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Have you ever written community guidelines, or worked with someone to get them started? I’ve done both, and there is one word that often comes up: “irrelevance.”

Community managers, particularly those connected to a consumer brand do not want irrelevant conversations in their community space. If it’s not about the company, the product or the service, they want no parts of it.

You may not see a problem with that perspective, but I believe that you should.

If you’re really looking to grow and sustain a community, and you really want people to connect, you have to leave some room for them to do that.  Is it really that bad if people go off-topic for a while?

If they’re doing it in your community, that means they feel some level of comfort there, which works in your favor.

It can’t always be about you. That may seem counter intuitive, but I am not speaking from theory, but practice.

People don’t connect on one topic alone. And the fact that other topics come into play from time-to-time proves that the wheels of true connections are in motion and good things are happening.

So, create your guidelines but don’t be so rigid that you miss opportunities for continued growth.

RELATED POST:

Guidelines are important, but interpretation is key

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I spoke at Internet Summit 2011 yesterday on the truth about community management. I have heard such great things about the content in person and online, particularly on Twitter and I am so happy that people found it helpful. I always strive to be honest and forthright about my experiences and never sugarcoat what it takes to grow an online community.

I figure since there are so many people out there telling lies and spreading myths about social media, I am not needed to perpetuate the trend.

I did post a link to the presentation on Slideshare, but I’m also posting it here for those who may be interested.

Angela Connor’s presentation at Internet Summit 2011

Enjoy. And let me know if you have any questions. as you probably know, I can talk about this all day.

 

This is a cross-post from my Company blog.

How long does it take to anger a slew of fans on your own Facebook page? Let’s ask Nikon.

A status update posted on their Facebook wall yesterday has garnered 1,677 likes; 1,233 shares and 3,008 comments. Numbers to die for in most cases, but not this one. The backlash has also resulted in a new status update posted two hours ago, apologizing for the tone of the first one.

That post is up to 920 likes; 65 shares and 362 comments.

It all started with this update, posted by Nikon or whomever manages their page:

“A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures! Do any of our facebook fans use any of the NIKKOR lenses? Which is your favorite and what types of situations do you use it for?” 

I must say that this status update has all of the elements of engagement. A statement, and two decent follow up questions to get people chatting it up on the page. But the first sentence didn’t go over very well at all. In fact, it offended many, and that was quite clear in the comments.

Some of the complaints included:

  • “Camera equipment can make a difference but it does not make the photographer.”
  • “When you speak on behalf of a company you should be very sensitive regarding how your customers feel about your product.”
  • “The photographer is only as good as his or her brain.” 
  • “The equipment doesn’t matter. People have been getting great photos out of horribly outdated cameras and lenses for a century.
  • Obviously Nikon’s Marcom team have not seen great pictures taken with a improvised pinhole camera made out of an old shoebox or old beated up SLR camera.”

There were also a lot of people defending the post, so it wasn’t all bad. Many people seemed to understand that the intention was not to offend.

But if you take another look at those comments, you will also see that people expect better. These are your customers and people with an affinity for your brand. And that is serious business.

You have to make sure that the right person is representing you on Facebook and that they understand the rules of engagement. This isn’t the kind of work that you can just assign to anyone.

I am not indicating that this is or was the case with Nikon. My point here is that you have to be smart and think these things through. This can happen to anyone, but it is completely avoidable.

Remember, this is brand communications and it requires attention and strategy. It may be on Facebook, but so are your fans. And what happens on Facebook, clearly doesn’t stay – on Facebook.

Authors note: If you’d like to see the post and the comments, you can find them here.

If you’re looking for your first job as a community manager, the best piece of advice I can give you is not to get too caught up in the shiny job description.

The second best piece of advice I can offer is that you embark on your journey with a clear understanding of the fact that it can be a very lonely gig and quite the emotional rollercoaster.

To be fair, I will acknowledge that job descriptions by their very nature are meant to be exciting, and persuasive with all of those imaginative  action verbs that make you feel like it will be the most fulfilling job of your career if you were so lucky to land it.

But there are a few things to consider about this role, particularly if it is a new position at the company.

  • There’s a good chance that no one within the organization has ever held this job – even the hiring manager – so they have no idea of what you will encounter.
  • The term “ambassador” is widely overused and rarely means what you think it does.
  • There are widespread misconceptions about the qualifications needed to be successful.
  • Members can and do, go rogue.
  • You may face  very hurtful name-calling.
  • You could quite possibly end up being the only person internally, who cares.

You will never find any of this in a job description, and I’m sure you can understand why. I get asked all the time about how to break into this field  and what qualifications and skills one needs to succeed.  My best answer to-date was used in this article on Mashable:

…“I’m talking about razor-sharp interpersonal communication skills, the ability to exhibit an enormous amount of tact, an extremely thick skin and a boatload of compassion for people you would rather not give an ounce. Did I mention grace under pressure, courage under fire, openness to criticism and tolerance beyond belief?”

If you don’t possess those skills, think twice before hitting apply, because trust me…you will need them  all.

My main point here is this isn’t a glamorous job and I am increasingly seeing it depicted that way, which I find a bit troubling.

So before you dive in head first, reach out to some community managers or former community managers and get their perspective. Talk to people who have managed a variety of online communities.

That way, when you read your next irresistible job description, you’ll be able to read between the lines.

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First off, this is not a bash against my former employer. They did what they had to do, much of which involved figuring out next steps for the community and how they’d like to see it develop going forward. That, I understand. After all, no one knows the struggles better than me, the person who launched and managed it from its infancy.  At the end of the day, you have to make good business decisions, and they are known for doing just that.

But here is a post from a community member asking them to bring on another community manager, and since we discuss this type of thing here all the time, it is truly my duty to share it.

Here’s the link: GOLO Mods: We deserve another “Angela”. There are 70 comments as of this writing, and it is interesting to see how many times they mention my name. But this is much bigger than me as an individual. Another person could step right in and pick up where I left off,  given the chance.

We could argue all day long about my level of involvement, but I was charged with a job of growing and cultivating that community and I took it seriously. I get the feeling that the community knows they once had a real ambassador and it just doesn’t feel the same. They want another one.

So, if you get a chance, give it a read. I think there’s a lesson in this for us all.

Oh, and here is the farewell blog I posted during my last week. A fond farewell from Angela.

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The only excuse for having stale content in your online community is apathy. And that’s not even a real excuse. If you find yourself saying you don’t have time, then ask yourself this question: Why did I create the community in the first place?

When you can’t be bothered to post fresh content in your community, how will you possibly motivate others to do it?

A community requires ownership. Internal ownership. It needs someone whose job it is to care, cultivate and connect with the community. This shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp, but most communities fail because they are abandoned shortly after launch.

I gave a presentation to a group of executives in Geneva, Switzerland two weeks ago (via Skype) about what it takes to grow a successful online community and I went on and on about the sheer time and commitment level it takes to keep it alive. They were convinced by the end of the hour and that pleased me to no end.They really seemed to get it, which is much more than I can say for many.

I can go on and on about this but I won’t. Simply put, stale content is embarrassing.

So do something about it. If you don’t, you deserve exactly what you get.

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I am happy to announce the release of my very first Special Report.

The Community Manager Survey provides unique insights from 50 practicing community managers. It’s a in-depth look at the common struggles and intricate details of what it takes to succeed in a role that is growing in importance but commonly misunderstood.

The participants were open and honest, and their answers are quite revealing. I simply cannot thank them enough.

The report is geared toward managers looking to hire for this key organizational role and  those interested in gaining a better understanding of the major issues  associated with community management.

I’d like to send special thanks to the sponsors of the report: Social Strata, emoderation, comBlu, Sociia Internet Communications and Linqia Marketplace’s The Moderator Community.

There is a fee for this report. The information is valuable for businesses and took time to compile and create. Survey sponsors and  participants will receive a free copy.

If you know someone who would benefit from this report, please spread the word. And let me know if you’re interested in a review copy.

Anyone who purchases will receive an additional report on the art of crafting community guidelines.

We’ve been talking about the importance and value of this role for two years now. It’s a conversation that must continue.

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I have two days left as the community manager of a site that has been at the core of my professional existence for nearly three years. I am trying to detach because it’s the right thing to do but it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Many of you may have already experienced this. Perhaps you launched a community and moved on and you  understand what I’m going through.  Others may not have done this yet but know that you will someday leave your community behind for something bigger and better, or simply less stressful.

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I have a rogue group of members in my community. They don’t think I know it. But I know it all too well. Their tactics are completely juvenile. They plot against other members, and pat each other on the back when their antics cause others grief.

They clearly have a lot of time on their hands.

I have struggled with handling this group. I just want to kick them all out. They all have alter egos. They present themselves to me in one way, and do a complete 180 when they think I’m not looking.

I haven’t mentioned this much until now but I am completely dissatisfied with our registration system and my hands have been tied for a long time.  You see,  my online community registration is tied to a news organization and IP banning isn’t the answer because I can’t ban people from the news. I kick them out and they’re back 15 minutes later. All it takes is a new email account. Sad, but true.  This is an area where the real troublemakers and trolls have the upper hand.

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It is very rare for me to devote a post on my blog to dismantling another posted elsewhere on the web.  And I’m not going to do that exactly, but I wouldn’t be able to rest  if I didn’t share this misguided post on Advertising Age with those who value community management and work their butts off daily trying to grow an online community.  These are people who I know read my blog. So be sure to read that AdAge post and all the comments when you can.

First off, this is not to bash the author. It really isn’t. But I do want to applaud the people who spoke up against claims that “out of work copywriter’s and journalists can reinvent themselves as social-media brand advocates,” as if this is an easy task.

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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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