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How to Make the Most of Your Online Community

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I'm willing to bet that even if you're reading this post in the online IAM Community,  you rarely -- if ever -- talk  to other customers in the community or to the community manager. Too bad. Sure, you may always communicate with them through a seemingly friendly forum post on this community, or respond in a social media vehicle like Twitter or even send occasional email. But have you actually talked to anyone from the community, face-to-face, or by phone? Have you reached out to learn more about them, as real, live people? How well do you know your fellow community members? What products do they use? What are their best practices? Who are their favorite sports teams? Get to know your fellow community members as more than a shadowy persona who post on occasion to the community.

Etienne Wenger says that the best way to benefit from communities is to engage with its members. That means reaching out to new and existing members to chat, to welcome them, engaging them in conversation now and again, beyond, if you can, digital communication.  If you see a post from a fellow member that interests you, reply to it, and ask the poster to contact you.  Or, better still, contact the community manager and ask if you can be connected to the poster by offering your phone number.  Your community manager can help you make those connections. By the way, it's also a good way to meet the community manager! Be sure to include your phone number in inquiry emails. Go beyond the limitations of the text-based forum. Then, don't be afraid to pick up the phone when it rings.  It's IAM calling.