In most online communities, there are those who’ve been there from the very beginning. They were the first to blog, visit daily and pretty much confirmed for you the fact that you built something valuable and worthy of their time. That lead you to believe others would follow suit, and they did. You are grateful for this bunch.

Because of their valiant initial efforts, the community is flourishing and these people are like the elders of the community, even if it’s only a few years old. They remember the old days, (yes, 20 months ago constitutes ‘the old days’ in community-speak) discuss them often, and may have even broken off into their own old-timers group, with an “us against them” attitude to boot.

They have a lot of influence (good and bad) and pretty much treat your community like it belongs to them. This is a good thing, right? Yes it is… on some level.  But it can go very wrong if you’re not careful.  And you have to be mindful of this bunch.

They will go against you if they don’t like your decisions. I’m not talking about sending emails or nasty-grams detailing their thought process, or giving you a piece of their minds, but going to your boss.  In many cases the boss of the community manager doesn’t really understand the day-to-day experiences and issues faced by the community manager, so  explaining exactly what the deal is might get you a blank stare.

Be ready for that. There are some people in your community who think they own it, and you. Watch what you say and how you say it. Be mindful of how you communicate and know that they could be watching your every move.

In other words, don’t be so grateful that you’re blind. Be ready to go against those long-time members.  They cannot run you. They are not in charge of the community nor are they privy to your short or long-term goals, unless you’ve disclosed them.

You can  often feel indebted to them, especially if (like me) you launched the community and have a deep appreciation for the way they helped it grow.  Don’t be jaded by that. This may be their leisure, but it is your job.

Be careful, and most of all…be smart. You know I wouldn’t blog about this if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

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