Lessons in community from community editors #11: Chris Deary, Hearst Digital

Chris Deary, Community Editor at Hearst Digital, adds his 3 things he’s learned about community management to this ongoing series.

1. Know your audience

Understand your audience and give them community tools that are designed to meet their needs.

There is a tendency to want to throw as many community tools as possible on to a site without considering what your users are actually going to do with them or giving them a reason to use them.

It’s the “If we build it, they will come” attitude. But why should they? What is it about your discussion forums or blogs that is different to the millions of other sites offering the same functionality? This is where the role of the Community Editor is really important in terms of setting the tone of the community and figuring out ways of encouraging interaction and participation.

2. Expect the unexpected

This isn’t a negative point. Often what you get from your users will far exceed what you expected, both in terms of quality and quantity. But there has to be an understanding with any user generated content that you cannot have 100 per cent control over what the community will do with an idea or with a tool.

Once you invite user participation you have to relinquish a certain amount of control, but the important thing to emphasise is that most of the time, what you get back will be worth it. You only have to look at Twitter to see how a community can take a tool and use it in ways its original creators would never have imagined.

3. Pay attention to the detail

It’s easy to come up with big, headline-grabbing initiatives that lead to short term, one-off spikes in traffic and look impressive to others within your organisation. But the key to building a community in the long term is doing lots and lots of little things really well.

They are the kind of things that your colleagues in other departments probably don’t even know you do, like helping a user who can’t log in or dealing with a moderation issue when everyone else is eating their Christmas dinner.

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