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Yes, We Opened That Can of Worms

Written by Jenny Taylor | on December 7, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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It’s fun talking about community strategy at the 50,000 foot, theoretical level, but sometimes you need to dig in and ask the nitty gritty questions.

At Super Forum 2016, Higher Logic’s team of six community managers did just that in a two part break out session, “Let’s Open a Can of Worms.” We dove right into the weeds of many topics that community builders deal with every day.

 Here’s a summary of our three favorite topics the community team and audience tackled together:

Should you allow advertising in the community?

Once your community is established, advertisements and sponsored content can be a great way to offset costs.

How do you make ads or sponsored content work for your community? Think of Super Forum, or any conference for that matter. One of the benefits of attending a conference is talking to vendors and learning about new products that could be helpful to you and your community.

Why is that helpful? Because most of the vendors are relevant to your work. Your community’s advertisements need to be relevant, too - if the content is unhelpful or distracting members will tune it out or will be annoyed.

If done poorly, advertisements in your community disengage members. But if done well, it can be helpful and spur engagement.

Pro Tips:

  • Set different ads to show up in different communities to make them relevant and targeted.
  • Advertising doesn’t always have to be commercial or from a third party. You can advertise your own items, like new content, an event or a webinar. You also don’t put a million ads everywhere - be tasteful. One client suggested placing ads in a banner slideshow mixed in with non-advertising slides.
  • Another client had this suggestion - put graphics requirement on advertisements so vendors don’t give you anything ugly or distasteful.

How do you deal with a troll?

No matter the community, there will always be some negative, unhelpful people - that’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as they aren’t attacking or disrespectful. When you find those people, it’s actually a great opportunity to turn them into proactive helpful members for the community - if they didn’t care about the community, they wouldn’t be active.

Reach out and help them craft responses or posts to be more positive, so they get more feedback from fellow members. Another way to deal with them is to give them a job, like creating new content like blogs.

But then there are the real trolls.

At some point, everybody deals with a troll. It’s a common issue and community builders shouldn’t be discouraged if or when they come across one - you didn’t do anything to create this person. Even before a community is launched, know that, like many jobs, you’ll never be able to please everyone - and that’s ok. Also, even though it may seem like your community is being bombarded by trolls, in reality you’re only dealing with a small percentage of members. There are fewer trolls out there than you’d think, but they’re loud by nature.

As community builders, it can break your heart to exclude anyone from the conversation, but if someone is poisoning the community, you do have to either heavily moderate them or just outright ban them for the sake of the community’s health and future.

Pro tips:

  • Work in tandem with this person and teach them how to function in the community. It will probably require a lot of hand holding at first, but they’re clearly invested in organization if they’re taking the time to post; you just need to harness that and channel it in a way that’s good for the community.
  • Call them! While it can be intimidating to call someone on the phone, you will be amazed at how productive a phone call can be.
  • Create a very strong code of conduct with a three strikes you’re out policy. At the end of the day, you need to be able to protect community, so make sure your rules and policies will back you up.
  • Put the user in question on full moderation for a set amount of time so all of their posts must first be approved. And as a last resort don't be afraid of banning a member if it means the health of your community!

Should you allow anonymous posting?

Like advertising, anonymous posting can be very beneficial when it’s used correctly and in the right communities. One Higher Logic client is a medical and pharmaceutical organization - anonymous posting is important since many members have important questions but must ensure HIPPA compliance and patient confidentiality. Anonymous posting gives them a way to have a voice they didn’t have before and to talk about important issues that couldn’t otherwise be broached.

Pro tips:

  • If you do have a contentious issue or thread, don’t turn on anonymous posting - things might get messy quickly.
  • Anonymous posting is really helpful for communities that may have human resources questions since many of those questions can’t legally be asked with a person’s name attached to it.
  • Always keep anonymous posts on full moderation.
  • Also, model the behavior you want your members to exhibit by anonymously posting seed questions.
  • When in doubt, ask your legal counsel if there are any additional concerns about allowing anonymous posting.

These are just a few of the many topics our community managers covered. If you attended these sessions, what was your favorite topic?

Topics: Online Community Management, Online Community

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