Making Room for the Next Generation of Community Professionals

Which community leaders helped you grow as a professional? Who in the industry do you study from or reference? On the last episode of Community Signal, our guest Mohamed Mohammed mentioned how his former manager, Joe Pishgar, helped him feel welcome in the industry. “You belong here” were Joe’s encouraging words to Mohamed, and this phrase signifies an ethos that Joe brings to his role as chief community officer for VerticalScope.

Managing an organization of 27 full-time community pros, 30 contracted admins, and over 10,000 volunteer moderators across 1,200 sites, Joe understands the necessity of scale and delegation, but also realizes that delegating is not always as simple as it sounds. “There’s competing thoughts in your head that surround the force of delegating. On the one hand, you don’t have enough time to do it all. The time you spend in operational or in tactical, you’re not spending at the strategic, and no one else is going to spend time at the strategic level.” (13:18) Joe also explains that by delegating and creating space, we give our team members the opportunity to grow and experience community management for themselves. 

How have leaders made space for you to grow as a community professional and how can you create that space for others?

Joe and Patrick also discuss:

  • The difference between having community volunteers and exploiting them
  • The ebb and flow of hiring booms in the community industry
  • Unifying strategy in an organization with multiple stakeholders and individual contributors
Continue reading “Making Room for the Next Generation of Community Professionals”

Deepfakes in Your Community are Inevitable

This conversation with Mohamed Mohammed, a community manager and a PhD student studying deepfakes, is timely. Just last week, a deepfake emerged attempting to spread misinformation that the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was announcing surrender to Russia’s invasion. In that situation, preparation and rapid response helped minimize the spread of misinformation.

So, what’s your community strategy against deepfakes? Mohamed recommends starting with learning from the information and experts in our field. He also shares an important reminder: As community professionals, while we may want to prevent all harms from happening, we simply can’t. However, we can minimize the harm that’s caused, and we can educate our community members to identify and flag suspicious behaviors. Just as many platforms adjusted their community guidelines and enforcement rubrics to prevent the spread of misinformation, deepfakes represent a new area for us to learn about and help our communities adapt.

Mohamed and Patrick also discuss:

  • Why science denial is banned in the Space.com community
  • What good governance on deepfakes might look like
  • Mohamed’s PhD on deepfakes
Continue reading “Deepfakes in Your Community are Inevitable”

Providing a Safe and Functional Community for Cancer Survivors

Online communities are can be essential for people impacted by illness. For those directly affected, their families, and support systems, these communities can provide a much needed place to share experiences, to vent, and to learn about different symptoms, treatments, and the intricacies of navigating the healthcare system. For our guest, Amanda Petersen, Planet Cancer provided such a community as she fought breast cancer in her early twenties.

Amanda has since continued to be an active contributor and moderator in online spaces dedicated to providing a safe and functional community for cancer survivors. In this conversation, she talks about the role that Planet Cancer played in her life in addition to why she felt motivated to start participating in r/breastcancer. The community exists and is functional because of its people –– people like Amanda that help to moderate the space and people that are looking to connect with others and find support in their journeys.

Whether a moderator takes a break or community members sadly pass away or move on, the rules that they have created and the space that they’ve fostered will continue to provide a meaningful community for cancer survivors.

Amanda and Patrick also discuss:

  • Rules that are representative of the community they serve and protect
  • The emotional labor of managing a community of care
  • How Planet Cancer helped Amanda through her own journey with cancer
Continue reading “Providing a Safe and Functional Community for Cancer Survivors”

Leveling Up Your Community Team With Specialized Roles

As community leaders, we’re responsible for people. The people in our communities and the people that serve them. In this episode, Chris Catania, head of community at Esri, shares how he approaches planning for growth and specialization for his community organization, for his people, and for his own role.

Chris is currently hiring for three roles, a community operations manager, a community manager for engagement and content, and a community manager for ArcGIS Ideas. Chris shares the responsibilities and scope for each of these roles, in addition to the challenges and advantages of hiring right now. In addition to the effects of the “great resignation,” as specialization and scope of responsibility within the community industry grows, so does the need to be clear in our job listings, success metrics, and paths to growth.

Chris and Patrick also discuss:

  • The role specializations and career paths that Chris is charting for his team and himself
  • Hiring for specializations within community
  • Communicating your team’s value to other execs (and around the dinner table)
Continue reading “Leveling Up Your Community Team With Specialized Roles”

Misuse of Community is Endemic in Web3

By now, even if you’re not super well-versed in the terminology of Web3, you’ve probably encountered some of the conversation around its relationship with community.

Like with any innovation or change in technology, there can and should be conversations about how Web3 will empower communities. However, we should also ask questions and think about how such change will impact communities, whether they embrace Web3 or not. For example, as Patrick and our guest, staff writer with The New Republic, Jacob Silverman discuss, NFTs may be empowering some artists, but for the DeviantArt community, it’s another way that they’re seeing their art exploited. And even for NFTs that are becoming ubiquitous, like Bored Apes Yacht Club, how much of the conversation or credit is given back to the artists?

This conversation will give you a great primer on Web3 terminology, but perhaps more importantly, it will equip you with questions and examples to understand the true role of community in the current iteration of Web3.

Jacob and Patrick also discuss:

  • The basics of Web3, including cryptocurrency, NFTs, and DAOs
  • Reasons why Web3 may not be as egalitarian as it seems
  • Why celebrity cryptocurrency clubs of today may not have the same permanence as online fan clubs that already exist
Continue reading “Misuse of Community is Endemic in Web3”

Online Community Building Lessons From Collaborative Board Games

When was the last time that you trusted your community with the responsibility of collaboration? In this episode of Community Signal, Matt Leacock shares lessons he’s learned while designing popular collaborative board games like Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy, and Forbidden Island.

Matt also discusses how he leans on the board game community for his own games. In the pre-launch stages, he has rallied supporters to pre-order his games and prove demand. In the development stages, he’s openly shared rules documents, inviting feedback from fans. After a game launches, he also discusses the role that players have when it comes to helping one another as questions and loopholes arise.

Having a shared goal –– winning the game –– is perhaps what motivates players to come together at all stages of the game’s development. Knowing that your community members also have a shared purpose or goal, are there ways that you could trust them with collaboration opportunities that could lead to positive outcomes for everyone? That’s winning! 

Matt and Patrick also discuss:

  • Competition within collaborative games
  • Establishing norms within games and communities
  • The importance of establishing straightforward nomenclature
Continue reading “Online Community Building Lessons From Collaborative Board Games”

The Elder Scrolls Online Community and the Power of Guilds

What metrics and indicators of success are you, your colleagues, and community excited about for 2022? Whether you’re hoping to better demonstrate the impact of the community on your business’ bottom line, foster safer experiences for your members across the communities they are part of, or want to focus on establishing better boundaries for you and your team, this conversation with Jessica Folsom, lead community manager at ZeniMax Online Studios, may provide some inspiration.

Even without perfect end-to-end campaign attribution, Jessica discusses the impact of being a participant in the Elder Scrolls Online community and how certain attributes may lead to different outcomes for community members and for the overall community. For example, Elder Scrolls Online players may participate in official forums, they may be content creators, they may stream the game, or participate in player-run communities on Discord or Reddit. Jessica and her team have learned that the players that can find their connection to the community retain better and drive investment in the game, too.

With such an expansive group of players, Jessica also has to be prepared to help community members deal with toxic behaviors outside of immediate Elder Scrolls Online spaces. While it can often feel like we can’t do much in these circumstances, Jessica explains how she listens, offers guidance on how to block and report the behavior on these parallel platforms, and in some cases, contact local authorities. Do you have a plan for helping your community members handle toxicity on other platforms? 

Jessica and Patrick also discuss:

  • How Jessica’s team sets success metrics
  • Helping community managers prevent burnout
  • Why community members are not your friends
Continue reading “The Elder Scrolls Online Community and the Power of Guilds”

Bettering Health Outcomes Through Peer Support at Mayo Clinic

Do you have a 60-second pitch for your community? In this episode of Community Signal, Colleen Young, community director for Mayo Clinic, raises the challenge of being able to deliver a concise and impactful pitch to other leaders at the nonprofit. “I’m just imagining finding myself in the elevator with this leader by happenstance and being able to finally say something just in two floors that we have. It’s really hard to be able to know what is going to motivate them to be excited about the community. I’m really struggling with that,” explains Young. Many, if not all of us, have been in a situation like this, whether we were helping to onboard a new leader or in an impromptu meeting. 

This conversation is a bit longer than 60 seconds, but in it, Colleen delivers a very compelling case for Mayo Clinic Connect. The community’s moderation practices and active participation makes it less of a haven for misinformation. And when misinformation does appear, expert testimonials and active participants within the community help inform and correct. The community also comes together to help people understand their options for care and to manage their symptoms. “Peer support can better health outcomes,” says Young. The community also has a direct impact on Mayo Clinic’s livelihood – as it can be a direct driver of appointment bookings and visits.

So, the next time you’re thinking about how to pitch your community to another colleague, think about the value that it brings to your members and how that value leads to positive outcomes for the business. And as Patrick says, don’t be afraid to ask for more time to advocate for the community and your work!

Colleen and Patrick also discuss:

  • Why Mayo Clinic Connect measures appointments as a metric
  • Has medical misinformation actually gotten worse over the last 15 years?
  • Developing your 60-second community pitch
Continue reading “Bettering Health Outcomes Through Peer Support at Mayo Clinic”

Embodying Work-Life Balance as a Community Professional and Manager

Are you able to step away from your community for days at a time? When you return, are your team and the community still running smoothly? If you answered yes to these questions, then congratulations! Whether it’s documentation, systems, or setting proper expectations with your boss and colleagues, those boundaries and structure are crucial, not just for yourself, but for the people around you and the community itself. 

Our guest, Allison Able, senior manager of community at Sisense, explains that creating and upholding these boundaries is a constant work in progress. “There’s great power in … being able to step away and have things go okay. That speaks well for you if that’s the community you build, that it doesn’t need you to exist,” explains Patrick.

Having a supportive team goes a long way in setting work-life boundaries, so fittingly, Allison explains what her approach will be to building the community team at Sisense and why their community is currently in beta.

Allison and Patrick also discuss:

  • Adding the community content manager role to the community team
  • How to embody healthy boundaries for you and your team
  • The right order of community programs for Sisense
  • Community Signal’s sixth anniversary –– thank you listeners, supporters, and guests!
Continue reading “Embodying Work-Life Balance as a Community Professional and Manager”

Are You Gardening, or Are You Managing Waste?

Earlier this month, blogging pioneer Jason Kottke tweeted that “social media would be a better place to connect with people if the folks building and using these services had spent formative time on and taken inspiration from Flickr and MetaFilter instead of 4chan and Reddit. Gardening vs. waste management.”

That tweet spoke to Patrick who retweeted it, and that retweet elicited a reply from Lydia Fiedler, community manager for Splitcoaststampers, leading to this episode of the podcast.

What do your community members want out of their community? Are you tending a garden that is actively growing toward those goals? Or are you tolerating noise and managing waste that gets in the way? Having a clear sense of what brings the community together helps Lydia Fiedler keep conversations on track, set expectations for community members, and come up with inspiring challenges.

If you’re planning programming for the coming year or just in a creative rut with your own work, this conversation with Patrick and Lydia offers some great inspiration that can help you create great experiences that will bring your members together and enable them reach their own goals. 

Lydia and Patrick also discuss:

  • Operating in the “gray areas” of community management
  • Features that people clamor for on social media platforms that hosted online communities offer routinely
  • How challenges align with the Splitcoaststampers community’s goal of becoming better artists and crafters
Continue reading “Are You Gardening, or Are You Managing Waste?”