Category Archives: Community Manager Tips

Community Manager Tip: You Can't Please Everyone

We always need to keep in mind that every choice and every decision that we make, no matter how sound, will please some people, but not everyone. “You can’t please everyone” is a saying that you hear all the time, but I remember being in high school when the impact of this statement really hit me. At that young age, I vowed to think about decisions in a different light with a component of any decision being to understand which people I cared about pleasing, and more importantly, which people could jump in a lake if they didn’t like my decision. This dynamic applies to everyday life and isn’t unique to community managers, but it does come up often when making decisions on behalf of the community.

A few tips:

  • Think about the impact of your decisions on the most important contributors in your community. Don’t let trolls and chronic whiners who will never contribute in a meaningful way dictate solutions.
  • When a few people want a change, make sure that the change would benefit the community as a whole. Don’t let a vocal minority push a decision that isn’t in the best interest of the whole community.
  • Look past your preferences to embrace solutions that benefit the community, even if they aren’t your personal favorites. Do the right thing for the community, not the individual (even when that individual is you).

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Zen Sutherland used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: Meet People in Person

For those of us who manage global online communities, meeting people in person isn’t always easy. However, it is important to find ways to meet people in real life whenever possible, and we should be careful not to underestimate the value of making these real world connections. Last week, I attended LinuxCon where I gave a presentation about the MeeGo Community and did more demos than I can count, but the real value of the conference was in the conversations that I had with community members.

Some thoughts on why this is so important:

  • You put a face to the name and start to build better relationships with people.
  • People will provide different feedback in person and will often talk more frankly about community issues that they would not be comfortable putting in writing in a public forum.
  • It’s fun! These are people that you have something in common with and you can have some really interesting conversations with people and make new friends in the process.
  • I return from conferences refreshed with new ideas that come from having conversations with people outside of the typical daily routine.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Aaron Hockley of Hockley Photography.

Community Manager Tip: Role Model Good Behavior

Last week’s community manager tip about how members notice everything is part of why community managers need to pay close attention to how we behave in our online communities. Members notice everything, and they watch the community manager and other leaders in the community to determine what types of behaviors are appropriate and expected in the community. Every community operates with slightly different norms and expectations, and we need to be careful to role model those behaviors that we want to see in our members.

Here are a few things to think about. Are you encouraging behaviors you want to see from others?

  • Do you try to be as helpful when people are asking questions as you expect from other community members?
  • Are you careful to remain calm and not fly off the handle when things get intense?
  • Do you use language that is consistent with what you expect others to use?
  • What techniques do you use to help redirect people to keep the discussions on topic?
  • How do you deal with difficult community members?

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Amber Case used with permission.

Community Manager Tip: Members Notice Everything

You can’t get away with hiding anything in an online community; community members will notice even the smallest things. While this is true in communities of every size, it is especially noticeable in large communities with many members. People are often under the mistaken impression that they can post something in a wiki or other content system, and as long they don’t link to it, no one will be able to find it. However, we have these things called search engines and recent changes pages where people can find everything. This is especially true now that everything seems to have an RSS feed or email notifications, since many users choose to have changes, like new web pages or wiki recent changes feeds, pushed to them to review whenever they have a few spare minutes.

This creates some interesting challenges and advantages for community managers:

  • Advantage: Posting information early, especially in a wiki, gives you a place to collaborate with others and make the document better. Don’t worry about trying to hide things – get them out in the open early, and let people help you improve.
  • Advantage: People will also notice spam quickly, and if you make it easy to report spam, you can keep the community spam free.
  • Challenge: Once the information is out there, it is public. Deleting data on the internet is a myth, since it is cached, mirrored and in RSS feeds, and removing information from your community is likely to cause more negative responses than leaving it alone.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Keven Law used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: Nagging as an Art Form

I often tell people that nagging is a big part of community management. Yes, you could call it by some other nice names, “encouraging”, “managing”, “asking”, “requesting”, but the reality is that it can seem a lot like nagging. As community managers, we stay focused on what the community needs, and this often means that we need help from others to provide information, blog posts, technical details and more.

Yes, the term nagging seems a little harsh, and this is probably more like project management, but the end result is to get people to do something without making it seem like you are nagging, so here are a few tips:

  • Provide context for what you need to help people understand why what you require is important.
  • Manage your tasks like a project with a roadmap, and give people due dates and reminders.
  • Offer to help if possible. Sometimes people are unfamiliar with community technology (blog software, wikis, mailing lists, etc.), and offering your help the first time to get them started can make them more comfortable and self-sufficient later.
  • Have backup ideas and keep in mind that not everyone will deliver on time no matter how many times you ask / nag, so it can help to plan for a little extra knowing that not everything will be ready when you wanted it.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Flickr user Elliot Brown licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: Value of Waiting

Most community managers keep a close watch on their online communities to be able to respond quickly, but really good community managers know when to respond right away and when to wait. If something is truly wrong, you should step in immediately to let people know you are working on fixing the issue, and when someone has an urgent or quick question, responding right away can help a community member get through an issue and back to being productive. However, there are many times when waiting and watching can be the best strategy.

Here are some times when you might want to wait:

  • For less urgent questions, wait to see if another community member responds. This gets more people participating and active in the community.
  • When someone is attacking and highly critical, a response from the community manager can seem defensive or self-serving. By waiting, you might find that other, more neutral community members come to your rescue. You can add more details later, if needed.
  • During controversial discussions, it can be useful to wait and let other people weigh in with opinions. If the community manager responds too early, you can shut the discussion down rather than learning where people stand.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Flickr user Vincent van der Pas used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: More Listening, Less Talking

The balance between listening and talking is a tricky one for many community managers, especially new ones. As community managers, we get excited when people participate, but if we start to jump into every conversation or reply to every thread it can be a little overbearing and can shut the conversation down too early. I try to listen first, and respond later to give more people a chance to participate.

A few tips for finding the right balance between listening and talking:

  • If you are consistently the top contributor as the community manager, take a hard look at whether you are posting too often.
  • Wait a bit before responding (unless the request is urgent) to see if someone else wants to chime in with a response or an answer.
  • Read the entire thread before responding to make sure that you are listening to all of the various opinions, especially before making a decision that impacts the community.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Photo by Flickr user Ky used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Community Manager Tip: Have Great Metrics

For community managers, having excellent metrics is one of the best ways to show your progress and help justify your efforts to management when talking about budgets and staffing for the community. It provides an early warning system and diagnostics for potential community issues, which gives you time to make corrections before things get too bad.

Here are a few tips for having great metrics:

  • Measure many details to help you diagnose issues, but focus on a smaller subset that are used to determine success / failure.
  • The smaller subset should map to your goals and strategies for your community as a whole to show that you are meeting your objectives.
  • Share your metrics with your community. I have a public report with the data and a second internal report with more detailed analysis and suggestions for where the team can improve.
  • Measure across a few categories. I use awareness, membership and participation / engagement.

Additional Reading

Note: I hope to make this into a series of short posts (approximately weekly) to share quick tips for community managers.

Image by Flickr user Kevinzhengli used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.