Community Success Begins With You

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point_smallADOTAS – Over the course of my series on anonymity, I have addressed the question of whether anonymity is acceptable and provided best practices for how to earn identity from anonymous users, how to separate the anonymous winners from the losers and how to get your community involved.

Each of these ideas can be effective for managing a community of anonymous users, but success in implementing these ideas ultimately starts with you. My final post of this series examines this important topic and provides ways in which you can build a successful community.

The key to success starts with your presence on the site. You must inject yourself into the community from the very beginning, not only when issues arise. Your community needs to know you and trust you if you expect them to respond when you take action. Fortunately, making your presence known from the beginning is not hard. Here are some suggestions about how you can become involved in your community from the outset:

1. Establish a clear set of community guidelines – Every website’s position on what is appropriate dialogue is different. For example, the National Football League attracts a younger male demographic, so it’s not going to be a “tea party.”

Your position should be clearly established upfront with your community in the form of written guidelines. These guidelines detail what contributions are suitable for your target audience and which are deemed inappropriate. These guidelines also provide a framework for your moderators to determine which contributions are allowed and which must be removed.

2. Establish a profile and actively participate – As a community manager, make sure you have your own Persona in the community so your community members can recognize you. Use your Persona to start discussions, address questions, ask for feedback and respond to complaints. The more involved you are, the more you will be recognized in the community.

3. Assign privileges to trusted community members – Enlist trusted users within the community to help you enforce the guidelines. The best way to identify trusted users is to monitor conversations and look for those individuals with thoughtful and meaningful contributions. You can think of these individuals as your community advocates.

In the end, the more eyes you have looking for violations and hands you have reacting to them, the quicker you will be able to respond and show your community guidelines should be taken seriously.

4. Label trusted community members – Early on establish a badge or a format for contributions by trusted community members. These users and their conversations should be instantly recognizable in the conversation. This provides a show of force and highlights the contributions community members should be aware of.

5. Get your editors, journalists and content creators involved – No one likes talking to a brick wall. Community members interact with content on your site in hopes that others will respond. Having the original creator of the content participate in the conversation raises the value of participation and interest. It is also likely to raise the level of the conversation or remove negative contributions quickly.

In the end, making your presence known in the community will go a long way, but don’t forget you are not alone. There is an army of community members, moderators, reporters, marketers and others ready to help out.

Ken Brusic, editor and senior vice president of the Orange County Register, summed up this point best in an article published on his site:

“We decided instead to redouble our efforts at engaging readers in the comments, policing and blocking those that didn’t meet standards and working with our software vendor to improve the tools. With the work of reporters, editors, a full-time comment monitor and the occasional muscle of an attorney – as well as help from thousands of readers (thanks) – I’ll say the cleanup is a successful work in progress.”

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