On moving fast and not stopping to navel-gaze

29 Apr

Community Managers like to move at warp-speeds. We aren’t big on editing; and we shouldn’t be big on stats analysis. I’m thinking about this as I procrastinate and plan what I’m going to say at the panel I’m speaking on tonight: Why Online Community Metrics Suck

As I was thinking about why I am suspicious of community metrics, I came up with these ideas and measures for successful communities. It’s not that we are lazy; it’s just that spending hours analyzing and reporting on stats is not a great use of our time.

The truth is, many of us who are successful at community management are intuitive about our process. There’s not a lot of foresight, just clear ideas about what is right and what we need to do next (but not looking beyond 3 months ahead, as community is rapidly-changing). It’s not for everyone, because of this slippage, but it’s in our DNA and we can’t imagine working in any other field.

Having said that, here are some reasons why you shouldn’t waste too much of your time analyzing community stats:

  • Listening to your user-base is more important than stats
  • Engaging your community is more important than looking at what they do
  • Having high-level goals constantly communicated to team is essential
  • Interviewing your star members is the most valuable feedback you can get
  • Survey your member landscape, identify the member types
  • Have Regular engagement, feature contributors, run regular events/campaigns, give incentives, focus on reputation
  • Focus should be on users, external and their motivation for participation, not internal
  • Numbers aren’t always impressive, hundreds of thousands of disengaged users, less important than 50 super engaged ones.

It’s a Community Manager’s job to be advocate of users & evangelist of product = highway of communication btw the two, framing a conversation, directing traffic, providing a feedback loop, growing evangelists, helping members connect with each other, creating user generated content, being one of the community, not a corporate voice, conversation, not focused on outbound messaging.

A community is successful with active engagement of manager with users, conversations, listening and being receptive to feedback, responding to criticism, integration across other parts of the site, with a low-barrier of entry, high moderation engagement, and most importantly, keen volunteer wrangling (making a role for everyone, even the pain-point people)

It’s important to make Community easy to share, so your evangelists can easily show off to their friends and hopefully bring in new users.
It’s essential to connect your community to other social media channels and your own site, meet the people where they’re at, as community resides everywhere.

Make your Community Fun!
It’s hard to measure sentiment of a happy, healthy community in numbers; nothing the numbers reveals is surprising, the best we can provide is a knowledge about what they’re saying.

Focusing inward too much depersonalizes your community and takes the focus away from the real-time nature of online engagement. If you don’t have a strong sense of what is working and what is not, then you aren’t paying enough attention to what’s happening in your community. Just like you shouldn’t spend a lot of time editing forum posts, you shouldn’t spend a lot of time measuring ROI on your community (if you are the community manager.)

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