The Risks of Having a Community Without Management

The Risks of Having a Community Without Management

Is yours a community without management?

The post is a riff on The Community Roundtable’s 5 Risks of Having A Community Without Management.

Flower - Yellow Flowers Without Management
Flower – Yellow Flowers (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The author comes up with five good ones:

  1. A Ghost Town
  2. Land of 1,000 Flowers
  3. Drama Central
  4. A Circling Storm
  5. A Clique

Ghost Town

Here’s what they mean. A Ghost Town is, essentially, either a more or less empty community or one without deep engagement. People may come in after an initial push and then just abandon the place. Now, the converse to this is people who hang around forever and never seem to convert to paying customers of any sort. In a commercial enterprise, that’s no good, either. But definitely you need for people to hang around, at least a little bit.

Land of 1,000 Flowers

Land of 1,000 Flowers is where there’s perhaps a little bit of everything but there is little connectivity. Some of the problem could potentially be alleviated with a very good search engine, e. g. if people see that the question about who wrote Peter Rabbit has already been answered, they might just go to that answer, rather than asking it again. Of course the downside to this is converting potential participants right back into lurkers.

Drama Central

Drama Central, ah, yes, this bit of juvenilia. This is a byproduct of having a smaller community/one that is not too active. If there are 100 members, and one acts out, that one will loom large. With 1,000 members, that person’s impact diminishes. And with 1,000,000 members, they barely register as a blip on the screen. And, even in a smaller community, if there are 100 members but also a good 1,000 topics are created every month, the one Drama Queen’s attention-grabbing me me me topic can be more or less swept under the rug. However, if your users create only five or so new topics every month, guess what’s gonna be front and center?

A Circling Storm

A Circling Storm, there are a lot of entrenched factions, hostile to one another. Even in a well-moderated community, this can still happen in a Politics section (and, to a lesser extent, in a Religion section). Hence people form strong opinions and don’t want to back down. How to handle it? I say let them argue, for the most part, but intervene if newbies are being chased off or it becomes too personal.

A Clique

A Clique, of course this is a niche or fringe group that grabs and hogs the spotlight. This can be whiny teenagers (you know who you are), organic gardeners, birthers, I dunno. They can absolutely create a self-fulfilling prophecy, e. g. if the only people they welcome are from Omaha, then those will be the ones who stick around. And then eventually people from Poughkeepsie or wherever don’t stick around and suddenly your board is filled with Nebraskans.

What to do? Well, it may seem obvious, or it may not. Manage the site! Don’t just leave it to chance!

Light Touch with Management

However, don’t go overboard with management. Heavy-handed community management can stifle. So find a balance, and do your best to follow it, all while respecting the community and its interests, but nudging it in the proper directions if it threatens to go off-course. You don’t just have to let the boat go wherever the currents take it but, at the same time, you also need to leave the dock.

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May 7, 2010 Community Roundtable

On May 7th, I attended the Community Roundtable’s Live Lunch at Jasper White’s Summer Shack in Cambridge.

In attendance were, among others, Rachel Happe and Jim Storer, Tracy Lee Carroll, Leanne Chase, Barbara Gavin, Paul Geffen, Joe Lima, Cindy Meltzer, Jabu Mguni, Vanessa Rhinesmith, Ellen Rossano, Masoud Shadravan, Mike Schneider, Christine Sierra and Jim Spencer.

Plus … Vanessa’s sweet little 2-month old daughter, Lucy.

And then there was a surprise addition: Jeff Cutler. And I think another … I may have lost track of the participants. Meghan Biro and Kelley Kassa were unfortunately unable to attend.

Barbara very graciously offered two books for review. Joe took one; I didn’t see where the other one ended up.

The real discussion was about work-life balance. As Community Managers, we aren’t necessarily tied to a nine to five-style job. And employers need to understand that we want some balance to our days. The job may be mainly computer work but it is no less tiring.

The discussion also turned to hula hoops (Jim and Rachel brought one, but no one used it although the lobsters in the tank seemed to be likely candidates) and Summer plans (the setting at the Summer Shack does seem to encourage that). Plus the fact that the cultural exchange between Massachusetts and New Hampshire seems to involve Bay Staters going North for cheap booze and Granite Staters coming South for Whole Foods runs. Okay, well maybe not that.

The gist of it all is that, as Community Managers, we are the careful, consideration folks online. Sometimes it’s good to set that aside for a while and just live a little.

Looking forward to the next one, in two weeks.

April 23, 2010 Community Roundtable

Today I attended the Community Roundtable’s CR Live Lunch at Flatbread Company in Bedford, Massachusetts. The Community Roundtable is “a peer network for community managers and social media practioners.”.

The lunch is a chance to get together and talk about not just community management but also social media in general, technology and any other subject that is of interest. Today’s discussions, in part, centered around Twitter and its earlier days, e. g. discovering retweeting, etc. Rachel Happe, our hostess, has been on Twitter for quite a while and remembers the community there as being considerably smaller and easier to make connections. She felt she was able to see people she knew either socially or professionally (or both) and then quickly see how (if) they were interconnected in other ways. Some of that has been lost as Twitter has grown exponentially.

The subject of automatic direct messages thanking one for following came up. Everyone agreed that these are essentially impersonal and of little value. However, direct messages should still be read as people do sometimes still take the time to handcraft them.

Since the group was slanted more than usual in the direction of people with more technical backgrounds (versus those of us who were or are more strictly community managers), the discussion turned more technical.

Another topic was company social media strategies. So many companies realize they have to “get on Twitter” but are unclear as to what, exactly, they may be getting themselves into. Once the pipeline is opened, and customer commenting (and complaining!) becomes more open and easier, that pipeline really cannot be shut off. The bell cannot be unrung. Hence companies may not understand that they are essentially getting into a marriage versus a few dates with the hot new technology.

There was also a discussion about meta tagging on the ‘Web. How are things categorized? One question was about music (more specifically, classical music). There is already some offline categorization. So how can that be adequately and accurately transferred to the Internet?

Finally, and this is one of the areas where the Community Roundtable truly excels, the participants talked a little bit about how isolating the role sometimes can be. For a social and community-oriented type of role, a lot of us spend a great deal of time at our desks. Even within a larger company not specifically dedicated to online communities, the role of the Community Manager can sometimes be a solitary one. Being together, exchanging information or tips, or just commiserating, does a lot to dispel any feelings of isolation.