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Participating In Your Own Community

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

The aloof god-like figure is archaic. 

I attended an internal training session for organizations participating in online communities last year. It included gems such as; "don't discuss company matters", "don't comment on potential problems", "don't express emotions", "don't reveal your name or any personal details", "don't give your opinion".

I'm sure legal representatives love this, but it leads to fake conversations like this

The community manager doesn't need to be the star of the community. They do need to be a visible participant. It helps if they're liked and build relationships with members. They need to be human. Let's refresh some rules from 2 years ago:

  1. Write in 1st person. People talk to people. The us is a clear sign that this is an organization that won't pay attention to your response. 
  2. Lead with the question, not the content. e.g. What do you think about {x}? I've been considering {y} or {x} for some time. I noticed recently that {x} now has {something}. Does anyone know much about this? 
  3. Engage first, tell second. If you would like convey information in this way, then ask people what they think about it first. Then when they reply you can respond with more information weave into your own thoughts.
  4. Ask specific people in the community to reply. Pick out popular community members and ask them to reply first. e.g. "I would love to hear what Mike or Joanna think about this."
  5. Phrase it as a personal questionHas anyone had any experience with ….?
  6. Use closed questions. Do you think this will be better than {y}. How many of you think this will have a big impact on {y}?
  7. State your opinion. If you want someone's opinion, it helps to give an opinion. People can then agree or disagree with you. 
  8. Tell a personal relevance story. Begin with a story. Why are you asking this? Why do you want their opinion? Not why the organization wants their opinion – but why you, personally, want their opinion. Let people know more about you. 

The set of rules endemic in corporate community management training is both patronising to potential participants, reduces motivation to participate, and damages communities. Fortuntely, this is an easy thing to change. 

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