Carnival Barking and Rapid Fire Posting Chaos: Improving Online Communities From Within

There’s a Facebook community I was recently excited to join, led by one of of the people in our industry I truly respect.

Within two weeks, I found I had to leave it.

It wasn’t largely the group leader’s fault. It was the people who killed it from within. Why? The entire mission of the group was to be a helpful forum, where people could learn from one another. Admirable enough, right? I could go with that. There are always good things to learn from one another.

Well, to make a long story short, it was overrun by people who self-promoted themselves. All. The. Time. The number of people who genuinely were asking for help were outnumbered by the fools trying to stand out from the crowd by talking about themselves to no end. They’d sell first, second and third. Helpfulness wasn’t even on their agenda.

Let’s meet these people. Everyone, tell me a little bit about yourselves – after all, it’s what you do best – and how you screw up well-intended online communities like the one I just left.

The Carnival Barker
“Well, my mode of operation is that I’m going to come into your group and do N-O-T-H-I-N-G but promote my own group. That’s right. I actually have the cojones to say, “Hey everybody in this group. Let me tell you about my other group and you should follow this link to go there right now! Come one, come all!” 100% of what spills out of my mouth is related to my own promotion and I don’t give a crap about anyone else’s group.”

Dan Gershenson: Interesting. I noticed you have an upcoming event. Would you like to plug that? Never mind. You already do. It’s your reason for being. Let’s meet our next person.

The Rapid Fire Poster
“Look at me. I can post 5-10 times in a row on LinkedIn. That means I’m a guru. I must be smart. Hire me. See? I post a lot at once. There’s my picture many times. So I’m an Influencer. Did I mention I’m in the top 1% of LinkedIn users for connecting to everyone with a pulse? What’s a brand strategy?”

DG: Funny, I was wondering if something was malfunctioning with my LinkedIn account and that my only connection was you. Then I realized you’re hogging up the whole damn stream. By the way, do you blink between posts or is it that you don’t understand how to use Buffer properly? Because there are actually settings that enable you to do posts at other times of day. Just saying.

Who’s next? Sir? I’m over here. Are you aware there are other people than yourself? Can you hear me?

The Content Snooze Button
“I post about my own company in the news all the time, like the fact that our company is having a cocktail hour and that it’s Jan in Accounting’s birthday. I’m not talking about the compelling stuff that probably goes on around here, like a case study that makes for an interesting story people might want to read or an entrepreneurial idea that benefitted our culture that others may want to consider adopting for theirs. No, I’m talking about all sell, all the time. I never comment on anything. I don’t even “Like” anything. Because that’s what it’s about in being social – talking about, well, me. The less relevant to their world or captivating whatsoever, the better. 

DG: Hey, I don’t know if you’re interested, but I have this article you might like to read about…

ENG: Why, is it about someone’s birthday in the office?

DG: No, but…

ENG: Don’t care.

DG: OK then. Moving along to our next person. I just connected to this gentleman and while we haven’t met personally, I just received a direct message from him. Let’s hear from him.

The Templatizer
“Hi you. How are you? Follow me. We do blah blah blah blah blah. I’m looking forward to knowing you and all that you do. Here’s my link.”

DG: I feel so close to you already.

Look fellas. Let’s take a time out. You’re flat out wrecking the nature and goodwill of online groups. It’s beyond the point of the fact that you don’t get it in your inward looking nature. Thanks to you, let’s call it what it is for the effect that your presence does to a Group:

A series of display ads. Not a community. 

We can change this by commenting more. Sharing more of other people’s content of value. Just “Liking” more to show we appreciate thoughts other than our own. Just a little bit from each of us would help. Asking a question such as, “Hi, I just helped a client finish a book and am now in need of a publisher to help publish it either traditionally or on Amazon. Does anyone in this group have someone they can recommend?” (side note: I really do need this!). Even our quality of our shares should be better – don’t just post a link on your industry and call it a day – tell me why I should care and why you think it’s an important development so you can your own added thought.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to stop promoting items such as upcoming events your company is holding. My point is that the balance and quality I see from some people absolutely stinks and needs to changed immediately so that a good online community doesn’t turn into a self-promotional posting dump. That doesn’t show authority, collaboration or an openness to network with others.

Think about the best communities in our own physical world – they come from getting to know your neighbor, letting them borrow your rake, asking for help and inviting them over for a barbeque. They become more than just a name and face. They become friends you can speak highly of to others.

They become, you know, a relationship.

Let’s have more variety beyond the 1-way promotions that are completely devoid of story. I’ll bet you may surprise yourself and even find it to be far more fulfilling.

One final note: If you’re the host/moderator of such a community, it’s your responsibility to regularly monitor and step in if these behaviors above aren’t changed after a warning from you. Don’t let some bad apples spoil it for the rest.

Carnival Barker: Can we talk about the breakfast my group is having next Tuesday now?

DG: You’ve got to be kidding me.

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