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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, if you are the right person, March 21, 2012
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This review is from: Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community (Kindle Edition)
The choice of available books on online communities is overwhelming; I got a shortlist from a professor acquaintance who teaches a class on the subject and in the end chose this one because its title promised a basic overview and, at less than 100 pages, it was much less intimidating than other offerings. The primary author, Robyn Tippins, seems to be a respected professional community manager with 10+ years of experience in the field. I confess that I'm not all that familiar with the social web/blogging landscape and so my opinion about her expertise in the field, based on her professional associations, was influenced by the mention of a big-name company (Yahoo).

The book is clearly targeted at small business owners, and its central theme is how to support your business with an online community. In this respect, the title "How to grow an online community" is a bit misleading. Strictly speaking, there is only one chapter that addresses directly the "how" question - Chapter 5, "The Golden Rule". Even this chapter might disappoint people who are looking for very specific or technical instructions. Concrete concerns, such as "what type of community should I build?", "what platform do I need to use?", "exactly what features do I need to implement to achieve my goals?", are not addressed in this book. Instead, the focus is on broader strategies of interaction with the members of the community: "Bribes", "Speedy Response", "Accountability", etc. The advice is supported with real-world examples. While these examples are a good illustration of the points made and, occasionally, quite memorable (the story of Digg's founder admission that the company screwed up by burying the posts that contained the Unix DVD key in particular comes to my mind) , I wished there were more of them. Because the strategies suggested remain at the level of general advice, without further evidence they can seem a bit superficial - maybe it is, in general, the fate of the hard-won wisdom of experience to sound a bit trite and obvious when it's served straight-up.

Where the book truly shines, in my opinion, is in its attempt to educate people about what an online community can and cannot do for their businesses. The first chapter, "What it means to build community", introduces themes that are then elaborated in the rest of the book: businesses need to be aware that an on-line community represents them and can affect their reputation; it takes effort to build a community; returns from a community are not easily quantifiable; trying too hard to use a community (your own or a social media network community) for marketing and self-promotion can backfire. These are good lessons to learn from others rather than from one's own experience, and I think the book does a great job of encouraging people to reflect on their goals and adjust their expectations before diving in the enterprise of building an online community. Fortunately, the message is not didactic, despite the fact that the overly casual tone of the book and the relentless second-person pronoun mode of address made a couple of remarks appear condescending.

To sum up: would I recommend reading this book? Yes, if you are a small business owner who wants a big-picture view of what's involved in building an on-line community and what benefits might be derived from it. The book is a quick read and it will help you gauge your commitment to the project. The book could also be helpful if you already have a community and you're wondering how you should use or manage it more effectively. However, if you want to know how to design a community, or have very specific questions about how to do X, Y or Z with your community, this book is not for you.
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