Daily Archives: March 8, 2013

5 Takeaways From Moderating #CmgrClass

I moderated the class discussion for the week of February 17 – 24 on the topic of “building a community from scratch,”and came away with five key conclusions about the work of managing a community.



To begin the week, I pulled a selection of comments from three noted authors and their thoughts on building community. This included Peter Block (Community- The Structure of Belonging); Olivier Blanchard, who was our first guest expert and Social Media ROI author, and Chris Brogan, who co-wrote Trust Agents.



Sunday night, I put up the posts, and added links for a brand that I think does an exemplary job of managing its community: yogurt-maker Chobani.

These provided a look at the Twitter, Facebook, and Web presence of the brand.

And I promised, “I’ll show you a little more about this brand and how it has developed its voice soon.”

The week went like this:


I tweeted about my posts. To my pleasant surprise, Chobani was listening and responded. This was fortuitous; when I asked, a Chobani community manager agreed to be my interview for the #CMGRclass final project.

Feb 18 Chobani@Chobani

@stirlingdm Happy to be helpful!

10:16 a.m. – Feb 18, 2013 · Details

Later that morning, I discovered an emerging issue that related to how a community reacts to a brand, so posted from multiple sources regarding the hacking of Burger King’s Twitter account:

http://bit.ly/VASVHshttp://bit.ly/YBXkon ; and http://bit.ly/15q1CG6) and asked the community to react.



Hannah Warren responded the same day; Steve Rhinehart added information the next morning; and others followed. I responded to each shortly after their posts went up. (On Feb. 21, I continued the conversation by adding an update about some side benefits of the hacking.)

Instructor Jenn Pedde also posted course and schedule information this day.


Steve Rhinehart put up an article regarding Famous Dave’s flubs that garnered some immediate attention. Alaetra and Rod posted responses the same day.

Kelly Lux posted the professor’s summary.

Since I was busy at work all that day and evening, I only monitored what was going up and the general activity of the community.


After a prior quiet day, I put up two articles I hoped would promote discussion. The first, by Deb Ng, discussed being careful what you ask the community to do. The second, from Douglas Atkin, included a graphic of the community “commitment curve.” I asked for comment on both posts. 7158723040_ab7ff243a1_q.jpg curve

By now, I was beginning to get a little concerned about the level of interaction being experienced.  I thought it was a slow start. I recalled the pace of Steve and Jessica’s weeks, and reflected what I might do to boost the interaction.

Later that day, I picked up on some good content — a livestream event that I thought would be of interest to the community. I posted the link and a Twitter hashtag to follow.

“If you’re able to tune in, Social Media Week Ogilvy is now hosting livestream panel (Ford, Ogilvy cmgrs) on “The Role of the New Community Manager” through 1:00 p.m. Tune in here: http://new.livestream.com/smwnyc/events/1875505”. I also posted  the hashtag.

Later that day, Kelly Lux posted a reminder about course participation and its grading component.

I wondered later if the mid- to late-week increase in response had been incentivized by that. It made me think about how a “reward” – or some sort of imperative — may be useful in gaining engagement.


I asked the community if anyone had a chance to review the commitment curve and gauge their position on it. The next day, I received several responses to that post. I made a point of sending a reply in recognition of each person’s points on the day they posted their response.

I also decided to look back at my early-week posts, to see what might be going right and what might be needed to be done before the week ended. I recognized that I had failed to follow-through on my “more info” Chobani promise. So I did more research and posted several new links: Who we are;  Community; Shepherd’s gift.


I didn’t post this day. I was busy with work and class assignments, but did monitor the posts to see what was going on.

SATURDAY, FEB. 237006581850_4de3436371_q.jpg nugget

Knowing this was my last day of the moderating week, I wanted to leave several good informational nuggets.

I posted three articles about change in communities that I had seen and researched during the week. The posts were about building a community; change-management processes, and how to transition when a community manager leaves.

Michael, Steve and Hannah responded on Feb. 23; Rebecca and Rod responded Feb. 24.

Here are the five big takeaways I got from moderating for the week:

1)      Moderating a Community is not haphazard or a simple task. It takes organization, time, and thoughtfulness to curate, prepare, and develop good content.

2)      Preparation is critical.  I prepared for my week by doing readings in advance and during the days. A community manager must always be preparing and curating information. Maintaining high standards takes a good deal of time and work.

3)    Moderation takes intermittent, yet focused attention. There were only two days when of the week when I wasn’t busy preparing and curating content. Still, I was monitoring the conversations and checking in on activity every day. On the days I was actively engaging and responding to comments, I experienced a “tension” or “pull” from the community to be constant, and I checked in often.

4)    Engagement Differs Per Time of Day, Day of Week  and People

I learned that most people don’t seem to post in the mornings; they are likely busy at work (or if night workers, sleeping then). Mid- to late-afternoon and early evening were much more “active” times.

Days of the week matter. For me and other moderators, Monday and Tuesday seemed  slow-start days. Wednesdays picked up, and Wednesday through Saturday was the most active time. Next time, I would schedule my posts around these high-interest times.

5)    It’s really hard to get people to react, respond, and integrate online.

Even when I posted what I thought was good and interesting content, it still seemed hard to get community members engaged. It isn’t an easy thing to do. While many in our community knew one another face to face and had the same community of interest, we still were a diverse group. Our ability to respond, engage, and be part of the community differed from time to time in part based on what other activities we had going on. Life and work situations –in one case a workforce reduction, in another, a major event hosting—as well as more casual interruptions and scheduled activities – played a key role in people’s ability to be part of the group and to thoughtfully respond.

Creating An Online Community Is Easy … Not Quick!


If you build it, they will come.

Are you looking to  understand the value of creating online communities? The biggest reasons for doing so may be to share ideas with,  answer questions for, and gain the support of others for your business and personal endeavors. With opportunities to connect world wide via the internet, everyone has the ability to find others that have common interests. It is a beautiful thing!

So, now comes the “daunting” task of finding these people and getting connected. How do you go about starting to grow a community, you may be asking? Perhaps you have come to the right place to get some answers. The first and foremost thing to remember is, “build your community ONE person at a time. ” You cannot build a company overnight, so don’t expect to build your community overnight. Just like a fine wine, it takes time to get to perfection.

question mark

As you undertake your task of starting a community, ask yourself  a few questions:

These questions can get you started and once you have those answers you are ready to move on to the next step. As you begin to scour the universe for your community, a good place to start is with your friends and other online communities you are involved in. Let them know what you are up to and engage them in conversations. Make personal connections! Everyone likes to be valued, don’t you?

You can connect with people online and invite them to your community. Once they get there, don’t leave them hanging, introduce them to the community you already have and help them integrate. You could also invite them to a Google + hangout or invite them to a private group from your community. This investment of your time upfront will pay off later as begin to see your community take on the lead role of talking about whatever you started to market yourself. They will do this because they are invested in the community. They are passionate about what is contained in this community. They will want to be evangelists for you and your brand because they have found value in it. A great way to keep feeding the enthusiasm is to invite guest postings to your community. Keep things fresh, get new perspectives and your members will share their enthusiasm with others to keep things growing .




As the community starts to grow and flourish, keep in mind you should never take them for granted. They will be helping you by fielding questions, supporting your brand and recruiting others to join the community. Always treat them with respect. These key ideas may serve to remind you:

  • Don’t ask your community to do something without knowing what is in it for them
  • Don’t “sell” to them, rather, inform them
  • If you do offer something to them be sure they can afford it
  • Don’t ignore problems or negative issues that come to the light.

Remember, you have a sacred commitment to your community to be honest, consistent, and supportive if you want them to continue to be a part of your brand. It takes time to build a solid community. Don’t try to rush the process, just concentrate on good content, consistency, and outreach. If you build it, they will come!

Until next time, “Happy Trails”!

Thou Shalt Not Troll: Creating Community Guidelines

Planning a community is of high importance to its eventual health and your success as a community manager. One of the chief stages of community planning is the creation of community rules and guidelines. Without rules or guidelines, your management duties are simply going to be a nightmare. You’ve got your target audience, and topics to focus on, but how will you know what’s in and what’s out of bounds for content, discussion, and interaction? How will your community members know? Obviously, this is where those rules and guidelines come in, and where effectively communicating the intent behind them is key.

I’m a moderator over at the Coffee community on Google+, and that experience has taught me a bit about creating and evolving community rules. While the community itself is simply called “Coffee,” our main purpose is to encourage discussion of specialty coffee – beyond Folgers, beyond Starbucks, to the point where coffee is treated as a culinary product, much like wine. This distinction has always been communicated in the description in our sidebar, but it has created a small amount of confusion and tension, especially when a member feels their post was removed for some kind of bias. But we feel our rules spell things out pretty clearly, take a look:


Some of these rules are pretty obvious choices, some are aimed at protecting our members from spam or risky business (the MLM posts are especially notorious for phishing and malware), some are merely preference for our community, such as discouraging introductions (we don’t need over 22k “Hello” posts, which add nothing to discussion). The last rule on there, about foreign language posts (non-English) is mainly because most of our members only speak English (our moderators too), so non-English posts received almost no interaction early on.  But are we too strict? Should we be more inclusive? I don’t personally think so, and our members seem to agree that we’re being reasonable – with a few, occasional exceptions in the form of snide commenters who think we’re some kind of coffee gestapo.

So where should you draw the line in the sand for your community? Who gets to make those decisions? This was actually the topic of a recent #CMGRChat, where contributors offered that the initial rules should be simple and based in common sense (be civil, don’t post spam, etc.), but you should also turn to the community itself to help craft more particular rules. In one of this week’s readings, Do Your Community’s User Guidelines Only Protect People You Like?, the author emphasizes equality and fairness in rules; we are all entitled to free speech, even if some of our opinions are controversial.

In the Coffee community, we don’t remove a post just for mentioning something like Kopi Luwak (a.k.a. “cat poop coffee”), so long as it isn’t a commercial post. We would even encourage discourse on the issue, as hopefully it would raise awareness of some of the animal welfare issues or other drawbacks of the product. Censorship, in that regard, would lead to no discussion whatsoever, and leave our members feeling shunned and disappointed in our closed-minded approach.


Animal welfare.

So, when you’re crafting your rules, keep your community in mind. Think about what you want for your members, as well as what they might want for themselves. Then, as the community grows, periodically ask for input from your members, and revise your rules to support their needs and yours as you progress. And keep in mind that everybody has a right to their opinion, and that voicing an unpopular opinion in a civil manner is something that should be encouraged, not blocked.