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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. It’s not that I haven’t been motivated, nor that I didn’t have the time. I never have the time. I’m pretty sure that no one really has  time to blog, we all just make it happen.  And typically I do. But I haven’t lately. But a recent chain of events has compelled me to do so.

This past weekend, I experienced a tornado.

There is a lot of damage in my neighborhood, from collapsed garages and shredded gazebos to uprooted trees, toppled playground structures and roofs gone AWOL, seeming to have never existed.

My house was not damaged and my family is safe.  We were without power for a little more than 48 hours, but that’s nothing compared to the plights of others.  A friend and fellow social media enthusiast, lost his home completely.

A university has suspended classes for the remainder of the semester due to structural damage, and 22 people died.

When I saw that my neighbor’s gazebo had been obliterated and he wasn’t home, I immediately grabbed my iphone and took a few pictures for him so he’d have them to file an insurance claim. Shortly after, everyone started coming out to check on everyone else and giving the details of how they ‘took cover.’

The next day, the local grocery store had a truck filled with ice. I approached the truck prepared to pay and saw a sign that read “free ice.” I asked for two bags. They gave me 6. I tweeted that Harris Teeter had free ice for those of us without power. Someone replied asking me “which Harris Teeter.” I posted the location and told her to go get some. She did.

When I got home, my husband gave our other neighbor two of the six bags. She later came over to ask us if we wanted some hamburgers they’d just grilled. At this point, the only hot food was coming from a grill.

As I think about how everyone came together to help one another, it reminded me of the online community I used to manage. They were good about coming together, even though most were only acquainted through the web.

But that community and my real community have many similarities, and there is one thing that holds true in offline and online communities.

You get back what you put in.

Maybe you’ve loaned your neighbor a lawnmower, picked up their mail when they were on vacation, or simply spent a few minutes chatting about nothing every once in a while. Those gestures may seem like nothing at the time, but all of that good will adds up.

The same holds true for any offline community. You get back what you put in.

So many online communities are built with the intention of getting people to “buy” something, or for bragging rights on how many “friends” or “followers” were accumulated as part of a campaign. Yes, this is often important for the bottom line, but you have to put something in if you want it to last or actually become to mean something to people.

Community has become a buzzword and to me, has lost its true meaning. There are so many instances where the term shouldn’t even be used. You don’t want to build community, you want a mob of people to show up in one place and make you look good. And soon as that happens, you could care less about what happens next. Why do you think there are so many abandoned communities out there?

I’ve often asked the question: “If you build it will they come?” I believe the answer is no. But sometimes they do.

Perhaps that question should be: “If you build it and they come, will you stay once your goals are met?”

I think the answer to that one for many, is also no, and I think that’s a shame.

The bigger they are the harder they fall.

And if you have gotten so big and built a community that you believe is fail-proof because of your largess, your fall will resonate across the universe.

I  can hear it already. You’re just too in love with yourself to see it coming.

You are so much of what you are on the web and maybe even off, because of the people who make up the community you’re always bragging about. If you must brag, fine. But keep contributing, and keep doing the things that made people value you in the first place so that they will continue to see the value and support you and your efforts.
You can’t stop.
And you can’t ignore people.
No, you do not scale as an individual.  I get that. But for some reason your jerkitude manages to do just that. It is scaling at an alarming rate.
Remember what’s important.
Stop listening to the people who are constantly telling you how great you are. Perhaps you are great but if that’s all they ever tell you, they are riding your coattails and contributing to the madness that is your ego.

In fact, you should probably try to figure out what it is they want from you because that’s likely their motivation.
And stop treating people like they should worship you and all that you perceive yourself to be. Know your worth, but remain human, okay?
Your community can shrink, the same way it grew.
Remember that.

This rant was brought to you by Angela Connor and is in no way targeting any one individual. But if the shoe fits, wear it and strive to do better.

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Online communities are not created equal. So stop telling me that my issue should be easy to fix, or better yet, that it shouldn’t even be an issue.

Your community is different from mine.

Of course I’ve tried communicating with the troublemakers offline. Sometimes it works, other times it fuels their fire. One behind-the-scenes email that worked wonders for you may spark a major troll-fest for me.

Your community is different from mine.

Don’t tell me that public reprimands are anti-community and that they should NEVER happen.  Are public reprimands ideal? No. But they can send a message that the community supports as well as illustrate your seriousness on the matter and nip it in the bud.  (Here is one of my recent posts about feuds among members.)

If yours is a niche site and mine is very broad and a bit unwieldy, we may not be able to handle things the same way. Your solution may not be mine, and mine may not be yours. 

But even if our solutions aren’t the same, I want to know about your experiences. I want to know what has worked for you and tell you about my successes and failures.

The dialogue among community professionals should be understanding, empathetic and most importantly, stem from the mutual agreement that this is not a one-size-fits all craft.

The conversation that took place on Bryan Person and Sonny Gill’s #CommunityChat on Friday is a leap in the right direction. Community managers were open and honest about the jobs we’re tasked with doing and weren’t afraid to share dissenting opinions. It was a beautiful thing. You can see the transcript here.

We have to keep in mind that no one has cornered the market on community management. Success will always depend heavily on many factors including the brand it represents, demographics, mission and long-term goals.

And the key here is this:

Community Management is not a science.

It’s an art.



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Are you feeding your Twitter stream into Friendfeed? Do you ever LOG IN to Friendfeed to see what people are saying about those tweets?

Well, in case you didn’t know, there are people on Friendfeed commenting on your tweets and if you aren’t talking back to them you are missing a great opportunity to build your community.

With twitter becoming so mainstream people are flocking to Friendfeed in droves. So the days of leaving your FriendFeed to its own devices as a location to cull your many RSS feeds, are over. Well, they should be over, starting today.

Pay attention to your FriendFeed and join the conversations. I have been commenting and “liking” tweets, photos, links, Brightkite status updates, YouTube videos, Picasa photo albums, you name it! Someone could be commenting about your blogpost on Friendfeed and you may not even know it.

So go back and see exactly what you’ve got streaming into your Friendfeed account, and start taking action. Just like you check for @responses on Twitter, or use services like Tweetgrid, Tweetdeck, Tweetbeep and others to follow the conversation, you need to check the conversation on Friendfeed regarding those tweets as well.

If you don’t you’ll continue to miss out, because as I always say…communicating with your community is key.

You can find me as @communitygirl on both platforms.

Hope to see you there.

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As community managers we should never be so desperate for members that we allow ourselves or others to be repeatedly abused by any one member. Nor should we be afraid to communicate publicly if and when a message needs to be sent.

I know that some of my peers would disagree with me here, and I’m okay with that. Many believe that any strong words or difficult exchanges should happen behind the scenes, via e-mail, if at all.

I agree with that to a certain extent, but we also have to recognize that no two communities are  the same therefore the same styles of community management don’t always transfer. We need to agree on that because it is simply the truth.

I have suggested to a few members, after observing their behavior and interaction within the community, that perhaps my community isn’t for them. One gentleman in particular was always pushing the envelope with risque photos. I told him as gently as I could that he should look into some of the types of communities that appreciate that kind of art as they are quite pervasive across the web. I posted this publicly on his profile where anyone could view it.  After all, he was posting the photos publicly on the site for all to see so to me that was appropriate.

It also illustrates concern for other members and I really think there is value in letting the community see some of that for themselves.  They need to know that you are working to keep your community in tact.

We cannot be afraid to speak openly and be direct. If you don’t think so, it’s only because you haven’t yet experienced a real reason to do it. Or it may be that your community is new and you deem it too risky. I’ve been there and I understand.

But when you’ve got a group of renegades wreaking havoc on the community, or trolls coming out in droves,  nice personal e-mails may not be tough enough. I’ve addressed some of these types of behaviors through blog posts like this one, and this one.

You have to learn how to put your foot down and stand strong when it’s appropriate. And only you will know when that is.

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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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