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Making the Most of Web Community Building and Participation – Tips Roundup

One of the great things about the internet is the fact you can connect with people from all around the world with diverse backgrounds and interests. In fact I think technology has followed a very human drive for connecting, when techies connected computers together they were really connecting people.

Only yesterday I was telling someone how networking got me to where I am. It’s true success is as much about who you know as what you know. I owe a huge part of my career to online communities and I can not imagine ever having achieved anything without what I learned from participating in them.


When I first discovered “going online” in the early 90’s it was with a 9600 baud modem and Fidonet bulletin boards, in particular a BBS called “sound and vision”. To begin with I was too timid to get involved but I enjoyed reading others comments. Later I moved onto Usenet and became involved with the Sci-Fi newsgroups.

Obviously there were a few extremely hostile members but it amazed me how warm and friendly the majority were. I had found an online home, a cabal of like-minded geeks πŸ™‚ As well as discussion of the main topics there was friendly banter and even real-world meets. I still regard some members of the Red Dwarf newsgroup as friends, although we are not often in touch any longer.

Community participation is a vital skill

Although a trivial topic, the skills I learned from participating in that community has contributed to my career ever since. Those science fiction fans made me discover the human side to the internet, and how to navigate the discussions without the benefit of non-verbal cues. The WWW was still in its infancy so I had yet to get into web communities but it was an effective training ground.

Community leads to career boost

My first break came from a Microsoft ASP programming email list founded by a guy called Charles Carroll. They were the best email lists for ASP developers, hugely popular. Through answering questions and helping people out I made friends and contacts which led to writing for a leading ASP site and community called ASPAlliance, which then led to insider status, which led to early alpha/beta software access, which led to book deals. While I had already written a couple of tutorials for magazines, it was only then that work and offers started coming to me.

Communities lead to contacts, contacts create opportunities

In a similar way I introduced myself to the webmaster and SEO communities, which led to making contacts and friends with some brilliant internet marketers and bloggers. While many tutorials bang the Google and Digg drums, never underestimate the benefit of a friendly link.

Build your community profile now

So how would you go about doing the same thing?

  1. Give first – At no point should you be going in thinking “what can I get out of this?”. It should be all about making yourself useful. In any community there will be givers and takers. Be a giver. You need to get known for being a friendly, helpful and valuable member of the community.
  2. Go where people are – They will not come to you, you have to find them. Find where the best communities are and hang out. Follow the rules, written and unwritten, get involved and stick at it. Be consistent and don’t expect instant results. Learn how to comment. Leave quality comments.
  3. Be humble – If you begin to feel you are making yourself known then this is a dangerous period. Profile is good, arrogance bad. See #1 – valuable, friendly. Even if it is your community, it actually belongs to the members as a whole. One person does not a community make, no matter how magnetic your personality.
  4. Spread the love – If you have influence use it for good. Don’t be hoarding all the good stuff, link out, refer people, help people out, connect and match-make.
  5. MixThere is more to the web than the big names. Seek out alternatives. Don’t just hang out where you are popular. This is not Cheers bar, you need to get out and make new friends. Where are you going next?
  6. Nurture visitors – Look after your own community close to home. Start with your blog comments. Interact. Make it easy to comment. Encourage comments by interacting, nurturing, incentivising, rewarding. When you have a good number of comments then you can consider a forum.
  7. Follow upMake it easy for your commenters to follow up, and follow up on other blogs. Remember where you have been, do not leave a conversation hanging. Take good advice and put effort and thought into your replies. Be careful with assumptions.
  8. Know your communities What is a community? There are communities all around us. Communities you join and communities you own. You have an audience, within that you have web readers, RSS readers, email readers (you do have email switched on, right?), commenters, fellow bloggers, MyBlogLog community and visitors, maybe forum members. Each have different requirements. Get to know each and deliver what they need. Actively build your community.
  9. Have fun – Even the most serious of topics are discussed by actual human beings. Your goal is to help and be friendly. It is far easier to make friends when you are having fun.
  10. Be brand aware – All you have online is your brand. Your persona, your reputation. The majority of people will not know you, they will think they know you. Look after your brand, think carefully before hitting submit, protect your good reputation, stop others from copying or damaging it. Be positive and constructive.

Summary

In summary, communities are a lot of effort but have the power to build your profile, make valuable life-long friends, drive traffic, create loyalty, and most of all are a lot of fun.

Thanks to all for your submissions, anyone who was not included there is always next time πŸ™‚

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Comments

  1. Great article and helpful advice, Chris. What you outline above says everything about why I enjoy reading your blog. You have always made me feel like I’m you’re equal here, rather than an inconsequential reader and participant on your message board. Thanks for telling us more about how you got there, and what we can do to reach out and find readers for our blogs.

  2. Great article and helpful advice, Chris. What you outline above says everything about why I enjoy reading your blog. You have always made me feel like I’m you’re equal here, rather than an inconsequential reader and participant on your message board. Thanks for telling us more about how you got there, and what we can do to reach out and find readers for our blogs.

  3. Chris, all of these are very good tips and advice. Thanks for the link as well. πŸ™‚

  4. Chris, all of these are very good tips and advice. Thanks for the link as well. πŸ™‚

  5. One of the things I like the most about the internet is the community and networking opportunities. I have met many wonderful friends and colleagues online, and they make this business a pleasure. I am always amazed at how generous most people I encounter online are as well. Great post – Stumbled, Dugg, etc.

  6. One of the things I like the most about the internet is the community and networking opportunities. I have met many wonderful friends and colleagues online, and they make this business a pleasure. I am always amazed at how generous most people I encounter online are as well. Great post – Stumbled, Dugg, etc.

  7. Thanks for the link Chris. I really like the way you integrate all these links into the post rather than using the title of the post and making a big list. Good stuff πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks for the link Chris. I really like the way you integrate all these links into the post rather than using the title of the post and making a big list. Good stuff πŸ™‚

  9. wow lots of good links in there, thanks Chris. i have started to look at these social sites as a means of getting some traffic to my site and it can be quite intimidating. after spending some time on them though they are extremely valuable to anyone that wants to build a network of friends and people interested in their niche or area of expertise

  10. wow lots of good links in there, thanks Chris. i have started to look at these social sites as a means of getting some traffic to my site and it can be quite intimidating. after spending some time on them though they are extremely valuable to anyone that wants to build a network of friends and people interested in their niche or area of expertise

  11. Chris,
    Thanks for the link! I’m looking forward to some good information in these resources.

  12. Chris,
    Thanks for the link! I’m looking forward to some good information in these resources.

  13. Absolutely Chris – we humans are all just looking to connect. It’s fabulous that we seem to be making it constantly easier through the web to find our tribe, kin, fellow geeks – whatever it is we desire to feel part of.

    Thanks for putting together such a useful list and I agree with Linda – your being so humble is definitely one of the reasons I read your blog πŸ™‚

  14. Absolutely Chris – we humans are all just looking to connect. It’s fabulous that we seem to be making it constantly easier through the web to find our tribe, kin, fellow geeks – whatever it is we desire to feel part of.

    Thanks for putting together such a useful list and I agree with Linda – your being so humble is definitely one of the reasons I read your blog πŸ™‚

  15. thannks for the link Chris πŸ™‚

  16. thannks for the link Chris πŸ™‚

  17. Chris,

    Thanks for the link love.

    Looks like have some really good reading to do this weekend.

  18. Chris,

    Thanks for the link love.

    Looks like have some really good reading to do this weekend.

  19. This is well done Chris. Rather than just a bunch of links in a list, your provided context and meaning to each and everyone of them. I appreciate the work!

  20. This is well done Chris. Rather than just a bunch of links in a list, your provided context and meaning to each and everyone of them. I appreciate the work!

  21. @Linda – Thanks, I appreciate you saying so. I think a lot of times websites can be cold, I prefer it when it feels like you are welcoming people to your home πŸ™‚

    @Tay – You are welcome πŸ™‚

    @Randa – Yeah working online can be lonely if you let it, but I have found it to be a terrific way to meet people πŸ™‚

    @Matt – It makes it a longer process but I hope it makes for more interesting reading πŸ™‚

    @doug – Keep plugging away at them and you do get results. I focus most on SU right now as I find Digg the most intimidating, although this blog has been up on digg front page about 4 times which is about once every two months πŸ™‚

    @Steven – This article would have not existed without submissions πŸ™‚

    @LAChick – Aww shucks, you will have me blushing πŸ™‚

    @Kevin – Any time πŸ™‚

    @George – Yup, which reminds me, I really ought to sort out a printing css

    @Cash Flow Guy – I recommend everybody try it πŸ™‚

  22. @Linda – Thanks, I appreciate you saying so. I think a lot of times websites can be cold, I prefer it when it feels like you are welcoming people to your home πŸ™‚

    @Tay – You are welcome πŸ™‚

    @Randa – Yeah working online can be lonely if you let it, but I have found it to be a terrific way to meet people πŸ™‚

    @Matt – It makes it a longer process but I hope it makes for more interesting reading πŸ™‚

    @doug – Keep plugging away at them and you do get results. I focus most on SU right now as I find Digg the most intimidating, although this blog has been up on digg front page about 4 times which is about once every two months πŸ™‚

    @Steven – This article would have not existed without submissions πŸ™‚

    @LAChick – Aww shucks, you will have me blushing πŸ™‚

    @Kevin – Any time πŸ™‚

    @George – Yup, which reminds me, I really ought to sort out a printing css

    @Cash Flow Guy – I recommend everybody try it πŸ™‚

  23. Hey Chris,

    I thought this was so right on I blogged it yesterday. Thanks for it! It maps my experience exactly, from the early BBS experiences with a 300 bd modem (that was a trip- watching the letters appear on the screen o n e a t a t i m e- up through today.

    Thanks!

  24. Hey Chris,

    I thought this was so right on I blogged it yesterday. Thanks for it! It maps my experience exactly, from the early BBS experiences with a 300 bd modem (that was a trip- watching the letters appear on the screen o n e a t a t i m e- up through today.

    Thanks!

  25. Thanks Mark, you are too kind πŸ™‚ Heh 300 baud modems must have been a nightmare, although I do recall the 9600 was referred to as “the fast one”! πŸ™‚

  26. Thanks Mark, you are too kind πŸ™‚ Heh 300 baud modems must have been a nightmare, although I do recall the 9600 was referred to as “the fast one”! πŸ™‚

  27. actually, 300 baud was exciting at the time. It was such a new thing, our expectations were low… What was frustrating was waiting for someone who was currently using the BBS to finish up and hang up, so I could call in and comment. Can you imagine? πŸ™‚

  28. actually, 300 baud was exciting at the time. It was such a new thing, our expectations were low… What was frustrating was waiting for someone who was currently using the BBS to finish up and hang up, so I could call in and comment. Can you imagine? πŸ™‚

  29. Great advice Chris. I have been involved with various relationship building activities for several years including creating a resources Website, developing a tips newsletter, publishing articles, and speaking. More recently, I got involved in blogging and believe that it is an awesome tool to further develop your brand and connect with people. What you mention above are great for tips for bloggers.

  30. Great advice Chris. I have been involved with various relationship building activities for several years including creating a resources Website, developing a tips newsletter, publishing articles, and speaking. More recently, I got involved in blogging and believe that it is an awesome tool to further develop your brand and connect with people. What you mention above are great for tips for bloggers.

  31. Sheesh, Mark, I vividly remember my first modem which was a 300 baud jobber that could be throttled back down to as low as 150 if that was too blazingly quick.

    Good times, good times…

  32. Sheesh, Mark, I vividly remember my first modem which was a 300 baud jobber that could be throttled back down to as low as 150 if that was too blazingly quick.

    Good times, good times…