Tag Archives: community editors

Lessons in community from community managers #12: Lorna Mitchell

It’s been a while since the last in the community management series. In this latest post Lorna Mitchell gives her 3 tips. Lorna is co-project lead for http://joind.in – an open source development project for gathering event feedback. She says “The other project lead is Chris Cornutt, a guy I’ve met three times over three years, who lives in a timezone 6 hours out from mine.”

Lorna worked as a telecommuter for a number of years and did community relations in that role, and was involved in running PHPWomen, a global user group bringing together women programming PHP, “with all the cultural and linguistic variations that brings.”

Lorna’s tips are:

Keep communicating

A running commentary of what you are doing and thinking is essential when you are working with people who can’t see you and may not have met you.

Communicate appropriately

Don’t hold a discussion over Twitter that would be better in long hand over email. Make a phone call rather than having days of comment and response on a bug tracker.

Be inclusive

Nothing turns newcomers off faster than lots of in-jokes or references to people they don’t know or places they didn’t go.

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.

Lessons in community from community editors #10: Craig Elder, the Conservative Party

In the latest in this ongoing series, I spoke to Craig Elder, The Conservative Party’s Online Communities Editor, about the 3 things he’s learned about community management:

1. Be a real person

Use your own name when blogging, tweeting, commenting etc. Giving people a proper touchpoint within the organisation adds real value – people are far more likely to be constructive or helpful when they know they’re communicating with a human being rather than a faceless webmaster@ e-mail address.

Getting involved in the conversation (again, using your own name) definitely reaps rewards. A real person responding openly to a critical comment will get much better results than the moderator deleting it.

Exchange information

The community is a great place to collaborate and exchange information. Try sending out a tweet asking for help on a particular subject and watch the replies roll in – it’s not unusual to for people to go one step further and volunteer to be part of the project.

Of course, it’s got to be a two-way process – so make sure you share what you know with others when they’re looking for advice!

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Sitting on your hands and waiting for the conditions to be “just right” before you try something out is going to leave you standing by as the conversation (and opportunity to innovate) moves on.

Being willing to experiment with new tools is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from the community – everyone prefers something rough around the edges but interesting, rather than something that’s been 6 months in the making and past its sell-by date.

Lessons in community from community editors #9: Lindsay Bruce (Middlesbrough Evening Gazette)

The latest in this series comes from Lindsay Bruce, Community Editor at the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette

1) The online community has become an internet counter culture:

Without a great deal of prior knowledge of blogging and life online I had assumed wrongly that users of online communities were very much a sub-culture, using language and concepts I would not understand.

My friend talks ‘at me’ about outdated Java script – I feared it would be a similar scenario.

But this has proven not to be the case. The online communities I represent are filled and fuelled by people from all walks of life, with varying degrees of IT knowledge and experience.

No two bloggers can be categorised in the same way and no two contributors post information on exactly the same subjects.

The users, therefore, have forged themselves into a new counter culture, using what technology is available to them to promote themselves, provide information and diary their lives.

They are defined by their passion for their geographical communities not their abilities with online media.

They fly in the face of any computer / internet stereotypes – where else would you find a WWII Veteran alongside a mum cataloguing the challenges of life with a special needs chid?

The online community permeates all demographics of society – the faceless blogger could be anyone from anywhere – united with other community users by his membership of the online community for his postcode area.

2) The online community should be valued:

The nuggets of information gleamed from the community sites to some may seem insignificant.

Who would want to read that there are roadworks in Middlesbrough when you live in Stockton?

The answer is simple, and pivotal to the success of the online communities; someone cares, so we do too.

But more than that, as a journalist myself, I would have cut off my arm in my early days in search of a splash, to have access to a ‘virtual patch’.

Each contributor acts as a key, opening the door to the community they represent. What they know, and share online, is valuable, worthwhile and should be treated as such by people like me who interact with bloggers.

What takes a seasoned writer 10 minutes to knock out can take a new blogger an evening, or even a whole day. I personally make it a point to thank the bloggers and email them regularly to encourage them and assert the worth of their contributions.

3) The online community provides a way for an unreached generation to interact with print media:

As a blogger myself, for my church, I can personally vouch for the unimaginable amount of publicity at my disposal when I upload information, post videos and podcast on our community websites.

People who favour the web over the traditional evening newspaper can view and comment on all aspects of church life. We reach people with our ‘message’ in a way we could not through the paper.

But likewise, the online community provides a new way for the print product to remain relevant and also reach a new generation.

Currently we are pioneering our work with youth bloggers.

These 16-19s, known to have little or no interaction with their local newspaper, are signing up every day to offer their opinions, review gigs, diary events and most importantly, inform us and discuss local news issues.

The Gazette to them is something they now have ownership of.

We have given them a platform and now have a growing number of young adults with an affiliation to the Gazette and a belief in its worth.

Lessons in community from community editors #8: Carlos Virgen, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

The latest in this series comes from Carlos Virgen of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin:

1. You must engage the community in person.

Making digital contact is great and useful but actually meeting face to face is perhaps even more important. Particularly in a community that may not be as technically savvy as others.

Our town has a population of about 30,000 and the outlying areas bump that up to about 45,000 55-60,000. Although I am sure that the majority of those people use email, some of the other web tools are often alien to them.

2. Take small victories when you can.

We’ve tried a couple of community social networks, neither of which grew very big but each of these was able to connect us with a handful of people that have led to other networks.

Our sports community site connected us with a growing but under-reported group of BMX families.

Our general community network connected us to a local dog-owner social network that will be tapped for an upcoming series on local pets and their owners.

Social networks lead to social networks.

3. Do not think of the social network as an extension of the company.

It’s not. If it is, then it isn’t a social network. Be willing and ready to give up the reigns.

If you are lucky this will happen quickly and you will have a core group of users that will steer it responsibly. This is a sign of success.

Lessons in community from community editors #7: Angela Connor of WRAL.com

I’ve been speaking to news organisations’ community editors on the lessons they’ve learned from their time in the job. Today, Angela Connor, Managing Editor/User-Generated Content WRAL.com and GOLO.com

1. Acknowledge good work

As a community manager, it is important to make your members feel valued and appreciated. When you come across a great blog, interesting comment or great photo, send your compliments to the author, and do it publicly on their profile page or directly on the content.

Remember, you’re the community leader and your opinion matters a great deal. So don’t be stingy with it. Positive reinforcement goes a long way, and it will make that member feel valued and vested. Once that happens, they’re in for the long haul.

2. Ask for help

As the person responsible for the well-being and growth of the community, it’s easy to feel and operate like an island, putting all of that work on your own shoulders.

But as the community grows, so does the number of stakeholders. Use them to your advantage.

Contact your top posters and most involved members and ask them to greet and reach out to new members. Ask them to work on a community-driven FAQ. Tell them what kind of content you’d like to see more of and ask them to help you build it.

Not everyone will jump right in, but you may be pleasantly surprised by the level of response.

3. Know when to walk away

Community management is a tough job and there are days when it can be extremely stressful. From trolls running rampant to direct abuse from visitors and an overflowing inbox filled with pettiness, sometimes it can really take its toll.

When you find yourself feeling like your head is going to explode or as though you’ve reached the end of your rope, get up and walk away. Or better yet, log off the site and just take a deep breath.

Find a message board for community managers and vent with like-minded souls familiar with your plight. And remember, there’s always tomorrow.

Lessons in community from community editors #6: Sarah Hartley, MEN

I’ve been speaking to news organisations’ community editors on the lessons they’ve learned from their time in the job. Today, Sarah Hartley, head of online editorial for MEN Media, publishers of the Manchester Evening News and www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk. Her role includes managing and developing its online communities. She also blogs about online journalism at www.sarahhartley.wordpress.com and is on twitter @foodiesarah.

1. Participate

Unless you’re accepted as a member of the community, it will be difficult to successfully manage or maintain it. As in life, outsiders are mistrusted or their motives misconstrued.

Participating doesn’t just mean adding your own comments or clarifications to debates when required, but can also mean responding with further action.

If an inaccuracy is pointed out – amend it and don’t be worried about doing this publicly; it shows you’re listening. Taking on board legitimate points made by other members of a community you belong to is one way to ensure your blog/product/news service or whatever is more successful.

2. Not just a policeman

The MEN site is unusual among newspaper websites for pre-moderating all interactions with the public – comments, picture submissions, video etc. so my take on this may be slightly different to sites who post-moderate.

The pre-moderation policy means the team editing this material every day need to make snap judgements on what is, or isn’t, acceptable. No small task. The danger we have to guard against is that the activity becomes all about preventing things from happening rather than enabling them to happen.

So while policing for dangers is necessary, it’s important to remember that it isn’t the only activity – some encouragement and welcome is also needed.

3. Spell it out

Take a look at your terms and conditions. Are they written in English or legalese? Users can’t realistically be expected to understand what “defamation” means or have intricate knowledge about the race relations act.

However they can, for example, be expected to sign up to not insult others or use bad language.

Publish guidance notes on the standards of behaviour you do expect but make sure they have a friendly approachable tone to them. As well as helping users get an illustrated idea of what’s required, it also cuts a lot of time in explaining why something hasn’t been published because you can refer the user back to the policy.

3 lessons in community #5: Laura Gluhanich of Ning

In the latest in my series of interviews with the people who deal with online communities as part of their job, I speak to Ning‘s Laura Gluhanich. Laura started at Ning in 2007 as a Community Advocate.  Prior to that, she spent 4 years in restaurant management in her native Michigan.  As acting Manager of Support at Ning, she manages the front line of community feedback regarding the platform.  She spends her time at http://help.ning.com, http://blog.ning.com, and http://twitter.com/lauragatning.

Here are the 3 things she’s learned about community management:

1. Know and treat your community as individuals

Each person on our platform has created a network or belongs to one. Each member of my team is familiar with hundreds of networks and their Network Creators. This familiarity leads to better support because we know a fan network for a band is different from one that is used to collaborate in the classroom, and can respond to their needs better with that knowledge.

2. Be flexible

Community guidelines are there for a reason, and consistency is key to providing a great environment for people to engage. That said, there will always be unique cases where you will need to be creative with a solution that benefits all involved.

3. Show your humanity

The larger your community gets, the less you are looked at and treated as a real person. It is important to provide context and explanation for changes and decisions, and to admit mistakes to your community. Your communications and online presence should reflect your personality.

Lessons in community from community editors #4: Tom Whitwell

I’ve been speaking to news organisations’ community editors on the lessons they’ve learned from their time in the job. Today, The Times’s Tom Whitwell:

1. Trust the readers

Self-policing often works. I had a case where a sports writer was annoyed by a commenter who said he’d got his facts wrong. He wanted us to take the comment down, but by the time we got to the page, there were 3-4 other commenters backing up the writer. On the whole, we have very intelligent readers who leave great comments.

2. Interaction is incredibly subtle and variable

Similar articles with similar traffic can get very different responses – something in the wording of one will inspire hundreds of comments, but not the other.

Some people are hesitant about leaving a comment, but they might be very willing to vote in a poll, or fill in a survey. There are an infinite number of ways that websites can get readers more engaged.

Lessons in community from community editors #3: Andrew Rogers, RBI

After the first two of my interviews with news organisations’ community editors , Reed Business Information’s Andrew Rogers blogged his own ‘3 lessons‘ he’s learned from his time as Head of User Content Development. Reproduced by kind permission, here it is in full:

1. A community is only really a community if it builds (or builds on) genuine relationships between the members.

Otherwise it is merely interactivity. A corollary of this is that an online community needs to be focused around a common interest, need or passion (or simply “something in common”)

2. The most important tool for dealing with problems is your Terms of Use / Ts&Cs.

If you are to deal effectively with problems of misbehaviour you need to be able to point to the rule which says the user can’t do that.

You will still be accused of suppressing free speech/being a Nazi of course, but at least you can justify your actions in removing posts, banning users etc.

Spend a lot of time on developing the rules and lay them out in simple language

3. Find ways to reward the best or most prolific contributors

This might be through a reputation system, increased rights, or simply highlighting their contributions in some way.

Many users are driven to upload their photographs to the Farmers Weekly website in the hope that they will make it into the magazine.

It’s also true, of course, that one should aim to reward all contributors by ensuring that someone pays attention to them.