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About Rich

  • Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee, a community consultancy and Professional Community Management course. Richard is also the author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities. Richard's clients have included Google, AutoDesk, United Nations, Novartis, Wikipedia, Oracle, The World Bank, Diabetes Hands Foundation, Fidelity Investments, and many more. Richard is also the the author of the Online Community Manifesto.

    e-mail: richard@feverbee.com
    T:+44 (0)7763 831931

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Comments

Rex Williams

This is such a key element, Rich. And it is amazing to me how difficult this concept is for so many people.

There must be something about text that people don't believe can be personal. Maybe we've been conditioned that when we write something that a lot of people will see, we must make a good 'presentation' and speak to the masses.

But just like in a good oral presentation, if you make eye contact and speak directly to one person for a while, the whole audience will feel a connection to you, even though you weren't talking to them directly. It's interesting how personal interaction can translate.

I still hear people say that you can't make 'real' friends online. But that's only because they haven't done it. I know you can. And it's pretty much the same way you make friends in person - you go to the same places they go, you interact with them, share personal details, spend time in conversation about a variety of things, you do things together (online projects), and wah-lah, you've got a real friend, even though you've never met in person.

You can also have just acquaintances and everything in between.

Wilson

This might be fine for purely story-telling, general fact-finding, entertainment or other non-specific marketing purposes or for where a company representative is speaking in a personal rather than company context, but if I'm engaged in a conversation with a company representative it better be "we" and not "I." I don't want to hear it as if this is coming from a person's own individual opinion or reflection, but rather hear that this person represents the organization or team. "We" stresses that I am talking to a valid representative, not some random person mouthing off about their own personal opinions and suspicions. Especially if a new policy is being communicated or a customer support issue is being addressed. "I" indicates to me the company is not taking responsibility nor is the company enforcing a team mentality, that it's all about this individual, organization be damned, both a convenient way to get out of whatever the person says ("oh, that was all a mistake, and this company can't support what was said, there's no company commitment, notice the 'I'") and a way to create a phony sense that somehow this person is a free agent.

David Onoue

I agree 100% with Wilson. When I was working for chi.mp as the Community Management Assistant, one of the things my boss stressed was using "we" and "us" which took a little time to get use to because I wanted to make the communications a little more personable by using "I." I totally get your point (not disagreeing with it) and it makes a lot of sense, but "we" and "us" make it also seem like there's more than one person who cares. Isn't that part of community as well?

Pat

I also agree with Wilson, but from the other side. I AM the person posting for my organization, and I do speak to the community (primarily via Facebook) using "we" and "us" instead of I. This is for a couple of reasons.

1. There are times when I am NOT the person responding. We do have a couple of others who speak to the community on behalf of my organization. People won't always be hearing from the same "I".
2. Like the earlier points, I believe our community wants to know they're hearing from my organization, not from an individual. They don't follow ME, they follow my employer.
3. Similar to point 1, I may not always be the person speaking to the community on behalf of my organization. "we" and "us" makes it easier to keep continuity.

Your point about making the dialogue personal is valid, and not enough compnies do this well enough often enough, so I don't want to detract from that. But I do think that when you're speaking on behalf of an organization, it's usually better to use a plural pronoun than I or me.

David

I think you can be personable even when using "us" or "we". It can convey an almost team/family feeling i.e. making people think they're part of something bigger than just one person.

A lot depends on what type of organization or company you're running, too. "I" might be more personable in some instances but it also might give people the impression that they're dealing with a one-man show. I think a lot of Rich's points were good ones and that they can be applied in some instances but not as a general rule.

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