What is the difference between community managers and sports referees?…..About $200,000….
Some of the readers of my blog know that I also moderate and manage a small number of communities. This week has culminated in me reluctantly removing some members from one group. This action, along with the run-up of events has caused me to reflect on the role, and how group members perceive it.
What makes a “community”?
There are several definitions, including:
the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common
In the context of social media based communities (forums, LinkedIn Groups, G+ groups etc), this means like minded people coming together to learn, collaborate, share ideas and support each other.
Rules or norms in communities
For a community to work there must be a common set of behaviours which are seen as acceptable, and of course there will be behaviours that are unacceptable. In any society there are rules or laws, and to operate in those cultures, we need to accept the rules (whether we like them or not), or leave that community. I have a colleague for example that objected to the way the US take fingerprints when entering the country, so refused to travel there. Of course the worst thing he could have done would have been to travel and then argue with the boarder control staff.
Typically in online groups or communities, rules include:
WHAT NOT TO POST:
- Off topic: Posts should be related to social media, social marketing and social business. Off topics posts will be removed.
- Introductions: We have a “Welcome” thread to share details about you and your business. Please don’t start a topic just to tell people who you are. Such posts will be move to the “Promotions” folder.
- Ads, affiliate links and promotional links: Please, no spamming. You are welcome to assist others in the community and we request that you use your good judgment when posting links to products, services, articles and blog posts.
- Simple links to other sites: Please don’t use this LinkedIn Group like you would Facebook. This means avoid new posts to articles. We prefer discussion over links to blog posts and articles. Of course you can link to a relevant post when replying to someone else, but please refrain from promoting your business or content unless it fits in the context of the discussion.
- – Sales pitches.
- Explicit/Hate Speech: Don’t be defamatory, insulting, discriminatory, abusive, demeaning, or indecent. It won’t be tolerated.
- Adult/explicit content: Let’s keep it clean, folks.
- User tag abuse: Definitely @ tag others when it makes sense. Do not blast-tag everyone or tag for no reason.
source: Social media marketing group
Developing a culture in a community
One of the purposes of a set of stated rules is to build a unique identity for the group. Each group will have its own rules, and what works for one group wont work for another. Some groups have the purpose of helping people learn & grow, others for connecting people for business. What will be acceptable in each of these groups will be different. The best groups are managed according to the stated rules. Looking at a community, it is often easy to see the extent to which the group is aligned to the rules, not least by the level of interactions, and number of comments. The more comments the more engaged the group members are.
Who manages the rules of the community?
Each community has an “owner”, founder or moderator. The rules may be set by an individual or group, but it is the day to day enforcement that is the make or break of a group, bot the rules themselves.
Everyone hates the referee
Take any sport, and generally there is a referee, an official or some form of panel. Their role is to apply the rules that participants have signed up to. Take a game of hockey. Two teams of people, each wanting to win the game. The referee is there to ensure fair play, and that both team play to the same rules. The referee is not on one side or the other, but is there for the “greater good”. At times both teams and their supporters will disagree with the referee. Of course no referee is perfect, and many have linesmen, and others to give them guidance and advice, and of course from time to time they make mistakes. Their intent is to ensure the rules are applied consistently to all parties to the best of their knowledge.
What happens when you argue with the referee
In soccer when a player makes an error, the referee may give a player a “yellow card”, a warning. If in the same game the player breaks the rules again, they get a “red card” and are sent off the pitch. What is critical for any professional game, is that like the decision or not, the referee must be respected. A player can ask or question, but to keep challenging the referee, disturbing the flow of the game, can result in the player being “sent off”.
The same can and does happen in online communities. It must do to maintain a level of decorum in the group and maintain the culture that members have opted into by joining the group.
When a yellow card is issued
When a group member is given a “yellow card“, the best thing that member can do is take some time out from the group. This “cooling off” is for the benefit of both the player and the referee. To keep arguing back is just asking for a red card (sending off or blocking from the community).
Some rules never to break
Communities are communities. we have seen in the news what happens when wedges are driven between populations (Ukraine), in online communities this can happen to. people will take sides in debates, especially when it is perceived that an individual or group is being “attacked”. The rule “play the ball not the player” is essential.
NEVER attack or use a persons disability as an attack – it is inexcusable
NEVER get personal with the moderator (or any group member for that matter) – they have a job to do… respect their time
Pushing the envelope… finding the real boundary
Some years ago when starting my business, I joined many groups. My goal was to promote my business. I learnt that I got the best responses from other members when I posted “close to the edge of the rules”. I would like to think, that I was testing the boundaries, but when a community manager said “stop”, I did. For me it was about finding the “bite point”, and that meant being on the edge, but not “upsetting the apple cart”… or to put it the other way, not to bite the hand that feeds!
The role of Community manager is similar to that of a sports referee, you may not like their decision, but their intention is to enable the “game” to be played. challenge by all means, but never argue with the ref!
What do you think? Do community managers act as “dictators”? Are they essential for the long term sustainability of the community?
Community Managers reviewed Feb 2015