The Community Manager You Think You Can’t Afford

As community professionals, we have more tools than ever to help us do our jobs. That said, the qualities that make an online community and an online community professional successful are likely largely the same today as they were 10, 20, or even 30 years ago. This episode of Community Signal focuses on those exact qualities and opportunities to delight.

If you’re applying for a job in community, Patrick and our guest, Angela Connor, have some tips on standing out [00:30:13]:

  • Point to specific communities that you’ve worked in
  • If you don’t have direct experience in community, start one!
  • Skills from other fields translate, but you should still be eager to learn and grow

And if you’ve been working in community for a while, but are looking to refresh (or rewind) your approach, Patrick and Angela suggest [00:37:48 and throughout]:

  • Revisiting how you talk to your community
  • Leaving room in macros and canned responses for customization
  • Approaching each conversation as an opportunity to invite in new community members
  • Visiting outside communities where your members might be talking about you

In addition to these qualities and skills, Angela also surfaces the topic of knowing her worth and the value of the communications skills that she brings to the table. This worth translates to a certain salary, but as with all roles, it also requires internal buy-in and the right resources to make sure you can get the job done. There are many companies that think they can’t afford someone at this skill level, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need someone at this skill level.

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A New York City Dive Bar in Online Community Form

What if the intro song to Cheers wasn’t about a bar, but instead about an online community where everyone knows your name? That’s what Stacy Horn created when she launched Echo, an online community that sought to connect New Yorkers.

But Echo wasn’t Stacy’s first go at creating a community. While studying at NYU’s ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program), she was working in the telecommunications department at Mobil and had an idea to connect employees and improve processes by way of an internal community. The community failed but throughout this conversation, Stacy’s learnings from this first experience come up over and over again: the importance of actively seeking out a diversity of voices and experiences to be represented in your community, having a clear intention and set of community guidelines, and creating a space for the best in people.

Today, Echo is nearly 30 years old. Its archives are on record with the New York Historical Society and the historians that look back on its conversations will be in for treat. In fact, it’ll be like they stumbled into a neighborhood bar full of people that have been chatting with each other for years.

Stacy also shares:

  • Why she failed when it came to starting an internal community for Mobil’s employees
  • The costs and infrastructure behind Echo, including an NYC street excavation
  • How she made Echo an inclusive space for women
  • Echo as an archive to pivotal moments in NYC’s history, including 9/11

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The State of Online Community as a Career

Consider this episode of Community Signal your community career advisor on speed dial. If you’re looking for a new job, growing your team, or thinking about your career advancement options, Patrick, Daniel Marotta, Jenn Chen, and Marjorie Anderson share great advice and observations from their own career journeys.

What skills and experiences created the foundation for your career in community management? [2:04]

“If you marry customer service with website release management and content management… those [skills] are the basis for a great community manager.” –@massmarotta

“[Don’t] just cut and paste a response from some template that your company printed out. Put a little bit of yourself in your responses. Build up a personality that really shines through with how you correspond with your member base.” –@massmarotta

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The Struggle to Ban Alex Jones + Membership Models for News Organizations

There’s so much to unpack in this extremely timely chat with Jay Rosen. Jay teaches journalism at New York University and on this episode of Community Signal, he discusses an era of journalism where readers hold the power. The power of choice, the power to talk back to journalists and media organizations, and the power to rally with their fellow readers. And with this shift in power comes a (positive) shift in responsibilities for journalists.

Interestingly enough, technology platforms like Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube, are being met with similar calls to action and Jay cites their inability to listen to their users as a clear absence of business culture and principles. But is the recent removal of Alex Jones and Infowars from a few of these sites a sign of an internal crisis of conscience? This journalism student and community pro sure hopes so.

Patrick and Jay also talk about:

  • Why audience engagement managers are in such high demand
  • The role that media organizations and journalists play in protecting journalism and the democracy
  • The benefits that a membership model could bring to journalism

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No Room for Holocaust Deniers

As community professionals, it’s our duty to create inclusive spaces for our community members. This means setting the stage for them and making sure that they have everything they need to be successful within the community, and in some cases, protecting them from hate-driven vitriol.

And while many of us have created clear guidelines explaining that hate speech and violence are not permitted in our communities, platforms like Facebook and Reddit have had a harder time defending their users from hate speech. After hearing Mark Zuckerberg’s explanation for allowing Holocaust deniers on Facebook, AskHistorians moderator Andrés Pertierra explained in a now viral tweet that Holocaust deniers post decontextualized information or flat-out lies with the goal of undermining people’s belief in the Holocaust with the hope of ultimately radicalize them.

In his discussion with Patrick, Andrés brings up an ultimate truth – that when we moderate against Holocaust deniers or others posting hate speech, we’re showing our communities that we care about protecting them and that we care about the integrity of the space that we have created with them.

Patrick and Andrés also discuss:

  • How Andrés and other moderators can tell if someone is posing questions in good faith
  • The community guidelines that AskHistorians uses to keep hateful posts at bay
  • Why moderation makes sense from a business perspective

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The Value of Developer Relations

Every community professional has had the challenge of explaining their role and job duties to others within their organization. For many of us, that means always being prepared with qualitative and quantitative anecdotes that ladder up to our company’s mission and goals. In this episode of Community Signal, Mary Thengvall explains the importance of tailoring the message of what we do to the person we’re speaking with, whether it’s our boss, the CEO, or CFO.

If you’re in need of tips or new inspiration on how to prove the value of your work to your organization (and yourself!), Patrick and Mary provide an important reminder that you are your own best advocate and that means taking initiative to know and explain your team’s contributions.

Mary shares the story of her job path through community, and how a one-year experiment at O’Reilly Media led to a career in developer relations.

Patrick and Mary also discuss:

  • Mary’s thinking around “time-to-value”
  • The worst public firing in community history
  • The different causes of burnout for community professionals

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Higher Education’s Troll Hunter

Great teachers always seem to have command over their classroom, but what happens if your classroom meets online and has thousands of students? Even the greatest teachers in these situations might need the help of a troll hunter like Tanja de Bie.

While Tanja dubs herself a troll hunter, she’s also a mediator and a teacher in her own right. She recognizes that in higher education communities, it’s often the responsibility of the moderator to teach students how to put their emotions aside and have civil, fact-based discourse. Easier said than done, right? As Tanja would say, grab a cup of tea and hear out her moderation techniques.

At this point, you might be wondering how Tanja became such a prolific master of trolls. If you’re a gamer or writer, you’ll find yourself nodding along as she discusses the friendships and moderation skills that she forged in RPG communities. I personally love how she discusses RPG forum guidelines as a rubric to encourage positive behavior, not as rules that dissuade negative behavior. Later in the episode, she discusses how negativity can silently destroy communities, which is a great reminder for those of us writing community guidelines and doing the moderation, as well.

Patrick and Tanja also discuss:

  • The storytelling, meaningful conversations, and friendships found in RPG communities
  • Demanding higher quality participation from your community
  • The science behind fight or flight reactions

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Community Management in France

The role “community manager” can mean different things at different companies and the responsibilities for this role can often be conflated across different teams and areas of expertise. But how does this role translate across different continents and cultures?

In this episode of Community Signal, Patrick and Jean-Yves Lemesle discuss just that. Jean-Yves is an experienced social media and community manager and he shares how both of these areas of expertise, social media management and community management, came to have separate career trajectories in France. They also discuss:

  • How Jean-Yves has built a career moving around Europe
  • Why the number of people who speak a language can impact how successful you’ll be in community
  • A prevailing lack of focus in many interest-based Facebook groups

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Acing Your Next Community Job Search

When was the last time you looked at your resume? How about the last time you wrote down a list of everything you’ve worked on and accomplished at your current gig? If it’s been a while, this episode is going to come with some homework afterward.

Maria Ogneva, who has held senior community roles at companies like LinkedIn, Salesforce and Yammer, shares the story of how she turned a lost job into a “fun” journey. Fun is in quotes there because I’m sure that for most of us, the job hunt is hard to imagine as anything but daunting. But by the end of Maria’s story and hearing her tips on knowing your worth and putting yourself and your work out there, I myself became excited about the new tools and motivation that I have going into future job searches.

After you listen to this episode, I’d encourage you to revisit your LinkedIn, resume, or professional bio and make sure that it’s fresh. You never know when an interesting opportunity might come your way and you’ll need to forward it along!

Patrick and Maria discussed:

  • Breaking the work of community into small, manageable tasks
  • Approaching your job hunt from a place of empowerment
  • How to always be prepared for your next big opportunity
  • Tooting your own horn (that’s talking about your accomplishments)

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Never Put All of Your Eggs in One Community Basket

Can you recall the community-related news and trends of last summer? Let us refresh your memory.

YouTube announced new guidelines for advertisers that inadvertently led to significant changes in revenue for many creators on its platform. Photobucket broke countless images across the web without notice. The city of Charlottesville, Virginia was descended upon by white supremacists during the violent, hateful, and deadly Unite the Right rally, yet Twitter still gave them (and still gives them) a place to convene and organize online.

These topics were covered on Community Signal as they happened and this week’s episode is a gathering of unreleased clips from last summer. These were originally released to our Patreon supporters between July and September of 2017. If you’d like more behind the scenes clips and the chance to contribute potential questions and conversation topics to the show, please consider backing our show on Patreon.

In this compilation, you’ll hear from Jonathan Bailey, Jessamyn West, Christina ShorterAlessio FattoriniLilah Raptopoulos, Josh Millard, and Randy Farmer.

These clips touch on the events mentioned above, the following topics, and more:

  • Having a backup plan when you rely on third-party software
  • Creating a culture of reciprocity in support communities
  • The goldmine waiting for journalists in the comments section

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