More from the State of Community Management Report

Tia Fisher Freelance writer, Freelancer, mostly blogging for eModeration

Posted on April 26th 2011

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been serving up some of the standout takeaways from the Community Roundtable’s Sate of Community Report, which canvassed 109 individuals involved with social initiatives at their respective organizations. We very much hope you’ve left a tiny bit of room for dessert, because this week we’re chewing over the parts of the report which are aimed specifically at community managers, and there’s a LOT on the table.

As previously, we urge you to peruse the full report at your leisure – there’s nothing in it which isn’t useful. But, by way of a taster menu, we’ll run you through the highlights - from engagement, to moderation, to content generation - and the crucial matter of how to stay sane in this demanding role.

The Basics

'Consider “The 5 C’s of Community” in order to provide value (the centerpiece of community). They are content, context, connectivity, continuity and collaboration.'

Lead by example You set the tone, and the standards of behaviour.
Personalize It’s infinitely better to ID yourself with a personal picture rather a company logo.
Worst practice includes failure to ID yourself, deleting negative comments, and being rude (yes, even under provocation).
Communities are about personal connections and shared interests, and are owned by the customer, not the enterprise.
Communities are not about marketing Don’t push your message - gain permission to market to your community by demonstrating the value of what you offer.

"Engage community members directly, encourage participation, escalate important issues to the appropriate practice/channel, and make it conversational."

Good Conflict, Bad Conflict

Constructive conflict can lead to innovation: “a dispute can demonstrate active engagement”. Remember, though, to ensure that differing opinions are expressed respectfully.
Know when to jump in Beyond a certain point, resolution can only be achieved if you step in. Understand that line.
Know when not to jump in Leaving a gap can encourage peer-to-peer interaction. A satisfied customer who advises others has inherent credibility – and can reduce your workload.
Channel opposition It’s possible to harness the energy of recurrent dissenters, but in doing so, beware of creating the impression of favouritism.
Conflict fades with time, often with a renewed understanding amongst members of the need for tact.
Humour fosters relationships Use it when you can; but know when you can’t. Some communities just aren’t cut out for it.
Hive off a distinct area for badinage and off-topic conversations if your community is not ‘naturally funny’. And go gently when telling an individual their humour crosses the line – that can hurt.
Politics Don’t go there.

Everything In Moderation

“The moderation services required will be dependent upon where you are in the life cycle of that online community.”

Rules and consequences These are essential - and must be enforceable.
Encourage collaboration around the form that they should take; likewise, ask for input when deciding how to treat specific violations.
Ensure your rules of engagement outlaw the disclosure of others’ personal info, and the spreading of false information about others; delete or moderate these as soon as they occur.
If things get ugly, act immediately If your members' experience - or your reputation - is being damaged by malicious interactions, act to close them down.
Understand the difference between real frustration, and provocation.
Listen to frustrated members - sometimes that’s all it takes. If you need to step in, make sure you’re prepared - conflict resolution training is useful.
Attention-seeking provocateurs, on the other hand, will only be encouraged by attention; don’t give it.
Know when you’ve run out of options Ensure you have the tools to suspend accounts immediately, and to block IP addresses in cases of persistent re-registration.
Worst case scenario Understand the possibility that there are (a very few) genuinely disturbed individuals out there. Be circumspect about the personal/geo-located info you share - and have an escalation plan in place which connects you with law enforcement.

"Have moderation staff available 24/7 in shifts where possible, if the community is active around the clock; Try not to post in the forum on off hours; Implement automation where possible; Encourage forum members to help others."

Pre-moderation vs post-moderation Understand the difference, and the pros and cons of each for different types of community - children are more tolerant of pre-moderation than adults (and do check out this great post by @alisonmichalk on the pros and cons of pre-moderation over on Quiip's blog).
Ease the burden Publishing platforms which auto-switch to post-moderation once members have reached a certain threshold of trust can be useful.
Evaluate tools and processes All forms of self-moderation require effective means for members to report violations.
Self-moderation is not a silver bullet Yes, it can reduce your workload – but volunteer moderators must be managed, guided, trained and nurtured.
Think before you delegate Not all community members, however active and valuable, have the people skills to moderate - find them alternative roles. Members may be conflicted when it comes to enforcing guidelines and consequences – remember, this is the community manager’s job.
‘Being the bad guy’ Consider third-party moderation to avoid conflict between active participation in your community, and policing it.
Third party moderation companies can be cost effective and add flexibility, even with homegrown platforms.

Motivation, Motivation, Motivation
"The four motivations behind giving and sharing: altruism, enjoyment, status seeking and reputation seeking. All four of these characteristics can coexist in each member and can fluctuate in ratio depending on time and circumstance."
Value comes in many guises Members can add value via leadership; moderation; content creation; by encouraging member retention, or by importing their network to the community. Don’t forget “lifetime value”.
Encourage “super users” to help others Peer-to-Peer support – especially from happy customers - can be more credible (and faster) than a response from your organization.
Build a guide to show how members can incease status and reputation.
Consider a point system But first evaluate which kinds of behaviours you’d like to encourage, and be aware that members may be tempted to game the system, or to contribute only when they think a reward will be the result.

Content & Programming

“While members of strong communities tend to come back for the relationships, content and programs often provide the first ‘way in’ for new members – and encourage existing members to reengage.”

Don’t try to be everything to everyone – or your content will mean nothing to anyone.“
Ask your audience what they want
via conversations and surveys. Look for gaps in the marketplace.
Put a face to your content. People like people. Then give it a voice:“Information is everywhere – but you aren’t.”
Be up-front about your pitches and clearly label marketing material.

“In the last year, we have seen the thinking in regards to social content change in the following ways:
More emphasis on integrating content plans across channels
More attention to community newsletters
More informal content designed to encourage higher participation rates
More focus on curation, editing, and organizing vs. content development”

Choose content formats – a blog, a video, a podcast - with your audience’s needs, tastes and time resources in mind.
Develop expectations by defining your style (short form, long form, curated linkage, profiles, interviews, or topic series). Templates can give structure and again, develops expectations.
Remember “Snackability” and design content for different lengths of attention span.
Video is one of the most frequently-shared forms of content.
Don’t forget images They can encourage ‘better listening’, and can also add clarity.
Keep testing audience responses, and adjust formats accordingly. Write for your lurkers as well as those who are engaging.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Mix up content topics, types, and venues.
Republish great content from elsewhere – always with full attribution. By the same token, syndicate across multiple social channels to build awareness.
Summarize your podcast or video with a short write-up, to encourage discovery – and be sure to include SEO keywords.
“Don’t hand over all the goods. Embedding the occasional video or the occasional audio file on a Facebook page helps to keep content fresh. But Facebook should be a spoke vs. a hub for a very simple reason: Facebook owns your content

Encourage content generation to drive engagement and sharing. Motivate content-creators with recognition.
Put your members centre-stage Create a blogging platform; also, encourage them to live blog, tweet, photograph and/or video relevant events.
Set the tone you expect from contributors in your calls for content and how you respond to contributions.
Remember the 80/20 rule “Write complete content (80%) but leave room for others to contribute and finish the story (20%).” Comments are valuable content too.
Make questions specific
, so your audience knows how to answer. If you want model the response you expect from others, answer your own questions.
Set the tone. Consistency and cadence are critical in your content production, as they model your expectations for member engagement.”

Stay Focused Decide on a content strategy and stick with it. Create an editorial calendar (psst - @blaisegv has great post on why and how to do this). Have a contingency plan to mitigate risk.
Be pragmatic Understand the time each form of content development takes – blogging, video, podcasting all involve different levels of effort, and offer different rewards. Know which is most appropriate for your message and your resources.
Keep a ‘Swipe’ file of content ideas, outlines, and drafts. Remember older content Good content lasts, but may need re-freshing or re-purposing.

Other Channels

Twitter and Facebook are different
Use Twitter for short blasts of content; Facebook content is more likely to be seen, and commented on.
Staff every other channel when launching new social media initiatives.
If Twitter is your support channel, follow everyone who follows you - it allows individuals to DM you.
Jumping channels is fine If customer service issues come up via social media or your community, consider following up by phone. It’s more personal, and can deliver more effective resolutions.
Consider off-line events Face-to-face meetings can enhance and relax your relationships with community members – familiarity and humour is easier when you’ve met in real life.

Staying Sane

“Community management can be an all-consuming job. In order to establish a work/life balance it’s important to learn to say no, set expectations, ask for help and set personal and professional boundaries.”

Explain to others in your organization what your duties and responsibilities are. Remember, many of them are ‘hidden’, and it can be unclear how long each daily task realistically takes.
Look for mentors Seek out to other community managers who can offer guidance on juggling the role, and on setting priorities.
Chunk out blocks of time for repeated tasks, like blogging; add personal tasks to your calendar.

And finally, some very wise words on the interesting times in which we're living, and working...
“Society is in transition in terms of the way we work and this is particularly true of people in community management positions. With that in mind, do not think that your boss is not feeling the same balancing pressures that you feel so work with her or him on setting manageable boundaries.

We hope these posts have been useful in whetting your appetite for the full monty, which can be found here. Huge congratulations are due to the Community Roundtable team, for delivering such a broad-thinking, thorough and wholly inspiring look at how enterprises are getting to grips with social media - we're looking forward to another cracking report next year.


Tia Fisher

Freelance writer, Freelancer, mostly blogging for eModeration

Freelance writer and social media enthusiast, frequently to be found blogging with with the social media management agency eModeration. You can find her on .

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I always save room for dessert! Tia thanks for the excellent summary - there is so much gold to take in from the report - I love this concentrated offering for Community Managers. My congrats to the CR team too.

And of course a humble thanks for the mention!


A nice template for a policy manual, which is something everyone should have in place before launching a social media program. You’ve also pointed out some important considerations that we should all be aware of when planning a community. This is very useful.