Communities are made of people.

27 Jul

I feel like I’ve written this post before, and maybe I have but with my encroaching old age, I’ve forgotten. Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve written it, so much as I’ve said it in a bjillion conversations and presentations. Then I saw a post about ‘The 10 Commandments for Community Managers“‘ and was inspired to actually write it.

I’ve gotten into a lot of discussions around community management and a lot of people really just don’t know what it is exactly. Others are amazed and think it must require some serious brains to do it well. And I don’t dispute that, yes, there are times when being a quick-thinker and a natural-born problem solver have helped…but it’s not rocket science peeps.

Like the title says, communities are made of people. Online and off – there’s very little difference. Yes, I am well aware of all the theories in computer mediated communication (won’t bore you with them here, but hit me up if you want some dry academic articles about it though) but in my opinion, the medium doesn’t really matter. If you can interact with a human being, you can interact with a community. It’s common sense.

So, here’s my two cents on common sense in communities:

Be Human – Just because its online and it’s your job doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself. Sure, there are certain things you might want to avoid sharing, but being real helps your community connect with you.  Remember that communities are made of people and YOU are a part of the community.

Have a sense of Humor – When I started out with my Community, I think they’ll attest I was a bit stodgy. I wasn’t quite certain of myself and I was pretty formal in the beginning. Now, we make jokes all the time and have a good laugh often. It goes a long way in connecting with members.  Take for example, one of my members offering to PhotoShop myself and my dog into a Tron uniform – hilarious. So far they only have the pic of my dog though, so I’m safe for now.

Compromise – Sometimes, you’re going to have to say No. Even if you don’t want to, even if they have a point, even if it candy coated with sugar on top, sometimes you just have to do it. But when you say No, look for ways to compromise and collaborate. Can you offer a workaround instead? Can you investigate alternatives? Ask the questions to see if you can work together for the best outcome.

Be Empathic – Try to understand the perspective of the community. While you’re a part of the community, as a Community Manager, you have a different vantage point. Members often don’t see everything you do, and you don’t see everything they do. Keep them informed as much as you can and if you’re not sure why they feel a certain way, ask them! Don’t assume.

Avoid Being Defensive – One of the biggest problems with communications technologies is the loss of face to face interaction. You lose the cues of body language and tone that you rely on in everyday life. This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of online communities, but if you remember that they’re just people behind a keyboard and approach issues the same way you would in person, you can address the situation more clearly. Reach out privately, express concern, ask for clarification. Easier said than done, I know, but sometimes you just have to take a breath.

Like I said, just my two cents, but in my rather humble opinion online communities are still made of people:  A little bit of common sense, some social skills and a wee bit of forethought go a long way.


2 Responses to “Communities are made of people.”

  1. Alison Michalk July 28, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    Hi Kerri 🙂 Great piece – glad my post kicked you into action! Having a sense of humour is a huge help – humour is a great tool for diffusing situations. I look forward to reading more of your posts! Alison

    • Kerri July 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Alison! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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