Last week was full of fascinating conversations at the Social Media & Community 2.0 Strategies conference and the MarketingProfs B2B Forum and I’m just starting to digest it all but one of the concepts that really hit home for me was Adam Zawel‘s analogy for community members. He noted that in most communities there are two key groups to consider when structuring and planning the community – the fish and the sharks. Once a group of any type of people are aggregated into an active community (the fish), other groups will necessarily find that an attractive audience (the sharks). I have always considered part of the role of community management is to protect members – it’s one of the reasons I find private communities often more compelling than public ones but the fish/shark analogy helped clarify my thinking.
Recently, a few members of TheCR have been struggling with the issue of keeping internal marketing groups from pushing direct marketing at community members. They are having a hard time educating their peers that the community dynamic does not succeed if members constantly feel pursued. The internal sharks can be just as dangerous as external ones. What happens if you allow the sharks too much access is one of the following things:
Over-fishing: Fish disappear and stop engaging because they are afraid of being targeted or harassed. This pretty effectively kills the community.
Migration: Fish will go somewhere more hospitable if they feel they are at risk – this is the worst thing that can happen because you can effectively send your community members into the arms of your competitors if they have a better managed community.
Do you have this issue in your community? Who are your sharks? How do you give the sharks an appropriate level of access but keep them from sabotaging the community?