Looking for Something?

Review: Online Community Management for Dummies (Plus a Giveaway!)


What’s the difference between an online community manager and a moderator? More cowbell.

At least, that’s the answer BlogWorld’s very own community manager Deb Ng gives in her new book Online Community Management for Dummies. Deb was nice enough to send me a copy to review, and at the end of this post, she even has a special giveaway for the BlogWorld community!

Online Community Management for Dummies is part of the best-selling Dummies guide series from Wiley. On the cover, Deb promises to teach readers how to:

  • Identify core tasks for community managers
  • Build and maintain positive relationships within your online community
  • Establish policies and transparency
  • Manager comments, respond to criticism, and evaluate ROI

I whole-heartedly think she fulfills these promises.

If you have blog, podcaster, business Facebook page, forum, video series, or any kind of other online content, you have a community – people who enjoy what you do and feel a sense of camaraderie about your online presence. A lot of people make the mistake of never engaging their community or even acknowledging their existence, but without these loyal people supporting your work online, you’re dead in the water. Deb’s book is all about how to interact online in a way that thanks your community for their support, builds your network of fans, and helps them thrive.

Online Community Management for Dummies is 314 pages split into the following parts:

  • Part I: The Basics of¬† Online Community Management
  • Part II: Embracing the Community Manager’s Role
  • Part III: Building a Productive Online Community
  • Part IV: Growing Your Community
  • Part V: Assessing the Health of Your Community
  • Part VI: Taking Your Community Offline
  • Part VII: The Part of Tens (Ten Essential Community Manager Tasks, Ten Must-Have Skills for Community Managers, and Ten Best Practices of a Community Manager)

I like that this book is so encompassing and even covers the complexities surrounding specific types of communities, such as communities for children. The biggest negative, in my opinion, is that this is a Dummies book. I think Deb does a great job making the content interesting, but I personally tend to enjoy books that have less of a rigid structure and more personal stories about failures and successes. That said, if you’re new to community management, the structure of a Dummies book makes it easy to follow along and learn step-by-step, so don’t let this observation of mine deter you from picking up a copy.

I found the most helpful section of this book to be Chapter 7: Listening to Your Community. Writes Deb,

It’s one thing to watch and a whole other things to listen. During your rounds on the social networks, blogs, and community pages, pay attention to what people are saying. How many members are saying the same things? Members won’t come to you with every concern or request, but they may share ideas with one another. Pay attention to what they’re saying an take notes.

I think that’s where a lot of community managers fall short – they monitor, but don’t actually listen. Of course, this is not the only point of good advice in the book. Deb also makes a lot of stellar suggestions and observations such as:

  • Adding a community calender so members know what’s coming up
  • Rewarding loyalty with prizes and perks
  • Encouraging members to share rather than making it all about you
  • Using Google alerts to make sure you know what people are saying about you
  • Consider planning real-world meetups/tweetups
  • Avoiding the negativity trap

I could continue, but in all honestly, you should just pick up a copy yourself! ūüėČ

Or you could win a copy! That’s right, Deb has agreed to give away a copy of Online Community Management for Dummies to one lucky winner. To enter, simply leave a comment below responding to the following community challenge:

You write a blog post that goes viral and starts bringing in hundreds of comments. As readers weigh in with their opinion and reply to one another in the comments section of your blog post, you notice that one commenter continually makes negative remarks and calls other people names. He’s not just trolling, because he actually has insightful things to say about the topic, but his comments are increasingly rude and hurtful not just to you, but to other commenters. What do you do?

Leave a comment below by Friday, May 11, 2012 at 5 PM EST and one lucky winner will be drawn to receive a copy of Deb’s book!

(Fine print: Winner will be drawn using Random.org and notified via email. Winner must respond within five business days to claim this prize. You may comment as often as you like, but only one comment per person will count as an entry. Commenting from multiple accounts and other attempts to cheat the system will result in disqualification. Only comments answering the above question will count as entries, though other comments are welcome. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. All decisions made by BlogWorld are final. Void where prohibited.)


  • shantomo

    This commenter might have insight; however s/he is expressing it in a trolling fashion and trying to derail any sensible discussion.¬†In short, I would not want to feed the commenter’s craving for attention. First, I would get myself into a mind space where I can view the discussion objectively. Secondly, I’d have to write a few draft response where I’d vent on the first couple of draft and arrive at the final draft that would be objective. Third, the initial response would include acknowledging that his/her point of view is insightful and thank him/her for bringing it up. Fourth, make any criticism sound like criticism of myself and mention that it’s important to be respectful to others, provide fair warning that further rude and hurtful comments are not acceptable and will be removed. Fifth, incorporating the commenter’s insight, ask a question to the rest of the group to encourage the discussion. Sixth, if the commenter is still rude and hurtful, then follow through i.e. remove the comments. With this, I throw my hat in the ring.

    • allison_boyer

       @shantomo I LOVE your point about writing a few responses so you can vent in the first couple and get to a final draft that is more objective. I know that I personally get really emotional when someone is being negative, and I never regret waiting to answer rather than shouting off my initial reaction.

      • debng

         @allison_boyer  @shantomo One of the top rules of community management is to never fire off in anger. Ever.

        • shantomo

          ¬†@debng¬†¬†@allison_boyer¬†Agreed that you wouldn’t want to fire off in anger. Once you put it out there, it’s unlikely that you can take it back, even more so on the Internet. Having commenting policy would greatly help in regulating conduct in the space, this way, everyone receives fair warning of unacceptable conduct.

  • littlemelinda

    I say hurtful parties should be addressed separately. I’d give a warning to make them aware of the harm their comments might be causing while thanking them for sharing their constructive thoughts.¬† Sometimes you just need to call it to their attention and they’ll stop!

  • PaulaWhidden

    I would send that writer a personal email and let them know how please I am to have them participate in this conversation. ¬†I would also make clear our community rule of courtesy at all times. ¬†All voices are welcome, as long as we remain courteous of the opinions of others. ¬†Then, I’d take a wait and see attitude. ¬†If this commenter disregards my email. ¬†I’d have to make a comment in the open on the comments listing saying the same thing and making it known, we want all voices present in discussion as long as they respect on another ability to be expressive. ¬†Those who cannot follow the rule will be black listed and cannot participate. ¬†
    It important to affirm the positive while discouraging and not allowing the offensive. 

    • allison_boyer

      ¬†@PaulaWhidden I think something you said is very interesting – that it is “important to affirm the positive.” I think too many community mangers disregard that step and only pipe up with something is going wrong. It’s important to be encouraging as well (and that’s something I think Deb does VERY well).

    • debng

      ¬†@PaulaWhidden¬†I like your idea of an email, but if the commenter continues, I’d ask if we could have a phone or skype chat. I’d personally explain why he or she is being disruptive, and that I wish it wasn’t so because s/he always has such valuable input beyond the insults.. If that person is not agreeable and continues I’d suggest a temporary vacation from the community. Sometimes a private seven day banning is more effective than a public smack down. I would let him or her know during the call that I would be doing so if things don’t change.

  • carnellm

    Well first of all, I would love to have that problem! I would love to have that many readers actively involved on one of my blogs. But, what I would do in this case is I would send them a private message and explain the situation. Tell them how I and the other readers value their input, but could they please try to tone it down a bit or be a bit less negative. If that didn’t work, I would threaten to sic Deb Ng on them!!

    • allison_boyer

      ¬†@carnellm That’s my approach too – threaten them with Deb Ng! ūüėÄ (And I agree, I also would love to have that problem)

    • debng

       @carnellm Hah!
      Except I don’t want to be someone people are afraid of. I’d rather they trusted me, not feared me.

  • VickyDobbin

    I’d politely address the comments in the group — everyone else is already seeing the offensive content, so it’s not a secret. If the comments violate group rules, i’d give the poster a head’s up privately and offer them one last chance to clean up or be booted.¬†

    • allison_boyer

       @VickyDobbin I like the approach of privately talking to the poster. Sometimes, I think mods and community managers should do that instead of public calling people out.

      • debng

        ¬†@allison_boyer¬†¬†@VickyDobbin¬†I agree, Alli. When you call people out publicly it only leads to more discontent. Privately is always best unless the entire group is involved. Plus you don’t want the whole community piling on to one person.

  • demik3

    What @VickyDobbin¬† said. I think it’s important to address it in the group to get some crowd control. People are going to want to react and I would want to curtail that before it got out of hand. It’s easy to get over the top about something you are passionate but I like things kept respectful.

    • debng

      ¬†@demik3¬†I think it depends. My first recourse is always to take it outside. If only one person is creating negativity, only one person needs to be addressed. The best community managers are in the background. You don’t always see them or hear them, but you know they’re there.
      If it becomes a group pile on, then the group needs to be reminded of the rules. But if it’s one person, take it private because this way the back and forth is only between you and one other person.
      At least that’s the way I’d do it.

  • SharelOmer

    Hi allison_boyer ,
    thank you for this review, our passion is social community¬†management, and this book has a lot of insights…¬†
    I loved the part about 2-way¬†relationship…what they call “listen to your community” – you can’t really build relatiaonship with your social community without hearing what they have to say.
    Another key point is the¬†ability¬†to focus your efforts, it’s easy to miss¬†engagements¬†with important people to your biz…
    Looking for more great articles ūüôā and also to participate in blog world at the end of the month (we have a booth there ūüôā )

  • VirginieRenson

    I’d probably react in 2 steps: first, as I read already in the other comments, notify privately the negative commenter. ¬†Valuing his comments and maybe helping a bit by simply stating what’s not ok. Discussing would probably be the best option, as to discover why he needs to be rude to express his opinion. If what he has to say is really of value, I think it’s worth having this discussion (email, PM, depends on the platform and on the contact information he left). I’d also warn him that I’d be posting something adressing the issue publicly, because people need to know you’re also watching what’s happening, and not allowing someone to breach the rules & well-being of the community just because he has interesting things to say.
    I’d also probably handle the reaction of the people being sweared at, be it privately or publicly. I’d probably go for a public notice (not being patronizing or such, merely stating the rules of the community).

    • allison_boyer

      ¬†@VirginieRenson I think it’s very important to have some general community rules in place (like no swearing, if that’s important to you). Great point, Virginie!

  • BevVZ

    I think the community manager in the “challenge” made a mistake in not addressing Mr. Negativity’s bad manners at the first instance. Instead, Mr. Negativity was allowed to continue with his trollish behavior. The community manager should have gently/kindly/politely let Mr. Negativity know right away that though his insightful comments were welcomed/appreciated/valued, his harrassment and unkind remarks directed at other members of the community were inappropriate. Even better if this can be done with a sense of humor. And the best of all possible worlds is if other members of the community chime in and treat Mr. Negativity with the same gentle respect and humor that the community manager offers.
    I think taking the behavior discussion off the page through email or private messaging can mess with transparency. And I think solving the issue as a community makes the community stronger.

    • allison_boyer

      ¬†@BevVZ I think you make a good point, Bev – it’s important for community managers to speak up right away, not let things slide the first time. And a sense of humor definitely can help! Interesting point you bring up about transparency too. I think there are pros and cons to solving an issue privately, and you definitely hit on a big con!

  • ViiWorks

    Most important factor considered for a successful <a href=”http://www.viiworks.com” target=”_blank”>online community</a> manager is to address issues immediately. Nobody likes to be ignored when an issue arises. Community members will feel at ease knowing they are well taken care of.

Learn About NMX


Recent Comments