These are difficult times online. The first week of the Trump Administration, whether you are in favor of or opposed to his policies, have swamped social media and many communities with debates, discussions, and diatribes that can overwhelm any other conversation. It’s a tricky time for community managers, who need to manage community guidelines, organizational goals, personal feelings and understandable emotions from members as they try to continue to improve their communities and engagement.
How can you work on building community as a community manager at a time like this? Here are a few tips.
- Remind members of your community guidelines. If your community has defined best practices and expected behaviors, remind members of them. This doesn’t mean reposting your legal policies. It means highlighting the rules of interaction in the space you all share. If you don’t have them in a formal form, it may be a time to bring advocates and community members together to get in writing what you informally believe. The best communities are much more likely then their peers to set aspirational guidelines.
- Use the backchannel. If and when people overstep the rules on items such as political postings, personal attacks, etc., at the moment, most of the time it’s emotional rather than calculated. Sometimes, it’s a great time to connect with them on the backchannel to discuss the violations – rather than trying to address issues in the public forum where the intention to clarify the rules can be seen as taking a side. You may still get pushback, but that’s better managed in a 1-to-1 discussion than on the community home page.
- Find a buddy. Find someone, either in your organization or outside (if you have to), with whom you can share ideas and challenges. Have them take a critical eye to your communications to spot unintended bias or language that could exacerbate, rather than defuse, a problem. Professional development organizations like our own TheCR Network and others can be hugely valuable at times like this.
- Proactively let others know the state of the community. Start letting stakeholders and advocates know what you’re seeing in the community now, even if there aren’t any issues. Opening that line of communication early shows you are on top of the situation, and establishes communication channels that you may need in case issues arise. After the whirlwind of the weekend, no time like the present.
- Take the long view. While a lot of things are happening – the immediate hype and overall impact of them may not match. In a lot of cases, the questions for your community members or organization will be unclear for sometime. Strive to be the cooler head, both for the sake of your community and for yourself. While you’re at it, taking the longer view means that if you don’t have some critical elements in place – policies and guidelines, community playbooks, or other ways to ensure consistency and continuity in your community, starting on that path now is a good one.
In many places, there is an opportunity here, too. Online communities can act as safe spaces away from the political conversation – and provide relief for everyone to maintain a focus on their work and things that matter beyond politics. If your community is one of those places, highlighting that community value can help your members keep their work/life/politics in balance – at a time when people need it.
These best practices have been born out of our State of Community Management research. The State of Community Management 2017 launched last week. In these uncertain times, having strong, research-backed ideas for your community is more critical than ever. So schedule 30 minutes to complete the 2017 State of Community Management survey, and you’ll get a scorecard of where your community management stands, and make this spring’s research even more valuable for you.
Take it and share it today – http://the.cr/socm2017survey.