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Community Management and Social Media into 2011

This post is a riff on 10 Community Roundtable Member Predictions for 2011. If you don’t follow the Community Roundtable, you should — they are very knowledgeable about an aspect of social media that is very near and dear to me — the creation, nurturing and management of online communities. I only wish that my Friday Worcester schedule didn’t conflict with their biweekly lunches!

I am particularly interested in #2, #3 and #4 on their list.

#2. Managing international social initiatives. Language is only one complex dimension to this and it also includes tools, regulatory environments, and culture. The combination makes it very challenging for large corporations that operate in many countries around the world. Social structures may mature into more localized or regionalized entities. – I well recall, a good seven or so years ago, attempting to come up with a good list of words for the profanity filter on Able2know. First, you round up the usual suspects, such as George Karlin’s Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television. Then you move on, to abbreviations, synonyms and the like. Racial epithets, religious slurs, etc. But then it starts to get tricky, when you add in an international element. I don’t find the word “bloody” to be offensive at all, but British friends can find it to be downright awful. As a woman, and a Jew, did my own personal sensitivities color my perceptions? Was I laying into the list more heavily skewed as against slang terms for female anatomy, or terms that offended my religion but weren’t even being used anymore? Relatively recently, when Able2Know added a thumbs up/thumbs down voting system, plus the ability to ignore topics, posts and users, the profanity filter was dropped. Now that forum is more open (although the Moderating Team continues to eliminate spam and pornography and does watch out for comments that are beyond the pale), and there is a certain thing to be said for allowing consenting adults to let fly if they so desire. A contrast to that is Trek United, which continues to have a filter (they replace every naughty word with “Phlox”, the name of an alien character. That can make for some rather amusing exchanges). That forum is more genteel, to be sure. But are the restrictions better, worse or just different? Of course there are many, many words out there that are not offensive ones, and there are many more differences in language and culture, and not just with English speakers. But I think the point is illustrative — cultural differences matter, and they can matter in unexpected ways that can cause quite a ripple effect.

#3. Changing the 90-9-1 rule. It is no longer good enough to only have 1% of constituents actively participating so training and mainstreaming the use of social functionality will be a theme going forward. – Regular users often fret about a lack of response, and a skewed ratio. Often views versus responses are 10-1 or even 100-1. Here’s a topic where the ratio is more like 500-1. But I think that skips a bit of the point. It’s certainly less than an issue on a free site like Able2know, but converting lurkers to creators is not going to happen overnight. And, it might not happen at all. Creating good content is important, and vital, and it’s particularly important for the content to be created by a lot of different people with dissimilar perspectives. But you can lead your members (horses) to the topics (water). You can’t always make them post (drink).

#4. Creating a content supply chain and managing it with the same discipline as physical product supply chains. – This is of particular interest to me because it can often be a chore to come up with new things. For Neuron Robotics, it’s not so difficult because I can either comment on something we are doing or I can spin out a robotics news story. It is something of a hot topic and so people are posting about it all the time. But with Social Media, it’s trickier. Sure, there are news stories and blog postings, but these can often be posts about posts. There is still good, original content, but my riffing on it can eventually begin to resemble yet more embedded riffing. At a certain point in time, you can’t spin yet another nutritious meal out of leftovers. But creating original content isn’t easy. Inspiration doesn’t always strike, or it might not be appropriate or perfect or on time. The only suggestions I can provide in this area are to (a) repurpose if possible, (b) save content up for a rainy day and (c) continually keep yourself open to experiences, viewpoints and circumstances which will help you to gather and nurture ideas.

What does 2011 hold in store? As always, my crystal ball is cloudy. All I can tell you for certain is, there will be plenty of Social Media, and there will be people like the Community Roundtable, and like me, who spend our time trying to make sense of it all. Your comments, as always, are more than welcome.

By Janet

I'm not much bigger than a breadbox.