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In April, the Online
Community Meetup welcomed Marc
Siegel, manager of customer and community at IgniteGT / Simraceway.
Aspects of Community Management, looked at tactics communities managers
can employ to bring a human touch to build and maintain online communities. Siegel's
lessons for community management drew on his experience managing communities of
all kinds, having worked with companies such as NASA and IBM.
Siegel began by outlining the basics of online communities,
namely, that they grow out of interest in a topic and flourish because of
Online relationships are built if all interactions happen with
the recognition that behind an avatar/handle lies a person. Building online
communities requires giving members opportunities to talk openly about
themselves and be recognized.
Providing “about me” forms with open-ended fields
and recognizing unique, or newly updated profiles are ways to do this. Communities
also grow because there is genuine communication between members, volunteer
leaders, and community managers. Productive dialogue requires honesty, openness
to constructive criticism, and inclusion.
Members of a community are not all the same – they go
through a cycle defined by their participation. Recognizing where your members
are at, what their needs are, and encouraging their growth are important for
community managers. The first level is the visitor, who has not fully committed
to the community. Turning them into a novice, the next level, requires special treatment
such as an official welcome or gift.
Welcoming new members is a good role for a
regular – an active community member who can be entrusted to serve as volunteer
leader. Over time, active members will become elders – members that should be
especially recognized and respected. Elders are experienced members who help
transmit the community’s culture and share knowledge to all other members.
However, before you have active or elder community members
you have to create the community. Our real world natures inform our online
interactions – and like the buffet line at a wedding, no one wants to go first.
To grow a new community, managers will have to seed the community. Seeding a
community is possible through creating and answering questions in forums and/or
creating dummy accounts to help spur initial discussion.
Creating some interaction eases comfort and encourages
conversation. Providing open-ended answers, asking questions, and not
responding immediately so members can help each other can also encourage
In a healthy online community, members can be relied upon
for input. Community input can help make the community better, and even guide
product design. However, community input doesn’t always tell the whole story –
this is where analytics are useful.
Your analytics give an unbiased account of
what resonates and what doesn’t work. Relying on analytics may seem
counter-intuitive but is not because it gives a sense of how the entire
community behaves. Relying solely on input can overshadow quieter or newer
members of the community who don’t feel comfortable openly expressing
If you missed this Online Community Meetup, please visit our online page and RSVP for a future
Susan ChavezOnline Community & Social Media Team, TechSoup Global@Susan_Chavez
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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