Fundamentally changing the way you secure your forums

When you're trying to grow a community, you want to reduce the friction for new members to participate. So you open up the forum for new visitors to register and decide not to put anyone on the watchlist, so new people can start posting away once they confirm their emails.
You do this to drive up participation but at the cost of less control.
Soon you realize not only those who genuinely wanted to participate signed up... spammers and their employees signed up too. And you start fighting the endless battles against spammers I wrote in an earlier post.
The most common reaction against spammers is to put everyone new on the watch list - ie. their posts need manual approval until they've accumulated a certain amount of approved posts. Or you close up the forums and ask your moderators to approve each new post.
These workaround makes new members feel unwelcome, because you treat everyone as spammer and want them to prove their innocence.
New members can easily lose patience and leave because they often feel they have to wait too long to see their posts approved.
This is definitely not what you want to grow a community.

Make your new members feel welcome with Akismet

With an automated spam filter like Akismet in place for our new version 5.1, you no longer have to close up your forums to genuine participants. Akismet can determine in real-time if a post is spam so that the forum software can respond right away.
The result: New members feel accepted in real-time and spammers rejected in real-time, too.
And if you want, you can still place new members on the watch list, and have the Akismet plugin approve their new posts for you.
The plugin is smart as it doesn't interfere with your forum setup:
  1. It doesn't slow down the page load time due to the spam check submission to Akismet. Everything happens in the background (multi threading).
  2. It's transparent - it doesn't change the way your existing members use the forum, and it doesn't require new posts to be put on the watchlist in order to perform spam check. It affects Spammers only.
  3. It checks for edited posts too, but doesn't approve them automatically, if the author is on the watch list. Spammers could try tricking Akismet by posting and editing a post right away. In this edge case the software will notify your moderators to inspect the post.
  4. If someone is placed on the watchlist personally (you manually set the approval required flag for this account), our software will notify both Akismet and your moderators at the same time, and will not approve the post automatically.
  5. And if you want to test the reliability of Akismet detection before rolling it out, you can set to log Akismet results only, without any action afterwards (deleting / approving posts).

Your moderators and members will thank you

Moderators feel less overwhelmed because they no longer have to clean up spam. Your members feel more engaged because they no longer have to wade through spam posts to find real discussions.
Version 5.1 with Akismet integration is available for purchase now. If you own a license already, you can download the upgrade from our private forum.
Have a good day everyone!
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Incorporating Google Authorship

Google now focuses more on the Authority aspects of websites when they determine rankings. Google wants to recognize sites that publish real useful info and rank them higher.
In short, the more useful a site is, the more authority it has in Google's eye.
In a recent video (May 2013), Matt Cutts of Google talked about new algorithms being able to detect medical and travel authority sites (beginning 4:36)

If you use GMail / Google Apps, check this out

Important news - GMail & Google Apps are rolling out a new UI that will sort your emails for you. All your emails will be categorized  automatically based on GMail's terminology: "Primary," "Social," or "Promotions" from now on.

Personally I think this feature is excellent, as it acts as a secondary SPAM filter. I no longer have to sort through tons of emails to locate a customer support email from clients.
However, it may actually prevent you from getting emails or forum notifications from ASPPlayground! This can happen to your own members / subscribers, too.
See how you can enjoy the new feature while keeping important mails delivered on time.
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Simple Community Survey

There are many different themes and purposes for communities online. Please share how you use your forum with us so that we can learn from each other.
If your community doesn't fall into any of the categories below, let me know by commenting below. This is a good place to introduce your community, too

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Downside of Facebook Group

Facebook Group Lacks the Ability to Engage Visitors

Social media experts want you to believe social media are the solution to every marketing problem. They also want you to believe Facebook fanpage or group is a good platform for community and engagement.
However, recent studies proved otherwise (references at end of article):
  1. Only 6% of brands' Facebook fans engage with a brand's Facebook content, according to a study from Napkin Labs, a Facebook app developer that works with brands and agencies.
  2. "After Facebook's September 2012 Edgerank algorithm change, brands see an average organic reach of 9.62%, down from 15.56% prior to the change (a 38% drop)"
  3. "Shoppers referred from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube generated only 0.34% of online sales on Black Friday 2012, down from 0.53% in 2011"

APG vNext is Built On Sound Community Principles

On the other hand, the new APG vNext design is still (and has been for 10 years) based on the proven community technology of the web, i.e. Forums. It helps you build a true community with discussions, information and social support around a central theme.

Use APG vNext on Your Site to Avoid Problems with Facebook

The following is a short list of why APG vNext trumps Facebook when you need to build a community:
  1. You have complete control over the platform
    Facebook on the other hand decides what stays and what gets changed. They've changed their timeline algorithms to charge more money for ads and promotions. Even if you promote your posts on Fb, your posts stay visible for only 11 min.
  2. Your members have a platform optimized for discussion, reading, and searching
    The problem with Fb is that you can't categorize discussions. You don't need many categories, but you do need a few for organization. And because you can't search comments, valuable conversations get lost (pushed down) over time.
  3. You have 100% of your members' attention
    When you are on Facebook, you can't prevent your fans from getting notifications from their friends and families, and there are other ads and games to distract them too. If you want engagement, you really need their attention.
  4. You keep visitors on your site
    Traffic is the livelihood of any website and you give it up easily by sending them to Fb. It's gonna be difficult to get your visitors back once you send them away.

APG vNext combines Content Publishing to Help You Grow Community

APG vNext is a platform that integrates Content Publishing to help you promote your community. On Facebook, you look like everybody else, but with APG vNext's new capabilities you can instantly show people what your community is about.
See how you can grow your community with content using APG vNext.
If you recognize the potential of having your own community of like-minded people, you know you shouldn't be sending your members to a place you have no control over, which happens to have a lot of distractions too.
For a feature tour on the brand new APG vNext software, visit our home page.
Stats references:
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How Content ABOUT Your Community Supercharges Engagement

When people write blog posts, it's usually one of the 3 types of content: News (Mars rover's new discovery), How-to's (how to create a 3D powerhouse model), and Stories (the one-legged golfer's journey to scratch golf). Our Knowledge Base falls in the how-to category.
However, with a community platform like APG vNext, there's one more type of content you can write and it performs way better than any of the above when it comes to member engagement.
It's the content About the community. It can include:
  1. Highlights on heated debates in the forum,
  2. Community contests,
  3. Survey results,
  4. Member achievements,
  5. or anything related to the discussions, photos and members in the community itself.

What's so good about this type of content?

The usual content types (news, how-tos, and stories) tend to draw people who are looking for information (lurkers). But when you report things going on in the community, members are naturally drawn to it because it's closely related to their community experience.
They are more likely to contribute (join the discussion) and look forward to your future write-ups. As a result, it improves participation and engagement within the community.

With APG vNext, you can easily promote this type of content

To make the content effective (for engagement), you need to prominently show it to everyone once you've written it.
APG vNext comes with a community homepage that helps you highlight posts you write. You have a Content Slider (1) and a Featured Articles section (2) where you can showcase content:

Why can't we just use an "Announcement" forum for this purpose? It's because posts in the announcement forum don't stand out and people have developed a habit to not read things written there.
APG vNext's new capabilities allows you to create a promotional section on your home page that
  1. stands out from the rest of your site, and
  2. you get to write catchy headlines and use attention-grabbing images.
When it comes to community engagement, nothing beats content about the community itself. And it works even better when you can prominently highlight content on your home page. APG vNext provides the tools to facilitate engagement you don't find anywhere else.
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