I'm a mod on Chess.SE beta, and we've come up with a couple ads for our site. Not knowing the ins and outs of site promotion, I asked what we would do with our ads. Another mod pro tem answered me by saying:

Well, we can submit this image (along with the appropriate links) as an answer in the "Community Promotion Ads - 2012" meta questions at SE sites that might be appropriate (e.g. Arqade and GameDev spring to mind). Once we post it as an answer at such places, it is up to those communities to decide, by voting it up/down, if it should get any "airtime." If it gets to +6 at a given site, it will show in that site's ads.

Sounded good. We posted it on Arqade, Game Dev, Super User, and SciFi, garnering (as of now) 8 votes, 5 votes, 3 votes, and -1 votes respectively. See especially the comment thread under the SciFi post, in which one user (apparently without any backup) claimed that that SciFi meta post was for SciFi ads only:

I'm all for chess. I love me some hex chess. But this thread is for SciFi.SE.com ads. If you'd like to just pop in and get people aware of the site, you can go to chat and mention it there.

My fellow chess mod who posted that ad answered:

It was (and still is) my understanding that beta SE sites routinely advertise themselves on other SE sites. (That seems to be backed up by the fact that our ad has been substantially upvoted at every other community promotion meta question where we've so far put it: Arqade, Super User, GameDev.) In any case, it is each community's decision what ads it wants to show, and I'm perfectly happy if y'all choose not to show ours. I hope I didn't bother/offend anyone with our posting; it was certainly not my intent.

I concluded that the user must have misunderstood how ads work. The four ads continued to get upvoted, and everything seemed to be going smoothly. Suddenly, this message from a SU mod landed in my inbox, a comment on our ad post there:

If you want to promote another Stack Exchange site, talk to the community promotion team (aka CHAOS). Community promotion ads on other sites aren't the way to go about that.

So I have 2 questions:

  • What is the correct procedure for displaying our new ads?

  • Can the procedure be made more clear to aspiring advertisers?

Update: Now the SU meta post (which has 4 votes) is deleted by the aforementioned mod. Should I protest the unilateral decision? I assume the mod thinks that SE sites shouldn't advertise on other SE sites. Is he wrong? If he is, it should be the SU community which decides, and therefore I should take issue with the deletion.

Resolution: The SU mod was correct to delete it, as a Chess ad was too off-topic for SU. The number of votes is secondary to the constructiveness of the ad for the site.

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    This is an awesome idea! I have a couple of sites to encourage to do this... – Ben Brocka Jul 6 '12 at 19:40
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    I'll just leave this here. – John Jul 8 '12 at 3:02
  • Here's another SU mod who would have deleted it on the same grounds – random Jul 8 '12 at 3:03

There is no official policy as far as I know, there are a few ads for beta sites on related, graduated sites, but I haven't seen any endorsement or any other response of that practice from SE.

I do think that putting up a community ad on a strongly related site is a very good idea, but I think the "strongly related" part is very important.

One aspect of this that is problematic is that the impulse for the ads in these cases come from outside the community, from another site. The community ads are meant to represent the interests of the community on that site, not necessarily the interests of other SE sites. And you can't use the voting on the post as a reliable indicator, as any user with 200 reputation anywhere can vote on those.

So, while I think community ads for related sites are a good idea, I would only use them between strongly related sites. The examples for your site are tenuous in my opinion, there is nothing about SciFi or SU that strongly relates them to Chess.

As for procedure, it might make sense to ping the mods of the site where the ad should run and ask them if it would be appropriate. But as I said, there is no established procedure here as far as I know.

  • All the blog post says is this: Start by creating an original 220 x 250 image ad for a product, service, or event of interest to your community. Then head on over to the meta site for that community and find the latest post tagged community-ads to post your submission. [...] Your ad has to conform to certain guidelines, and there is a minimum score threshold an ad must achieve (currently 6) before it will be shown on the main site. [...] Refer to the individual meta posts for details. It doesn't say what guidelines. – Daniel Jul 6 '12 at 19:46
  • @Danielδ I think it's referring to guidelines about the size of the ad and so on. The important part for this discussion is it needs to be "a product, service, or event of interest to your community". – Matthew Read Jul 6 '12 at 21:29
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    So the mod's statement that community promotion ads on other sites aren't the way to go about that is not actually correct; the SU community should decide. Am I right? – Daniel Jul 7 '12 at 2:45
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    @MatthewRead "of interest to the community" seems to clearly be what voting is for. I don't see that as any sort of "SE sites not allowed" or "mods should delete ads at their discretion" rule at all. – Ben Brocka Jul 8 '12 at 3:07
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    @Danielδ There is precedent — see Mathematica's ad and Chemistry's ad on Physics, for example. However, they were both relevant sites. Chess has nothing to do with SU or scifi and just because there might be a few users interested doesn't mean that you should post an off-topic ad. I wouldn't fault the mod for deleting your ad. If you're going to be pedantic about the community having to vote on it, then in some sense the ad is spam and you could say the mod's actions were justified. – Lorem Ipsum Jul 8 '12 at 5:40
  • @BenBrocka I didn't say anything contrary to that, I agree. – Matthew Read Jul 8 '12 at 7:12
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    @BenBrocka Voting is not reliable IMHO because anyone with at least 200 reputation anywhere can vote, you don't need to be active on the site to vote. So for an ad for another site I'd expect that a significant amount of the votes are from the users involved in the creation of that ad. – Mad Scientist Jul 8 '12 at 8:00
  • @yoda That makes sense, and now, so does MadScientist's answer. I've accepted :) – Daniel Jul 9 '12 at 14:03
  • +1 I have just seen a "strongly related" Beta community ad for Open Data (actually Open geo data) appear in our GIS community promotion ad voting where I think it is helpful to both communities: meta.gis.stackexchange.com/a/3892 – PolyGeo Jan 27 '15 at 6:21

It's one thing to try and post it on appropriate sites. It's another brazen thing to then take that and stretch it to post it wherever there is an open hole.

It may allow for some kind of glory if you put it through, but you still have to respect the guidelines of the collection and audience of community ads as it goes.

Community ads for beta sites often get pushed into the pipeline for other beta sites to display on the sidebar. Those aren't funnelled through the bus that rides the Community Promotion Ads scheme.

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