How to Manage Your Community in a Crisis

There’s nothing like a top-of-mind topic to engage a community in conversation.



That is the main lesson I took from the #CMGRChat session of April 17, which seemed like an especially lively and fast-moving conversation.  

I don’t mean that to be misleading. It’s my understanding that a lively and fast-moving conversation is the #CMGRChat norm. The weekly Twitter chat, co-hosted by community managers Jenn Pedde(2U) and Kelly Lux (SU iSchool) is popular and much-populated. Started two years ago, and now well-established, the weekly Wednesday afternoon conversation for those in, and interested in, the community manager profession typically draws 100 to 150 participants, according to Jenn Pedde. (I’ve been able to join a handful of times.)

But the session this week was been preceded by two incredible, highly dramatic public events that were followed online as they were happening live, then conversed about digitally by millions (including community managers watching tweetchat trends).

In an amazing, digital-space phenomenon, Twitter was first out with the news of bombings at the Boston Marathon, and for the next 24 hours, devices and screens everywhere  carried out a full-court display of the events, as they happened. That included the shoot-out death of one suspect and the the live-action police chase and apprehension of the second.

All of it happened in front of our eyes, on computers, ipads and phones, and concurrently on live TV.



There also was a second incident of tragedy that week – the explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.) #CmgrChat aspires to be on trend and timely. Within that backdrop, the weekly #CMGRChat topic of “Managing Your Community During a Crisis” was highly engaging.

Six questions were addressed, two more than the typical four. They were useful and instructive in relation to the events of the week

– What constitutes a ‘tragedy’ that will require a shift in your regular practice?

– What are the first steps you take online after determining a tragedy that requires a shift in priorities?

– Do you have a system of checks / balances when it comes to continuing with content?

– OK, you made a mistake. How do you correct that mistake and apologize to your community?

– What are some ways that a community can do to help after a tragedy?

– What are some good and bad examples of post-tragedy use of social media after this week’s events?

Here is a look at the tweetchat as illustrated by its activity metrics: 

115 users     772 total tweets     363  tweets     281 replies    94  retweets    

Breakdown of activity by question response tweet number#:    

A1:  25 tweets, 21 users       A2: 45 tweets, 20 users      A3: 28 tweets 20 users     

A4:  39 tweets, 26 users   A5:  34 tweets, 22 users    A6: 12 tweets, 7 users  

Most active users (and tweets): TheJournalizer 34

Potential impact:  2.317.536 impressions     Potential reach:    442.059 users

My Assessment: this was an example of best practices for a community conversation. You can obtain much more information about the content of the chat, and the tempo and orientation of the conversation among community managers contemplating this issue, by pulling up a metrics report that shows all of the tweet responses, question by question and tweet by tweet.

  • Questions were well thought out (and given the rawness of the ongoing situation, not offensively worded
  • Questions were very pertinent to the situations each community manager might face in a real-life situation
  • Questions were thought-provoking and engaging (without being exaggerated or insensitive)
  • Answers weren’t automatic; they came quickly but required thought and reflection.
  • Questions prompted a highly-engaged conversations and due to the number of questions, a fast-paced conversation.

A record of the one-hour chat is available. The detailed report of metrics and content is available on Scribd at:

If you’re a community manager, or someone interested in the topic of community management, you can tune in. #CMGRChat is hosted on Twitter on Wednesdays from 2 to 3 p.m. EST.

To learn more about the co-hosts, you can find and follow them online.  

On Twitter, Jenn is @JPedde (her company is @2UInc), Jenn blogs at: She also manages a blog for community managers and those interested in the topic (you can read about, and maybe even write content there) at: The Community blogs for her company at 2UInc. Jenn is on LinkedIn at:

Kelly is on Twitter: @KellyLux . Her School account is (@iSchoolSU). Kelly’s blog is Social Lux.  You can find Kelly there at:


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