While social media provides an outstanding feedback loop, it is critical that online communities be carefully managed. But what does management mean?
To be successful, communities — and that can mean everything from the comment stream on a blog to a private, invite-only forum — must have goals and must be managed to provide consistent and expected experience for visitors
First, let’s look at goals. What do you hope to accomplish by inviting participants to your community, and what benefit do you hope provide to those participants? Are you hosting a conversation on a specific topic? Supporting a common cause or concern? Providing a call offline action? Whatever your goal, work to keep your community focused toward that goal in their postings.
Second, once you’ve set your expectations for community behavior (tone, language, etc.), your participants will expect those visiting to “follow the rules.” If a forum is managed to be an open and polite arena, harsh words and name-calling need to be curtailed, and those who don’t wish to be a productive part of the community may need to be removed. As noted, staying on-topic is also important. If you’re hosting a forum about cats, it’s not productive for someone to post a lengthy piece on the wonders of the Golden Retriever, no matter how polite or well-written the post might be.
By managing your community to both respect the tone of the room and to keep the conversation on point, you increase your chances for developing a successful and productive group.
Doyle Albee is President and Social Media Practice Director at Metzger Associates. He began his career at Coors Brewing Company, where he spent 10 years in both public relations and marketing capacities. He has also worked with Sterling-Rice Group, directed global communications for hard disk drive manufacturer Maxtor and founded and managed his own public relations firm. He can be reached on Facebook and Twitter.
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