Disclosure: I have been quoted in this book and received a free copy. However, this is an unsolicited and unsponsored book review that is completely of my own opinion.
Angela Connor is the managing editor of user generated content at WRAL.com. In early 2007 she launched WRAL.com’s first online community, GOLO. Today, that community (which Angela continues to manage) now boasts over 13,000 members.
Although quite different from Patrick O’Keefe’s book, I still recommend 18 Rules of Community Engagement to all community managers. The book will be more valuable to those new to the role, or still deciding whether a community is right for them – but I believe it still offers value to the more experienced community manager, too. I certainly came away with a couple of new ideas after reading the book.
The book is organised into the following chapters:
- If you build it will they come?
- User participation and the 90-9-1 principle
- The road to engagement
- The Rules
Angela doesn’t promise you overnight success if you follow her advice. This proves her credibility. Indeed, she actually states that success will not happen overnight and that anything short of a long term commitment will yield mediocre results. I really like the opening chapter of the book – Angela doesn’t assume her readers will know what a community manager is (there is no exact definition) but she gives some pretty solid guidelines as to what they should be doing!
This book could easily have been a piece of propaganda arguing that all brands need an online community and that they offer nothing but huge benefits. Angela convinces you of the realities in this book, though. Besides repeatedly stating that communities take time to develop, she also covers some of the nastier sides of community building – abusive users. She’ll tell you over and over again just how much hard work community building is, and how you need to have personality, tact, an amazingly thick skin and a strong work ethic. I couldn’t agree more.
Full of examples
Here’s what I love about Angela’s book. It’s not just her advice and experience you are getting. During the writing process, Angela openly canvassed the opinions of others involved in community management. For example, in the chapter about how to accept and respond to criticism, Angela tells you what she does and then tells you what others do. The result is a book that is richer and more valuable.
Angela’s book isn’t full of theories, facts and figures. It’s not an academic work. It’s just full of advice, backed up with examples. Her experience shines through. For example, in one section Angela recommends asking questions to encourage activity. She doesn’t stop there, though – she then gives a list of questions she has used (and that you could use, too) that got her results. She recommends sharing stories to engage members – and then gives a list of stories that have worked at GOLO.
There were a few points in Angela’s book that I disagreed with. For example, Angela states that ego stroking is largely for longtime members or regular contributors. Personally, I would focus on complimenting the less active members in a bid to get them more engaged with the community – after all, the power members are already hooked. Angela also extols the concept of encouraging complaints to boost activity and engagement. Yes, this can work – but you need to be very careful that you aren’t helping your community descend into nothing but negativity.
18 Rules of Community Engagement is an easy book to read. You could read it from cover to cover in a few hours – at less than 100 pages, it is certainly less comprehensive that Patrick’s book which runs to over 300. However, this book is far more specific – it focuses on how to engage your members. Patrick’s book focuses on how to manage forums and their members. Both books should be seen as complementary to one another.
I’m just nitpicking when I comment about weaknesses with the book. It’s easy to read and is full of great information. Angela repeatedly tells readers about the importance of being human – of coming across as a real person. Of meaning what you say. Of being personable. She practices what she preaches in this book – the prose is conversational and genuine.
Angela knows that community managers work differently – they have their own opinions as to what works and their communities are unique. Angela doesn’t pretend that her book will make you an expert. She is honest – she simply tells you what has worked for her (and others) and offers you encouragement to go out and find what will work for your community.
- Amazon: 18 Rules of Community Engagement
- Author: Angela Connor
- Publisher: Happy About
- ISBN-13: 978-1600051425
- ISBN-10: 1600051421