Policy On 3rd Party Community Groups
For larger companies, your community isn’t only on your platform (and it’s never going to be).
Your customers have created their own Facebook groups, subreddits, StackExchange sites, and have built an audience around their own social media channels.
Previous clients have had a policy that varies between legal harassment at worse to lukewarm support at best. Simply ignoring these groups is most common.
May I suggest proactive encouragement?
Encourage people to create their own groups in their city, for their unique interest, and set some loose guidelines for affiliation. Invite these people to submit their group for affiliation with the community. They get promotion and support if they do, but they won’t be legally harassed if they don’t.
Now list and promote these groups on a page in your community. A large number won’t thrive, but that’s true of all groups created. You can filter them out. Now you can focus on the groups which are thriving.
No, you don’t get control. But these group creators don’t want to be controlled.
Instead you get an army of volunteer community managers who can capture great insights, solve member problems, localize/translate your content, and disseminate important information. You might also be building a useful pipeline for future employees.
If encouraging and supporting people to help build your community isn’t a worthwhile part of your job, I’m not sure what is.
I applaud the sentiment, but you need to be wary.
As someone who has experience of a thriving community being gutted by another one that grew out of what we were running, I would love to say that we should all work together, but there do need to be some regulations of what can, and cannot be done.
I will admit from the start that we were not doing the very best we could have done for our members (we were a small team and busy organising the details of a conference each year) but our goodwill was taken advantage of by some who used our channels to access members and even sponsors, then co-opt our events to promote their own community. We had no specific rules in place to differentiate between promotion of individuals (good), promotion of sponsors (good, but they paid for the privilege) and promotion of other communities that used our resources and gave little back.
When communities are too closely linked, you are assumed to be “the same” which can bring positives, but also distribute negative associations.
I would highly recommend doing some soul-searching to craft a policy statement that encourages cooperation, but allows those who run the community to decide if a specific group or message is actually not constructive, and therefore can be reasonably withheld.
I’ve had a lot of problems, too, especially with consultants and vendors setting up “communities.” But there have been benefits. My approach now is to build a better mousetrap and make it much easier for people to organize these events and attract interested people through our website. I have heard a rumor that LinkedIn will start charging for discussion groups. We can offer them to the public for free, handle event registration, provide a photo gallery and wiki pages. Work in progress.
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