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How not to screw up community management

on November 5, 2010

Here are the three steps to managing your community.

  1. Get a community.
  2. Listen to your community.
  3. Respond to your community.

The first step reminds me of that old joke, “How do you become a millionaire? Step one: Start with a million dollars.”

OK, got your million dollars and your community?

Great, then the next two steps aren’t really that hard, they just require you to actually do the work. And it’s amazing how those two steps are never prioritized. In many cases it never gets done because people think they have something more important to do. Got some more email to answer?

Your community is more important than you

Keep that in mind. In fact print it out and put it on the top of your printer so it’ll remind you to listen and respond to your community before you check your email. If you want your audience to know and believe you care about them, then you actually have to demonstrate that you care about them. You’re providing service for them. And the more service you provide, the more loyal they’ll become, and the more value they’ll attribute to your brand or product.

Last week I moderated a panel at the FailCon conference entitled “Community Management: Failing to Connect.” On the panel joining me were:

As a summary of the discussion, here is some of the experiential advice that came up in our discussion:

  • Not a surprise, but threats still bring communities together.
  • Don’t just dump change on your community. Warn them it’s going to come just before you do it, not weeks or months before. Then write a long article or create a video explaining the changes you made and why you made them.
  • When you make a change to your system, don’t focus on the first 24-48 hours of reactions. Those are often knee jerk responses from people who don’t like change. To really know what’s going on with your changes and if they’re truly having a profound (negative or positive) affect, look at the feedback from the subsequent two weeks after the change.
  • Humor is extremely difficult to get across in a community (Editorial note: This is why I always use emoticons to indicate I’m trying to be funny or sarcastic.)
  • Be wary of the use of the term “ASAP” in a community environment. It often comes off as demanding and you can get some really negative responses.
  • If you’re going to be participating in a community, people are going to want to see more about you. That means you have to have a social presence and blog.
  • Don’t pick favorites. Be like Yoko Ono and love everyone.
  • Monitor your community.
  • Community is a long play. Don’t force your way in or expect everyone to be your friend instantaneously. Train your entire staff to participate in the community whether it’s the formal community or just in the general social media sphere. There’s gold in your employees’ social networks.
  • Do whatever it takes to build a personal emotional connection.
  • Don’t assume the true “influencers” are the ones who have popular blogs. Everyone is an influencer to their friends and family.
  • If someone is making negative comments in your community, and they’re valid, you need to validate them. That’s what they’re looking for. Often a detractor, once validated, can become an advocate for you.

Stock photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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