Community management is one of those things that, when working well, often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s a bit like that hostess that always has fantastic parties but no one really understands the hard work that went into the party itself. However, when community management is bad or non-existent it’s very evident. I bucket the risks into six major categories:
A Ghost Town: This is the most recognized and feared risk of community managers – so much so that they often mistake small communities for ghost towns thinking they need to achieve some level of scale before they can get to value creation. The general approach to keep your community from becoming a ghost town is to offer relevant programming and events that enable members to form relationships with each other and ensure that programming is exposed through other channels that bring people back to the community until it becomes habitual.
Land of 1,000 Flowers: Content creation and engagement are great… mostly. However, if content is not valuable or organized in a way to make it easily accessible to members, they will have a hard time finding value in the community. Over time, this can cause attrition. One of the key roles of community management is as content curator – making sure content is organized, tagged, and highlighted to increase its value and ease of access.
Drama Central: The community becomes a dumping ground for gripes and gossip. People who want to be constructive leave or don’t engage at all. Issues are never resolved or shut down and the drama continues. An important role of community management is to acknowledge legitimate issues and find the appropriate people to respond or resolve them. Community managers are also responsible for discouraging and shutting down unfounded gossip that makes the community environment unfriendly for productive uses.
A Pile of Tools: Like a pile of Legos, social tools can be hard to understand for those that are not familiar with all the things you can do with them and why you might use them. Community managers can help immensely with this by promoting interesting uses of tools, scheduling training, and offering examples both in the community and in other channels that members frequent more often (‘social media socials’ in the cafeteria or with cookies are always popular!). This can look like a similar problem to a ghost town but is different in that there is a lot of lurking but not a lot of rich engagement or creation.
A Circling Storm: Members with a legitimate issues find that the community is a great channel for finding like-minded peers, support and gaining awareness. If there is no community manager to step in and help facilitate a resolution to the issue, is can grow and tip into a crisis very quickly.
A Clique: Cliques can be very tantalizing, especially if you are included in them because they drive a lot of interaction. However, cliques can be toxic to the growth of communities and they create social barriers higher than any technical issue. The job of community management is to limit the effect of cliques on the community as a whole by discouraging their formation or giving them a semi-private space to interact that limits their visibility.
What other risks have you seen and what can community management do to limit them?
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