Monthly Archives: March 2013

Book review: The Power of Un-popular

The Power of Un-popular

The Power of Un-popular

Among the various choices of reading material that were presented to me at the beginning of the semester, I chose “The Power of UN-Popular” by Erika Napoletano. I chose this simply because the title sounded more interesting than the majority of the other choices provided. After reading the book, I can confidently say that I learned something from Erika’s writing and am a fan of her outlook on how to establish a brand and develop a community of customers. The material presented throughout the book is directed towards entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business and/or develop a brand.

Why don’t you want to be Popular?

The World English Dictionary’s definition of popular: “appealing to the general public; widely favored or admired.” According to Erika, this is not something a business needs or truly wants because the general public is simply “plain vanilla” that doesn’t specifically suit your business. If you build a business in order to be popular, you’re going to fail because you take the same path as something or someone else; completely devoid of innovation.

One of the most important takeaways from Erika’s writing was the importance of defining your audience due to the potential of wasted resources in marketing towards people that will never buy your product. Some people will never buy your product, whether it’s due to the price, type of service, or general liking to your brand’s personality. There is no need to waste capital on marketing towards such individuals or businesses – they don’t like you and never will.

Targeting an Audience

The process of refining a business’s audience requires a few pieces of analysis to ensure you can accurately identify your customer base. Erika presents some of the more common tools that will assist with developing a plan for targeting an appropriate audience such as competitive analysis techniques and hiring a 3rd party Analyst. Competitive analysis can be done by going through materials that are public – such as your competitors’ public website, press releases, web reviews of their products and services, and peer review materials.

What NOT to do…

There were several things in Erika’s book that are meant to be avoided by an emerging brand. These “brand personality defects” can have a negative impact on the relationship with customers and hinder their advocacy of the brand.

  1. Don’t be “That Guy”: a person that is consumed in their own problems and doesn’t care about the opinions or problems of others. If you monopolize a conversation with customers, they will leave.
  2. Don’t be mean, be positive.

Paths for Success

Establishing a relationship with your customers is important because people do business with people – if they like you personally, they will continue to do business with you. Be approachable to your customers and always ready to assist them with their needs. Creating a consistent, enjoyable experience for your customers will eventually turn them into advocates of your brand.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I thought this book was very interesting and made sense. The concepts were presented in a straight-forward way and embraced common sense. I appreciated Erika’s blunt language because it made the reading more entertaining and made it easier for the reader to relate to the material. In my opinion, her advice is spot-on for establishing a successful brand.

Book Review: Humanize – How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World

When I opened up Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant’s book Humanize for the first time, I had a good idea of what I could expect. The title alone paints a pretty clear picture, right? This is clearly a text full of tips about creating a more people-friendly presence on social media, and turning that presence to your advantage in an organization. That’s not a bad assumption, but it turns out it’s only partly correct. You see, rather than list out a few dozen ways to be more empathetic or share some how-tos for customer appreciation, Notter and Grant take a hard look at organizations and management today, tear the rulebook to shreds, and break down how to reformulate who you are as an organization. Humanizing, it seems, starts at the core of your company, with your internal culture, structure, and mindset.

My main reason for selecting this book was to try to see what I could take from it and apply to my work as the social media strategist/community manager for Syracuse University’s IT and Services department. I’m in a position where we’re all learning as we develop our strategy, goals, and voice, so I like to look for useful guidance whenever I can. We’re an organization in need of “humanizing,” I feel, so I knew this book would be fruitful for my work.

A more social organization starts with the people inside it.

A more social organization starts with the people inside it.

Notter and Grant start their work off with a bit of a history lesson, covering where organizations and management principles came from, how technology has begun to disrupt the status quo, and how sticking to traditional ways of thinking are stifling some great opportunities for truly innovative growth. They take issue with the adherence to the mysterious act of strategic planning, lament at the barriers of communication erected under the guise of process control, and bury their faces into their palms over the stuffy organizational cultures that seem to be revered today. Organizations are broken, and to repair them means regrouping and crafting a new foundation, to create an adaptive, collaborative, learning organization from the ground up.

After identifying the problems at hand, the authors launch into a structured and consistent presentation of their ideas for becoming a more socially-minded organization. Four thorough chapters each focus on one aspect of humanizing: being open, being trustworthy, being generative, and being courageous. These are not mere lists of tips, but well-reasoned explanations of why and how to bring about change, with looks at real-world cases to highlight both the benefits of being more human, and the pitfalls of failing to adapt. The cards are laid plainly on the table, and I couldn’t help but hunger for more with every turn of the page. I didn’t agree with everything that was written, but I can certainly respect the authors’ viewpoints, as they are backed up with reasoned arguments most every time.


After closing the back cover and reflecting on what I had read, I knew I had some key takeaways to apply to my organization. In particular, I plan on pursuing some of the penultimate thoughts in the book, on being the catalyst for change in your organization. As a student, I’m not in a great position to command or lead an organizational shakedown, but I can still be an influential voice in the department, and I have some incredible advice to assist me now. The delightful part about this is that Humanize wasn’t written with my position in mind – it was tailored for the association industry. But that’s the beauty of the text: it’s clear, poignant, structured, and reasonable, and thus can easily be applied very broadly. Give it a look, you may be surprised at how relevant it is to your organization, and find yourself pondering how to humanize your work as well.

“Earned Media” Means Earned Relationships


Searching for A Golden Opportunity In the Rubbish

I really appreciate that our readings this week focused so much on the power and importance of relationships between bloggers and product/service representatives (or between PR agents, as idea pitchers, and bloggers.) So much of the spam that I remember getting as an intern and blogger at, a travel website based in New York City, was impersonal, dry (though not for lack of trying, via using lots of exclamation points or big words to describe something unexciting), and not at all engaging. Many were very obviously mass-mailed to as many contacts as the PR company could get its hands on. Most of the time, it seemed like the worst phrasing and pitching seemed to come along with the worst events or offers – like the email blast was such a last-ditch effort for a mediocre product that everyone just lost their motivation and pushed out more less-than-stellar stuff. And the sheer volume of the “garbage” PR spam made it difficult to weed through the bad to find the good opportunities.

In a Perfect World…

The e-book by Evernote frames the creation, facilitation and maintenance of a relationship  between blogger and PR rep as a responsibility that’s largely placed on the PR side. In an ideal world, this is how it should be (ideally, for every single blogger out there in the blogosphere) because it intrinsically means that the blogger’s voice and platform are valued to such an extent that a PR agent is required to devote the energy, time, and sometimes money into convincing them that a subject is worth writing about.

The converse, though, leaves smaller-stage bloggers, with small followings, few fans, and few resources in the dark and unlikely to get a “scoop” about events or new products from public relations firms. As we’ve discussed, it takes a lot of effort and planning to build a reputation and become a “top blogger” – one who receives those quality pitches, with positive relationships attached, from their “suitors.”

The Best PR Rep – Blogger Relationships Will Include:

  • Our readings list a lot of ways that PR reps can demonstrate a blogger’s value:
  • Mentioning them in speaking engagements
  • Following up with “thank you”‘s and feedback
  • Tracking the “outputs” of other bloggers picking up their quality material
  • Engaging and promoting the material as much as possible on social media
  • Compensating the bloggers fairly (and being open about expectations and rewards from the beginning, plus ensuring any material rewards are disclosed in the material)
  • Optimizing the post for search engines
  • Telling a good story, on as many platforms as possible.

Most importantly, I think that the best example with also include an outlook towards bloggers (Ahem. And writers, journalists, photographers, reporters…) as valued partners, who are really in it for the same reasons PR reps are – to produce quality. They are not just a microphone for your message or commodity, and if PR companies appeal to their human side with respect, personal interest and understanding, they can become an invaluable ally and resource.


Book Review: Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World

Humanize - Notter and Grant“Humanize”: this word is scattered throughout the digital landscape.  So, quite appropriately, I selected “Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World” by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant as the subject of my mid-term book review.  Notter and Grant, while having different backgrounds (he is a leadership, conflict, and diversity speaker and consultant; she is a blogger and co-founder and Chief Social Media Strategist at SocialFish), both have experience with association management, the practice of governing and leading a membership comprised of dues-paying members.  This was my primary reason for my interest in “Humanize,” as nearly all of my volunteer commitments are with dues-paying and volunteer-based organizations.  That, plus the word itself has an aspirational quality for any future community or social media management professional.

“Humanize” provides a detailed explanation of the key characteristics of a human organization along with actionable steps to how the reader can move his or her for- or non-profit organization toward effective practice of those attributes.  The chapters in “Humanize” are aggregated into sections.

  • Humanize - Notter and GrantThe beginning of the book (chapters one through four) provides a 30,000 foot look at the social media revolution.  This section goes on to discuss the natural tension between the forward progress of social media and lack of change within many organizations, while also identifying three critical factors in that tension: organizational culture, internal process, and individual behavior.
  • The “meat” of the book (chapters five through nine) sees Notter and Grant identify four key elements of being human: open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous.  They purposefully select a trellis as a basis for representing an organization’s culture, its process, and its behavior, stating that these elements together “support the cultivation of more powerful organizations – ones that will thrive in a social world.”
Culture Process Behavior
Open Decentralization Systems Thinking Ownership
Authentic Transparency Truth Authenticity
Generative Inclusion Collaboration Relationship Building
Courageous Learning Experimentation Personal Development

The Trellis

Humanize - Notter and GrantEach of these four elements is addressed one-by-one.  Challenges of and opportunities for introducing each into an organization are discussed, and each chapter concludes with a worksheet designed to assess an organization’s current position and identify future work in building a particular characteristic.  (The worksheets, shown at right, can be downloaded at the Humanize website.)  Each chapter ends with a closing designed to prompt action: “Ultimately, the changes we advise in this book are necessary, they are possible, and they start with you.  Don’t wait for permission or the perfect timing.  Are you ready?  Go.”

Gardening in Your Community

I would not hesitate to recommend “Humanize” to any aspiring or practicing community or social media manager.  Notter and Grant strike a good balance between heft and levity.  “Humanize” is weighty yet readable; their writing style is clear and the text is infused with a sense of humor and wit.

Just as #CmgrChat member @doctorcrowe indicated in his review in the @TheCMGR Reading List, Humanize is not a book about how to implement a community management or social media program.  Rather, Humanize is a book that breaks down important organizational factors that, when correctly aligned, will facilitate the successful implementation of such a program.  For example, in chapter six, “How To Be Open,” Notter and Grant emphasize the need to understand an organization’s culture on all levels – its walk, its talk, and its thought – before beginning to transform it from a hierarchical centralized culture to an inclusive decentralized one.

As Notter and Grant say on page 114 as they prepare to kick off chapter 6, “Whatever you do, do something.”

I’m going; will you?

“Book Review: Get Bold”


Why should a Social Business have a Community Manager?

Let’s face it.  The concept of a Social Business may be overwhelming to organizations that are still using traditional business practices.  After all, what does Social Business even mean?   Is it opening up a Facebook page or Twitter account?    Maybe…

Organizations may use social networks as part of their plan of action, but being a Social Business is so much more!

What is a Social Business? 

If you ask Sandy Carter, author of the book, Get Bold, she would explain that a Social Business does not just use social media as a marketing tool, but integrates and embeds social practices throughout the entire organization.  It is about focusing on relationships with their clients, partners, citizens, and employees by engaging new technologies and platforms that powerfully and easily connect in trusted and experiential ways.

As the Vice President and Social Business Evangelist for IBM, Sandy has the background and experience to help guide her readers.  In the book, she provides a complete Social Business framework she calls AGENDA.

A.  Align organizational goals and culture

G.  Gain Social Trust

E.  Engage Through Experiences

N.  Network Your Business Processes

D.  Design for Reputation and Risk Management

A.  Analyze Your Data

The Community Manager’s role in AGENDA

A. Align organizational goals and culture

Sandy suggests that companies consider launching internally first, as this will provide employees with a practice ground in which to learn how to be effective with social tools. By virtue of doing what they do best, a Community Manager will help to foster the internal communication and collaboration, especially in larger businesses where multiple locations exist.

G. Gain Social Trust

Sandy feels that there are three components necessary to develop social trust:

  • Expertise and thought leadership–  A good Community Manager knows her audience and is always working to provide thoughtful content for her community.
  • Responsiveness and consistency-  A good Community Manager is there to respond to her community’s needs and takes the time to listen and understand
  • Transparency and open conversation-  A good Community Managers is continually looking for ways to foster open conversations within her community.

E. Engage Through Experiences

Community Managers are engagement gurus.   It is their job to realize the value of participation and provide leadership, direction, and purpose to their communities.

N. Network Your Business Processes     

Community Managers have the ability to take the lead in supporting both internal and external communities.  Their direct influence will not only help the organization achieve a more fluid social transition, but also will enable faster knowledge sharing and improved collaboration.

D. Design for Reputation and Risk Management

Community Managers are on the front line of their communities, whereby through the sheer act of just listening, they are given the ideal opportunity to counter negative opinion and help shape reputation.

A. Analyze Your Data

Metrics give Community Managers the opportunity to better legitimize the hard work they perform and offer a way to measure the direct effect they have on all 6 work streams.

Get Bold is full of compelling evidence that supports the worth and importance of the Community Manager in the Social Business.  Sandy Carter sees the role of Community Manager as not only one of the fastest growing professions, but also a requirement of Social Business success.  I concur!!





Book Report: “Community: The Structure of Belonging”

Photo: Survival International via Fox News

Photo: Survival International via Fox News

Peter Block understands what constitutes community and what satisfies the human need for connectedness.

The best-selling author and consultant penned Community: The Structure of Belonging. In that book, he looks at how people want to be part of something larger than their own small circle of influence and join others in exchange of comment, the engagement of ideas, the melding of goals, and the vision of an interconnected and enlivened community.

While Block writes in terms of literal communities, his concepts are rock-solid for the kind that form and engage virtually. The ideas conveyed regarding neighborhoods, schools, civic organizations, workplaces, and governmental entities are just as valid when applied to the workings of and motivations of online communities, in my view.

Humans are hard-wired to want to interface in meaningful ways.

Oneida Community members via NY Times

Oneida Community members via NY Times

Block says we have a “need to create a structure of belonging,” emanating from “the isolated nature of our lives, our institutions, and our communities.

He cites the ways of American society as creating “gaps” that fuel a desire for connectedness. Today’s American life, with its western culture and individualistic nature; and the tendency of organizations and professionals to be more inward-looking in their perspectives these days, adds to that distancing.

With our neighborhoods, businesses, schools, social service organizations, churches, and government entities all operating in their own worlds, preoccupied with individual pursuits rather than collective ones, even “parallel effort added together does not make a community,” Block notes.

  • He laments that such separateness diminishes the talents of individuals as well as those of whole communities.
  • The resulting dearth of abilities and talents makes for situations where “there are too many people in our communities whose gifts remain on the margin,”Block says.
  • It is a situation that is as true for those who remain in their home communities in a disconnected state, as it is for groups who have been forced from their homes to live out their lives in displacement.
  • The lack of interface and fragmentation of communities, Block suggests, can create the lack of enthusiasm and action that is exhibited in issues communities face such as “low voter turnout, the struggle to retain volunteerism, and the large portion of the population who remain disengaged,” Block contends.

I can identify. 

Seattle Skyline/

Seattle Skyline/

Years ago, I moved cross country to a place where my husband and I knew no one else at all, and I experienced firsthand the feeling of displacement and the longing for connectedness and human need for engagement with my new community.

As humans, the state of a connected community comes naturally, it seems to me. Humans lived as tribal groups all over the world, and many peoples still do. We formed communities of our own to engage in like-mindedness and unified visions.

Photo: Alicia Moura/via CNN Money

Photo: Alicia Moura/via CNN Money

Even until recent generations, families lived together in multiple-generation households, providing an automatic sort of engagement and enlivenment to everyday living. (It’s a trend that may be experiencing a resurgence due to current economic times.)

It’s all about forming engagement and sustaining conversations.

While the first half of Block’s book dealt with identifying and characterizing the issue of disengaged communities, the second part is a playbook for how to remedy that. The author offers a selection of insights and tactics that can be used to re-engage community members and  restore and transform communities, as well as a wide selection of “doers” and resources who’ve been successful at that task.

@rhappes - Twitter

@rhappe – Twitter

“Connector” and founder of Community Roundtable Rachel Happe (@rachelhappe) put it well when she tweeted recently to CMGRClass guest expert author and blogger Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder):

“I don’t think real communities exist around products,

they exist around shared needs, locally or virtually #sbs2013.”

 So, I’d like to hear what you think about the ideas Block presents.

  • Is the rise of individual organizational pursuit diminishing our ability to collectively problem-solve for our communities?
  • Are online communities, and the resulting potential of community activism that can take place from those engagements, a solution to re-engaging and transforming our living styles today?


What About When the Customer is Wrong?

Call me a boat-rocker, but I don’t personally subscribe to the notion that the customer is always right. I happen to love customer service, it’s a topic I’m very passionate about and I’m always out to find shining examples of service done right. But I think it’s folly to go in thinking the customer’s needs are paramount – rather, I think it’s important to go in thinking that you’ll be interacting with a person who has needs, which may or may not align with your organization’s products, services, or mission. Sometimes, the person who gave you money, or is prepared to do so, is actually somebody else’s customer, and it’s your job to help them figure that out.

"We don't have that, but let me help you find somebody who does."

“We don’t have that, but let me help you find somebody who does.”

I’ve worked in a variety of service positions over the years, from a snowboard instructor, to a barista, to an IT helpdesk consultant, and a small handful of social media roles. My opinion years back, when I was teaching snowboarding, would have been that the customer needs to be fluffed up and treated like royalty, otherwise they won’t tip you. As a barista, I felt the same way. As an IT consultant, my opinion changed slightly, as there were no tips, and my customers were not charged for our services. These were people who simply needed my help to maintain their status quo, and while a minor network issue may take me two minutes to diagnose and fix, they may come to me belligerent, accusing us of running a sub-par organization. That position was draining, but I knew exactly what the perspective was on the customer side; I was the expert in this matter, not them, so they were dealing with a problem they had little to no capacity to fix, and thus I needed to be not only a mechanic, but an instructor. To help stem the tide of repeated problems that have quick fixes, I had to show our customers that really, they didn’t need to be our customers sometimes. A problem with your network can be as simple to fix as switching off the network switch under your desk, then switching it back on. A problem with your computer being slow can be fixed by restarting it, and freeing up some of the memory. These customers weren’t wrong to not know how to address their problems, but they were rather innocently wrong in that they couldn’t possibly handle the problem themselves.

This was an important lesson for me to learn – sometimes the customer isn’t right, and sometimes they don’t need to be anybody’s customer. Then, in spring 2011, I took a trip to New York City that I will never forget. I was there for Coffee Fest NYC, a coffee-and-tea industry event, but I also took the opportunity to hang out with some local baristas, most of whom I had never met before. One such barista, Sam Lewontin, was a revelation to talk to. He was absolutely passionate and outspoken about customer service in coffee, holding both customer happiness and product quality to high standards. However, he would be the first to tell you that sometimes a person walks into a café thinking they are your customer, when in fact they are somebody else’s, in the wrong place. As a coffee professional, and an ambassador to an industry, Sam felt that it was his job to make sure that person got something that satisfied them, even if it meant directing them to a café which serves a caramel macchiato – which cannot be found on his menu at Everyman Espresso. This, to me, was everything I felt about service, summed up beautifully.

This week, we read a short section in Olivier Blanchard’s book, Social Media ROI, all about customer service on social media. The reading started off with nine rules of online conflict resolution, the first of which was of course “The customer is always right.” Reading through the list (and the rest of the section), I agreed with everything Olivier wrote – be polite, apologize, an angry customer isn’t an enemy – with the exception of rule number 1. I don’t think this mindset is productive for everybody, because it can lead to an organization making unnecessary concessions for a single person, or even a small subset of people. I would personally be left more impressed by a service professional helping me solve my problem at somebody else’s business, rather than bending over backwards to make sure I gave them my money. The former demonstrates humility and respect, whereas the latter makes me wonder if my wallet is more valuable than my wants and needs.


And that’s what it’s all about – good old word of mouth.

It is always important to be polite as a professional in customer service, always treat that person with respect and humanity, but keep in mind that sometimes the customer isn’t right, and sometimes they are lost. Sometimes you have to do the right thing and help them understand that their business can be directed elsewhere. And who knows, they might be so impressed with the level of service they just received that they stick around to give you their money anyway.

Do you agree with my premise, or is the customer really always right?

What to Think About Before you Comment

Friends in Circle

Image courtesy of Savit Keawtavee

Have you ever read a community post and wondered, “What was that person thinking?” or more likely “Why wasn’t that person thinking?” While the onus is often placed on the community manager to deal with all kinds of crude or thoughtless posts, maybe it’s time that we all helped improve the constructiveness of our community dialogue by thinking more before we “speak.” While I realize that I risk “preaching to the choir”, here are some filters that I personally attempt to put my messages through before sending them out.

Who can Hear my Message?

Recently, according to Forbes, two attendees at a tech conference conference were talking to each other using crude sexual innuendos. The person in front of them was offended, snapped a picture of them, and posted it on Twitter with their comments. Needless to say things only got worse from there. One key learning from this is that whether we’re speaking to the person next to us in public or posting to a private forum on the internet, we need to think about who might “overhear” our message, and realize that it may go beyond our intended audience. The more public and unknown the potential audience is, the more conservative we need to be when formulating our message. We also need to moderate our messages based on how much trust we have in the privacy controls of our internet provider, social media platform, and our fellow community members. Even if the technology platforms are completely “secure” and “roped off” there is always the chance that a community member could repeat what we have said elsewhere, so remember to “let the buyer beware”, because there is no guarantee of privacy on the internet.

What Community Standards do I need to live up to?

Even if we have chosen a community that has good privacy controls and feel comfortable relying upon these controls, there is still the need to learn and follow the standards of a particular community. The best way to do this is to listen for a while until we understand the tone of the community. We need to watch what the community manager allows or doesn’t allow and observe how the more esteemed members of the community conduct themselves. Too often “free speechers” will join a community and declare their right to loudly express their opinions. Yes, it’s a free country, and no one knows you’re really sitting at your computer in your pajamas, so you have this powerful feeling of anonymity, but please don’t post your personal right-wing/left-wing political manifesto every other day; please don’t bait and make personal attacks against your community arch-nemesis; and please do try to support your ideas with logical, well-thought out arguments instead of resorting to name calling. Just as some professional sport announcers have to practice in order to avoid swearing on air, we need to filter ourselves and practice living up to the standards set by our communities. Obviously, these may differ from community to community, which is why it’s important to listen and observe these standards before going overboard. Again, when in doubt, err on the side of conservatism, even if it means deleting some of the best lines from that colorful rebuttal you have written. And remember the admonition of your mother, “If you don’t have anything good to say”, don’t say anything at all”.

Does my Message Construct Match my Medium?

Maybe I’m showing my age on this one, but I still believe we need to choose the right medium for the message and construct the message in the format appropriate for the medium (and of course, the intended audience). To me there is a continuum of mediums whose proper use depends at least partially upon the formality or informality of the medium as well as the context of the message. It’s OK to use “u”, “2”, and “8” as words in text messages, but as we move up the food chain to more formal mediums (e.g. formal blogs, business emails, business community forms), we need to use our best formal language skills. Twitter and Facebook appear to be more informal on the surface, but business pages and business targeted communications using these mediums require more formalized encoding of our messages than firing off a text does. If we all put more time into thinking before we speak or hit “send/post”, the world could be a better place for all of our communities.

What filters do you put your messages through before submitting your posts? What filters would you like to see others put their posts through?

Conflict Resolution Takes Great Communication Skills

angry customer

We have been looking at many aspects of community management and while the position can be full of exciting experiences, inevitably you will run into a difficult or angry community member. What do you do when your peaceful, friendly, cooperative community is upset by an angry person? You know the type. They start with rude comments and remarks and continue to escalate while they suck your community into their negative vortex. Conflict resolution entails a journey into the unknown. No matter how much we prepare, we can never know for sure how another will react to us or respond to our message. Not surprisingly, this uncertainty leads many to avoid conflict rather than venture into the unknown, but as a community manager you will need the skills to resolve conflicts.

Olivier Blanchard has 15+ years of marketing management experience and gives us some rules to follow in his book  Social Media ROI. He offers us some practical advice that is relevant to the position a community manager may find themselves in. Lets take a look at a summary of what he offers –

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT – this is the Golden rule of any business. Even if the customer is wrong, they are right. This is where you begin the journey into conflict resolution. When you come up against an angry customer, you never, ever engage in an argument with them, especially online. Imagine the scenario, you post one inflammatory comment to an angry person, what happens next? Don’t think for one moment that an online argument is about finding a resolution or point of agreement. It is a smack down, pure and simple. There will be no victor and you will certainly lose creditability.

no winners

Conflict resolution online is very different from the real world experience. If you were face to face with a customer, you would have the opportunity to use your body language as a tool to deal with the situation. You do not have this tool available in an online scenario you are faceless. A best practice would be to take it offline and speak with the customer directly without an audience. Remember to always be polite and treat them with respect regardless of how they behave.

By Campbell Addy

By Campbell Addy

Blanchard states – “Unreasonable customers are not the enemy.”  This is a great message to keep in mind. They will help you to grow and develop your communication skills. Take the higher ground and be thankful for this opportunity. We all need to keep practicing to be the best we can be so embrace the challenge. This also gives us the opportunity to practice humility. Blanchard shares that we should not be afraid to apologize, even when we don’t have to. How do you feel when someone is compassionate and apologetic towards you? This is what your customer needs. Reach out to them!

reach out

 By acknowledging the customers dispute and engaging them in the process to resolution you are well on your way.  This would be the time to recruit your customer as a partner in creating the solution. Blanchard suggests that you use this phrase, “I understand your frustration. How can I help?” By asking this question you have engaged them in the process by “shifting them from complaint mode to solution mode.” These best solution will come when the customer is involved. If the customers solution is not reasonable Blanchard suggests that you “apologize and say you can’t do that, but offer another solution.”

Online conflict resolution:

  • should always be done calmly and politely
  • should be done offline if it will require a more sensitive approach
  • should be managed in a professional manner (crowds tend to take sides)
  • should use the individuals name when possible
  • should recruit your customer into the resolution process

By following these simple guidelines and using your own communication skills, you are on your way to becoming a master of conflict resolutions. What are some ways that you have learned to resolve conflicts? We would like to know so leave a comment.

Until next time, “Happy Trails”!

A Commenting Moderation Policy for the People

Retrieved from:

Retrieved from:

The #cmgrclass topic of the week is a tricky one: moderating commenting in communities. To me, this seems to be an art form reminiscent of governments and their people.

There is the dictatorial approach, in which the moderator has the final approval on all things, and nothing sees the light of day until it has been reviewed and stamped as allowable for community consumption. The second is more of a democratic approach, where community members enjoy a greater freedom in posting comments, but the system implements methods to protect the community from spam and undue profanity. The third, and least restrictive, is akin to anarchy where anything goes, and all community members, be them lunatics, posters, spammers or deviants, enjoy the same level of freedom in community conversation.

Of course, each of these techniques has its place in different communities with different moderators, and there are pros and cons that can make a strong argument for or against each.

In the post Moderating Comments and Managing Online Communities, Tara Coomans offers positive and negative aspects of each.

For the dictatorial approach, which she dubs the “Unlock Policy”, Coomans offers the following:

Pros: Keeps out all the riff-raff.
Cons: Delaying comments prevents organic timely conversation. Can you keep up with reading every single comment and approving in a timely manner?

Due to the pro, which is keeping out fight-seekers and spammers, this tactic may be aptly applied to communities that feature particularly controversial subject matter. However, taking into considering the con in this case, this may only be practically applied to a rather small community, as reviewing and approving each comment individually in a large, fast-paced community is difficult if not impossible.

For the democratic approach, coined by Coomans as the “Knock-First Policy”, she says:

Pros: Keeps the community free of junk without over reaching-gives the community a true voice that is consistent with the community’s own language. Not terribly time-consuming to manage.
Cons: Comments can create community drama without being spammy or profane.

This in-between approach takes a protective hand in filtering spam and profanity, but enjoys a greater level of freedom in allowing community members to post without the need for review and approval. This tactic is prime for a mildly controversial topic, because it will allow community members to rapidly reply to each other and offer bold opinions without being subjected to undue spam or profanity. Would also be well applied to a variety of other communities due to the harmonic balance it strikes.

For the anarchic technique, or rather the “Open Door Policy”, Coomans states:

Pros: The community is completely transparent to one another, with the exception that people will often use pseudonyms on communities like this.
Cons: Spam and lowest common denominator magnet. These two elements will likely crowd out your actual community.

While this gives community members the greatest level of freedom, it also subjects them to distracting spam and overly controversial or profane statements that may dilute the overall quality of the conversation.

While there are subsets of these categories that may be tailored to be applied to the full spectrum of online communities, it is these three main categories from which they are derived. For each community there is a commenting policy, and for each commenting policy, a community.