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I am always happy to discuss the difficulty of managing an online community. I’ve written about the misconceptions, provided tips on what it takes to find success, and explained the differences between a community manager and a social media manager.

Because I don’t actively manage an online community any more, I don’t share as many examples of what it’s like to be in the trenches. So when I came across this blog I posted back in 2008, when I was DEEP in the trenches, I thought it would be appropriate to share, for those of you who did not read my blog back then. What follows are actual messages that I received from members, and comments like these were very common.

Here’s the post from October 2008:

Read the rest of this entry »

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.


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.


I was asked recently to share my thoughts on what exactly I do as a Social Media Manager at Capstrat, for a blog post over on 10000 Words. What’s funny is before I even started talking about that, I mentioned the work I did as a Community Manager and before I knew it I was comparing the two.

Since many of you don’t have the insane interest in journalism that I do, I thought I’d share my comments here and also  introduce you to a blog that I read regularly, that may not be on your radar.

So, here is my two cents: Be sure to read the full post to hear from others as well. And let me know what you think.

I believe there is a distinct difference in the role of community manager and that of social media manager, though each means different things to different companies. I was a community manager for three years. During that time I launched, nurtured, managed and ultimately grew a brand new community from zero to 15,000 members. It was often rewarding yet grueling work. A lot of blood sweat and tears goes into managing a community particularly when you are responsible for its maintenance and growth. I have strong opinions about the differences in managing a branded community vs. one on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn but we can save that for a different day.

That said, I have been in the role of social media manager at Capstrat exactly two months today. My role is very different now. I am a change agent. It’s my job to show clients how they can use social media to meet their goals and objectives. It requires an understanding of the client, knowledge of how social media is being used across a wide array of industries and the ability to shift gears at warp speed. I am working to build an area of the agency that is still perceived in some cases as a fad. The focus isn’t in a single area at an agency, A community manager has the luxury of focusing on a core group whereas a social media manager does not. For me, that’s a good thing because it makes me push myself to absorb all that I can and immerse myself in different industries.

So much of this will evolve and I doubt that my job will be the same in a month. We have a great opportunity to bring value to organizations through social media. One of my goals is to create a fully integrated strategy for PR and social media because social media is the ultimate PR opportunity. So while I wish I could give you a distinct definition for this work, I don’t think I can. Some say social media is the Wild, Wild West. Well, if that’s the case then any of us can strike it rich at any given moment.

I think I’ll be exploring this angle a bit more. It’s always nice to realize you have a strong opinion on a topic when you didn’t really know it. I think I owe it to myself to make it even stronger.  Thanks to Mark Luckie, for seeking my opinion.


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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Want to make a few changes in your online community in 2010? Consider adopting these resolutions. If you like them, don’t wait two days. Start today.

  1. Stop taking things personally.The members don’t know you. They know your work. If a few dislike you, it’s probably because you are doing your job. You cannot please everyone. Accept that this is impossible and focus on what really matters: Growing the community and bringing people together.
  2. Greet at least three newcomers daily. Do this with a personal greeting beyond “Welcome to ____.” Find something about them that you can comment on. Perhaps they have a cool avatar or mentioned that they like horseback riding in their profile.  Find a way to relate  from the very beginning.Your personal touch will go a long way.
  3. Reinvent your newsletter.Whether it’s weekly or monthly it’s time to fine-tune your newsletter and include content that people actually care about.If you have news to share about the organization, put it toward the end. Make members feel special by highlighting their work. Look for the most interesting, not necessarily the content with the most page views or comments. And whenever possible…make it short! (Here is a copy of one of mine.) Read the rest of this entry »

I heard a bit of disturbing news today about a community manager at a local competitor.

She has been reassigned, and it was not voluntary.

It turns out that the media company feels as though she has created such a robust community that it is now self-sustainable and no longer requires her services.

That’s really a shame. I wonder what their plan of attack will be when people stop contributing or the quality of content begins to spiral, which it will.

You would think I’d revel in this this news, as this is a competitor, but I can’t do it. It’s a hit to the craft and the importance of our work. Nothing about that brings me joy.

What are your thoughts on this? We all know that building it isn’t enough. They built it and people did come. But they only stayed because someone made it worth their while.  I wonder what will happen next. Whatever it is…chances are it won’t be pretty.

I’ll keep you posted.


If you follow me on Twitter you know that I spent most of the day at the Social Media Business Forum. Actually I am still here. I am sitting in the second to last row at the Blogger Relations panel with Lucretia Pruitt, Ilina Ewen and Kelby Carr. It has been a really good conference so far.

I attended a session earlier today on Building and Managing an Online Community with panelists Patrick OKeefe, author of Managing Online Forums Laurie Smithwick of Kirtsy and Ryan Boyles.

During that session I commented during a question I asked that you are not a community manager until you have dealt with trolls who threaten to bomb your car. That was re-tweeted quite a bit and even called the tweet of the day, by Gregory Ng.

But the thing is, I am dead serious. My issue is the casual use of the title “community manager” that now somehow encompasses  customer service reps and anyone who monitors a brand on twitter or creates and manages a Facebook fan page. Yes, you are reaching out and even communicating with the community but that is not enough.

Until you have been in the depths of this craft by nurturing and growing the community, reaching out to influencers, contributing massive amounts of content, dealing with relentless trolls and working hard to be an advocate of the community to bosses who may not necessarily understand what your work entails, I am not going to acknowledge you as a community manager.

There are many of us who take this work seriously and are put to task on a daily basis dealing with all that comes our way. And it is not pretty.

Laurie Smithwick answered my question saying that people like us need to hunker down and just do what we do and it will all  be clear in the end.

We are still in the very early days of social media and this is going to happen so I really need to just get over it. But right now, I find it annoying. I will hunker down next month.

For complete coverage of the Social Media Business Forum, search the hashtag #smbf. I also have a few photos on Flickr.

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I’ve heard that it’s lonely at the top. I know that it can also be very lonely as a community manager. We face a lot of obstacles. From serving as the lone advocate for the community, to feverishly fighting trolls in a battle that no one sees but us, this work can take you to task.

For some, the support system simply isn’t there. Managers may pay lip service to community initiatives and mention it’s importance from time-to-time, but the larger percentage don’t understand the work, what it entails and for that matter, HOW to support you.

If this is something you allow yourself to think about day in and day out, it can consume you. And depending on how well the community is delivering the results you need it to deliver, you could become apathetic, begin to hate what you do, or simply become so completely overworked that no one recognizes you. And these can all happen in the same day, in a matter of hours.

So if this is you, allow me to offer some encouragement.

Keep Caring. You have a job to do and you are passionate about the community.  The  level of care and concern you have for the community is what makes it great and will move it forward.

Spread the Word. Talk up the community to others in the company every chance you get. Share stories about what’s happening within the community. Forward comments and links to blog posts and photo galleries. Heck, go all out and create a daily round up of what’s going on and send it to key players in your organization.

Talk to other community managers. This, I can’t stress enough. We have to share these experiences and find people who understand and can relate to our issues.  Talk to me, I am always up for a quick email or chat.

Know when to walk away. When you are working around the clock 24/7, you have to check yourself.  I know this because I have been there and quite honestly, I’m not sure that I’m not still there.  You have to find a balance.  I know it’s hard when you’re doing everything on your own, but at some point you have to hang up the cape, and take that S off your chest.

I hope my words have been helpful to you. There’s definitely more where that came from. If you have any words of encouragement you’d like to share, please post them in the comments. We could all use a little help from time-to-time.

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This is another rant from the trenches. If you’re not in the mood, perhaps you should come back to this one later. I probably received 25 emails last week from members of my community about the most petty issues.

There are times when I feel like a real babysitter and I have to tell you that before I took my vacation back in August, I was at risk of completely losing it. I found myself so caught up in what I felt at the time was my inability to reign in trolls and the sheer nonsense that was taking place within the community that I could scream. Actually I think I did scream something like “I hate these people.” I certainly don’t hate the community, but I am beginning to wonder if there is some kind of breaking point or designated period of time when it just burns you out and you need to do something else.

I’ve said many times that this is no job for the weary, and weary I am not. But tired, I am becoming. I know that not every community manager will experience this because no two communities are the same. And depending on the makeup of your community, you may never feel this way. Many members of the community I manage have no idea how bad it can really be on the internet. Some are hyper-sensitive and believe that any comment that isn’t in line with their beliefs should be marked as abuse. They meet one another offline and bring innuendo back into the community based on these meetings and expect me to intervene as if I have knowledge of what happens outside of the community.

I’ve made it very clear that I don’t want the back story and will manage the content based on what I see on the surface.

One woman told me that another member has threatened to call her job and inform them of how much time she spends interacting in the community during the day. I feel bad for her, but she’s the one who told her where she works. That is not my problem. And in all fairness it is not a reason for me to ban her because she hasn’t violated our TOS, at least not on the site. Another user is up in arms about someone implying that he is a communist and wants me to deal with it right away.

Someone else says an online foe is stalking their comments and following them around commenting on every blog they comment on. I’m also dealing with claims of what is supposedly a rogue group that targets specific members. It has gotten so bad that I had to address the issue in a blog post last week that made me feel like a middle school teacher.  I swear it gets so very childish and last week really took its toll. If you ever want to see some of this for yourself, read the comments on my profile page.  There are some nice comments there, but also some real doozies. Okay, I feel better already. Next week has to be better.

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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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