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If you’re a community manager or hope to become one, please understand that you will deal with disgruntled members. Depending on your level of involvement in the community, you could potentially be looked upon as a referee.

That happens to me and I am working hard to figure out the best way to deal with it. After all, I don’t want to lose members due to a few troublemakers or users intent on hiding behind the mask of anonymity to wreak havoc on upstanding members who contribute often and are seemingly invested in the site.

One thing that I’m noticing is that just like the real world, people tend to cool off, and emotions that run high one day are often a bit calmer the next.
It’s a delicate balancing act and the skill set needed to manage an online community that is truly a community, in my opinion is still TBD.

If there is a list of five pertinent skills, I believe I at least have 3.5 to 4, as my community is growing and members are engaging more than ever before. Am I hands on? Yes. Do I provide individual attention and answer feedback? Yes. And the community appreciates it a great deal.

But I don’t take anything for granted and just as I had to “plan” and strategize in traditional media, I am doing the same thing here in social media because after all, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

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The topic was: Managing Online Communities: Getting YOUR Message to the Masses.  The audience consisted of furniture retailers, independent owners and other industry professionals and all were quite interested in online communities once I began to share the value of participation.

I could tell by the questions after the seminar that business owners are interested in blogging and reaching people online in this capacity and that with the right direction and input, many of them will likely engage.

It’s a smart move.  I shared three examples. Two of which seem to have established themselves within the GOLO community , and another that probably came on a bit too strong for the community and was immediately classified as spam. Well, when you upload 357 images of your product as soon as you join the community  and never bother to introduce yourself to the community or establish your area of expertise, this is bound to happen.

I’m happy to report that the audience seemed to “get it” and I think many will seek out online communities as a way to reach a new audience.  I think that’s a good thing.

If you’re interested in my oresentation, i will gladly share. Just send me an e-mail or leave a message in the comment area below.

In my quest to deliver an informative message to the audience at tomorrow’s seminar,  I decided to reach out to a GOLO member who I’ve watched for a while.  She runs a business and has in my opinion, discovered how to co-exist in an online community by choosing the right balance of promotion and engagement. I asked Diedre Hughey, of Dancing Elephants to share some of her experiences in the GOLO community so that I could share what I deem to be her success story.  

Deidre wrote something in her first sentence that I think is very imprtant.  She said you have to have a “BURNING desire to get your message out to the public.”  I could be wrong but I attribute some of that  to the time commitment required to gain respect in these communities.

One message that I hope to send tomorrow is the importance of interacting within the community and refraining from pushing your product or service every time you post. It’s important to engage and interact with people, and understand that they don’t want you to slam your product down their throats.  If you do, you will be rejected and getting back in the good graces of the community will be virtually impossible.

Diedre indicated in the e-mail that it can be tough and she has wondered if the community is indeed her target audience.  But one thing she finds valuable is the ability to fine-tune ideas by seeing if they resonate with users, stir controversy, or “fall flat.” 

As I looked over my presentation, I was pleased to see that I’d mentioned much of what Diedre shared with me and I now feel like I’m on the right track.

So, wish me luck tomorrow and I’ll be sure to blog about the experience.

Angela  

 

I’m conducting a seminar at the National Home Furnishing Association’s Conference in High Point, NC in two days and I’ve been gathering my thoughts for the past three. The working title is “Managing Online Communities: Getting YOUR Message to the Masses.”

Since launching WRAL.com’s online community GOLO last summer, I’ve seen the phenomenon of social networking unfold before my very eyes. It was quite intriguing, and it’s still amazing to watch as we continue to grow. We are now well beyond 6,000 members and I must say that a real community has formed. As the Managing Editor, it is my job to provide vision, determine strategy and engage the community. It is more than a full-time job.

My goal through this seminar is to offer ideas on how businesses can successfully interact within communities like GOLO and get their message across without being shunned, ignored or worse…labeled as spam or marked as abuse.

It’s a delicate balance, but it can be done. It takes time and commitment and I’m sure my message won’t be accepted by all in attendance. I do plan to provoke thought and introduce new ideas that will hopefully infuse new life into an industry that’s seeking new information and ideas.

The powerpoint I’m preparing has promise. I just gave it another once-over and it’s quite convincing. I just hope that I can open their minds and encourage a new way of thinking.

I believe in the power of online communities and I know what they want. It is now up to those who want or even need to reach them, to do it on the community’s terms.

My name is Angela Connor. I live and breathe online communities. I am currently nurturing the online community, GOLO which I have managed since it’s launch on July 2, 2007. I am a journalist and I am intrigued by the changes that my industry is undergoing. It has been evolving since I entered it, and that’s what makes it fun.  Join me as I chronicle this journey and do my best to help others along the way. There is nothing traditional about traditional media.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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