I've written endless words on this in the past,but sometimes you just need a cheat sheet.Particularly these days when people who aren't community professionals find themselves on the front lines out of business necessity or just because of the nature of social media.So here's just a quick set of advice for those who find themselves speaking to members of their user community.
Always be honest.Honesty and straightforwardness buys goodwill for when you screw up.Lies buy ill will.And screw upswillhappen.
You're always in public.No,3000 followers on Twitter isn't private.Nothing on Twitter is private,unless the account is actually locked.No,it's not fair that your personal Twitter is suddenly a corporate mouthpiece.
Never be angry.If you're angry,step away.There are viable ways to express displeasure,but they all require sober contemplation.
Ask questions,don't make arguments.Arguments invite more arguing.Questions encourage discussion between community members,which you can then mine for useful information.
Educate as you go.Sometimes,those discussions will have false premises.You can correct that without starting an argument with your users.All investment in educating your users eventually pays off.
Be human,but stay private.Coming across like a robot is more harmful than helpful.But be very careful about sharing private details of your life.
Budget yourself very carefully.Avoid burnout.Crunch is bad for everyone,but the everyday job is always hard on community people,and the stress can be very high.
Give attention only to that which you want to encourage.Your attention is a precious gift.If you spend it on troublemakers,you'll just make more of them.
Don't get a swelled head;eyeballs on you aren't a measure of your importance to the team.
Cops and cruise directors aren't the same job.Think carefully about how you organize your community-facing roles.One job is about punishment,the other about building trust.It's hard to put these on the same person.
Posters aren't representative of all users,but they're often influencers.All too often we think of this as all or nothing: either they're the vocal minority and don't matter that much,or they are the core userbase.The answer is mixed.
Be wary of scale.Large crowds convey anonymity,which allows the breaking of norms.Neighborhoods make better communities than malls.
Community is proactive,not reactive.It is the act of cultivating a garden;it is culture building.If you just respond to what comes in,you are letting it grow wild.You need to engage in active norm-setting.
"We" is the most important word.When subgroups argue,remind them they share a larger common identity.When they argue with you or the company,remind them you're all in the same community.(And don't lie about it,which means actually having the company believe this.If the company doesn't have this in their culture,a community disaster is bound to happen eventually).
A few helpful links from the past:
- "Community Management in the Culture Wars"– a presentation from 2015 that covers topics like the effects of mobbing,diplomatic language,and ways to lock down your social media
- "A Community Cookbook"(more for players than community managers,but CMs may find things here that they want to help sponsor)
- "Community relations,management,design,and governance"– a post on why these are not the same thing.