But it can go very wrong if you’re not careful.  And you have to be mindful of this bunch.

They will go against you if they don’t like your decisions. I’m not talking about sending emails or nasty-grams detailing their thought process, or giving you a piece of their minds, but going to your boss.  In many cases the boss of the community manager doesn’t really understand the day-to-day experiences and issues faced by the community manager, so  explaining exactly what the deal is might get you a blank stare.

Be ready for that. There are some people in your community who think they own it, and you. Watch what you say and how you say it. Be mindful of how you communicate and know that they could be watching your every move.

In other words, don’t be so grateful that you’re blind. Be ready to go against those long-time members.  They cannot run you. They are not in charge of the community nor are they privy to your short or long-term goals, unless you’ve disclosed them.

You can  often feel indebted to them, especially if (like me) you launched the community and have a deep appreciation for the way they helped it grow.  Don’t be jaded by that. This may be their leisure, but it is your job.

Be careful, and most of all…be smart. You know I wouldn’t blog about this if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

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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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The minute the  ice cream truck was in my neighborhood today, my children knew it. I probably knew it a full 20 seconds before they did though, because I have 28 and 33 years more experience with the ice cream truck and it’s marketing tactics than they do. My ears were trained long ago.

It starts with a jingle. That jingle tells you it’s coming and forces you to act. You will either run home for money, ask a friend to give you some or, depending on your age, burst into tears because you know you don’t have the means to make a purchase.

If you already have money, you can get a jumpstart on persuading the truck to come down your street. A combination of vertical leaps, wild hand-waving and whistling or screaming usually does the trick. Although, you may have to resort to a quick sprint, but that’s only if the driver is a speed-demon.

The point here is this: The ice cream truck is reliable. It always has the goods. You know for certain that there is something on that truck that will make you happy, and it doesn’t matter who is driving.

The driver of the truck knows that he has what you want, so there is no need to recruit you or cajole you into flagging him down. He announces the trucks presence with that jingle and waits for you to make a move. There is no question about his power and he is always at the top of his game.

Does your community have the goods? Is it reliable? Is there something there that will make your members happy every day? What happens when you change drivers?

I am not happy with my answers to those questions, and I bet you aren’t either.

I think we can learn a lot from the ice cream truck. Our communities should speak for themselves. Our content should be top-notch and we should try to offer surprises every now and then. There should be other drivers who care just as much about the truck and it’s upkeep to keep it running in the event you can’t. Many of us are solo acts and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

Shhh…

Do you hear that?

I’ve gotta run home to get my money. You flag him down. I’ll.be.right.back!

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Unless you’re new here, you know that I’m writing a book called “18 Rules of Community Engagement.” You may have even visited my book website.

Several people, (10 to be exact) have read a great amount of the book and offered their endorsements, so that’s 10 people who think it’s a good read and none of them are in my immediate family.

But now that the book is close to launch, I want to share the final rules that made the cut. Here are the 18 rules you will find in the book filled with examples, anecdotes and my experiences with each:

Chapter 4: Stroke a few egos
Chapter 5: Don’t be pushy
Chapter 6: Provide useful information
Chapter 7: Ask Questions
Chapter 8: Use your influence
Chapter 9: Pour on the compliments
Chapter 10: Know and respect the culture
Chapter 11: Complain, Complain, Complain!
Chapter 12: Make it Personal
Chapter 14: Seek expert advice and opinions
Chapter 13: Ask for help
Chapter 15: Accept and respond to criticism
Chapter 16: Make small talk
Chapter 17: Tune-out troublemakers
Chapter 18: Showcase and acknowledge good work
Chapter 19: Don’t try to please everyone
Chapter 20: Manage expectations
Chapter 21: Realize your work is never done

If you’re interested in Chapter 4, go to my book website and join the mailing list. Once you do that, you’ll receive Chapter 4, Stroke a few egos, in its entirety.

Enjoy!

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Online Community Strategist

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I’m always talking about engaging your community. I find it a key aspect of growing an online community. If you don’t show your human side and interact with the people who spend so much of their time in your space, you’re not tapping into its potential.

Blogging about it is good and I hope you find it helpful, but sometimes showing is better. So, here is a list of all of my public exchanges with GOLO members from Monday and Tuesday of this week. It does not include various email exchanges or time spent in the chat area discussing issues and seeking feedback. Some of the comments may be a bit out of context because I was responding to a question or request, but the goal is to give you a few ideas.

  • Oh it will be fine! I’ll e-mail you when I get in so we can coordinate a good time. Good morning, BTW. I’m making lunches. Always like to check in and see what’s happening in the am hours. Later, -Angela…
  • Hi. We need to schedule your profile. My calendar is filling up quickly. How’s tomorrow?
  • If you’re inundated with e-mails–create filters and rules that send them to different mailboxes. That’s the only way I stay sane. -Angela
  • Tomorrow at 2:30. Send me a good number for you to aconnor@cbcnewmedia.com. -Angela
    Jan. 5, 2009
  • Hey there GOLO Animal Lovers group! I just posted two new NCSU pet clinical trials in need of dogs with osteoarthritis. Don’t know if you know any, but thought I’d pass it along. You can find the two latest here: http://www.wral.com/lifestyles/pets/asset_gallery/2427471/ -Angela
  • Powerful post today! -Angela
    Jan. 5 4:32 p.m.
  • Welcome to GOLO, Martin. There are a lot of good people here. We care about our members. Please feel free to blog about your feelings or other issues related to what’s going on. You’ll be surprised by…
  • Congrats on that BEAUTIFUL baby! Thanks for sharing on GOLO! -Angela
    Today at 9:31 a.m.
  • So you’re going to compete with GOLO chat now? Just ask me to open it, mister! 🙂
  • BTW– thanks to ALL of you who do keep it clean in GOLO chat! I greatly appreciate it. Off to a 1030 meeting…
  • Hey Sandra: What’s the latest on your first Blog for hope? Were all the items taken?
  • Welcome back Lady!
  • Welcome to GOLO ! -Angela
  • Hi there Arthur! Your blogs will show up on the short list in a few days. You have to be a member for a little longer before your blogs show up on the most recent list on the homepage, though they do show up on the most recent list on the homepage, though they do show up on the longer list you get by selecting “show more.” Hope that helps. -Angela
  • That is a great gallery of Jayda and Creech. I posted it on the WRAL.com pet page. -Angela
  • I see you’re at the top of the popular list today! Happy New Year. -Angela
  • Done. My best to your uncle! -Angela
  • Hi Gina: Thanks for the compliment! Believe it or not, I do my own hair. I only go to a professional to get it trimmed or cut into a new style.
  • NM-Yes. I second that. LOL!
  • Want me to call her? J/K! Good luck. You know that GOLO will help you do what’s right. I agree with everyone here that you have a good heart.
  • Hi there, I want to tell you personally that I removed your blog. Not because of the content for which you are responsible, but for the comments which you are not. You may not see this as fair so that is why I wanted to reach out to you personally. The comments were way way out of hand and there is no place for all of that on GOLO. -Angela

I hope you found that helpful.

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Online Community Strategist

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Have you heard of the 90-9-1 theory?

Community Guy, Jake McKee has devoted an entire site to this principle. If you haven’t, it essentially states that in any given community or social group, 90% of the users are lurkers, 9% are contributors and only 1% participate “very often.” You can also find more information about it here.

Based on my experience as the managing editor of the online community GOLO, I think this theory is pretty accurate, give or take a few percentage points.
But I don’t think that we should buy into it so much that we don’t focus on turning those lurkers into contributors and those contributors into people who post often. In other words, perhaps as community managers, we can shift the paradigm.
I am certainly going to try.
What’s your take on 90-9-1?

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After blogging pretty regularly and sharing my thoughts on everything from online journalism, and social media savvy to the downward spiral of newspapers and the importance of comments on news stories, I finally got around to writing an e-book.

Here it is: 18 Ways to Engage Users Online

I hope you find it useful and share it with your colleagues and peers. I’m planning two more e-books: One for non-profits and another for furniture industry professionals. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in both industries recently and they are eager to jump start their social media strategies.

So, do me the honors of checking out the ebook and tell me what you think.

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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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