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.
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:
MONDAY, FEB. 18
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.
@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:
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.
TUESDAY, FEB. 19
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.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 20
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.
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.
THURSDAY, FEB. 21
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.
FRIDAY, FEB. 22
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.
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.