How to microblog in high heels

A geek girl's guide to social media and online engagement

Posts Tagged ‘communities

A potted history of community management (and a bright future) – notes from #Vircomm13

In 1996 in San Francisco John Coate was busy coodinating online communities around hyperlocal content. Three years later, Robin Hamman was putting together the BBC manual for ‘online community management’ to help the company navigate through a new world of ‘hosting’ conversatons on message boards and webchats.

The world of dial up modems, lumberjack shirts and floppy disks feels like a long time ago, but the art of community management remains founded on the same principles which made Coate’s The Well and Hamman’s early insights in comment boards successful – transparency, openness, being responsive and affirming members. As Coate summed up:

“It was real people talking about real things that matter to them – that’s why it all mattered.”

On Thursday community and social media managers from London and beyond gathered at the Virtual Community Summit to look back at how far engaging online communities as a practise had come – and gather thoughts on what might lie ahead.

Coate and Ramman took us through their personal history in community engagement with keynote talks – baring stark similarities despite spanning decades and international waters.

But other panel discussions hinted at darker areas of unknown which are growing up with new young digital natives. Dave Miles from the FOSI explained that while new and brilliant tools and technologies emerge, there is a generational gap in online skills preventing parents from being fully equipped to use these tools to protect their children online against safety risks. Sarah Drinkwater from Google’s Local intiative gave a vision for the future – moving from a time when adults read and consumed content, to 30-somethings who read, recommend and share content, to teenagers today who expect to create, share and collaborate on content.

Sarah Drinkwater’s look at content creation for different generations. Photo: HRW

Today, the role of the community manager seems to now be somewhat all encompassing – including aspects of customer care, marketing, brand development and journalism – maybe it always has done. Community managers continue to debate whether they are social media managers and defining job descriptions, and are struggling to manage management and client expectations – highlighted with Tom Messett’s slew of real examples such as regular emails asking “Hi Tom, can we get some Facebook on this?”  With a knowledge gap when it comes to online engagement (alongside a continuing lack of tools to track ROI from community) as well as advances in technology making sure brands keep on their toes – Tamara Littleton highlighted KLM and Lego as good examples of brand engagement – and come prepared for social crisis management.

Still trying to work out how to get community ROI. Robin Hamman at Vircomm. Photo: HRW

Online communities, as Meg Pickard highlighted, have always had a darker side of bullying (trolls), Godwin’s Law, outrage, Lulz. But new trends and behaviours are emerging – kisses at the end of tweets for example, David Dimbleby style curating and hosting of debates, users becoming accountable for their words and actions and a focus on quality not quantity.

But fundamentally, the principles of community engagement remain the same and focus around relationships and connecting people to make something interesting happen. Here was John Coate’s summarising list of a good community manager:

  • Don’t be authoritarian
  • Try to influence and persuade
  • Be affirming of people – find the best part in someone
  • Expect fervor
  • Leave room for making judgement calls
  • Give people to tools to manage the experience themselves

To see more tweets from VirComm13 take a look at

Written by hrwaldram

February 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm

#Newsrw: Harnessing the power of online communities

Today I did a presentation at news:rewired about harnessing the power of online communities. Here’s what I said, and the slides are here.

Lightning definition: what is a community coordinator? I’m embedded in the newsroom, I think about new ways we can engage readers around a story – this might be through comments on site, through social media or a special project designed to engage readers.

The first key point to developing communities in a way which will help your journalism – Be a game player – You can’t just watch or run the game to reach the end goal, you need to play it – sometimes with others – sharing tips and tricks & encouragement along the way – I’m NOT talking about ‘gaming’ in the sense of ‘pretending to be something which you are not’ – I’m talking about the true sense of a game – entering the spirit of teamwork to overcome obstacles and reach a mutual goal. Part of this is about connecting players to each others – which I’ll go into later.

But thinking about that end goal, what’s the motivation for readers when we ask them to get involved? I think our readers are motivated to engage with our content for two reasons – 1) because we’re the Guardian, and 2) because of the news story. Now these may be felt in differing measurements – but those who spend time leaving comments on news stories will certainly have both those of these interests as a motivating factor for getting involved. And engaging readers in a way which shows you understand their passion for the brand and the story will be the first step. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by hrwaldram

July 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm