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Being an Effective Community Member

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes someone a good community member.

Not just here at the WritAnon community, of course, but in the Internet community (and to a lesser extent, the world) in general.

The reason most people join a community is typically that they think they’re going to get something out of it.  That’s certainly fine:  you should get a benefit from joining a community, be it gaining a skill, access to other talented people, or an audience for your work.

However, to be a good community member, you need to give at least as much as you want to receive.

You also need to make sure you’re not just doing shameless self-promotion.  If all you do is ask for something from the community (without giving back), you’re likely to start getting fewer and fewer responses to your own work.

Here are a few simple rules I use in the forums, Twitter, or Qwisk, as well as the numerous other social communities I frequent:

1.  For every self-promoting post,  write three responses to others.

This allows you to show others that you’re out to help everyone, not just yourself.  No one likes to see someone taking advantage of others, so don’t let others think you’re just in it for yourself.  Besides, you never know when something interesting will come out of a conversation.

2.  Get to know a few members well, then share mutually interesting articles.

This is a matter of focusing your efforts.  At first, you may not know anyone, so it makes sense to pay attention to a few people who you find interesting.  After seeing a few posts from you, they’re more likely to recognize your name and reply when you post something.

If you notice that someone consistently writes about a particular topic, you may want to share something interesting related to that interest area.  It’s an easy way to help others pay attention to your work.

3.  Give each member feedback that you would like to see.

The best way to know whether your feedback is useful is to give advice you would like to hear.  This comes with a caveat:  add an extra layer of kindness to the criticism.  Unless you know the member well, it’s hard to know how criticism will be received.  Err on the side of being too nice until you get to know them better.

4.  Post regularly.

This doesn’t mean you have to post every day, but try to post a few times each week.  This helps keep you active in the minds of the other community members, and helps you to establish a reputation within the community.

5.  Thank people when they’ve helped you.

If someone gave you a good piece of advice, remember to thank them.  Showing your gratitude is a free and easy way to help someone else feel good about helping you, and encourages them to continue to be an effective community member.  Inspiring others is a pretty cool feeling.

Feel free to join in the WritAnon community, and start posting!

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