SWAT Team Commander and Community Moderator

Alex EmbryAlex Embry has been with me as a moderator for more than seven years. He also happens to be a SWAT team commander and training sergeant at the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, outside of Chicago, where he has worked for 12 years.

He is one of two moderators, of my current team, that works in law enforcement. This isn’t something we did deliberately, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence. There are some really interesting correlations between good law enforcement and good moderation. That’s what we explore with Alex on this episode, including:

  • Why policing and moderation are about more than identifying violations
  • How to limit and address abuse of power and corruption
  • When suicide and offline threats should be taken to law enforcement

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Managing Oprah’s Community

Jenn PeddeOprah Winfrey has one of the strongest personal brands in the world, with a massive legion of fans, subscribers and supporters interacting with her online initiatives every single day. This includes a substantial online community and UGC-tied efforts.

Jenn Pedde spent almost two years as lead community manager for Oprah’s online communities. This included tranisitioning from the previous community management team, that had been in place for 16 years, as well as moderation, staffing, community engagement, customer service and more. Plus:

  • Why (some) for-profit companies should launch alumni networks for ex-employees
  • The creation of #cmgrchat and the viability of Twitter chats in 2016
  • Imposter syndrome and how Jenn felt it when taking over the Oprah account

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The Application of Community Guidelines

Zack SheppardWhen it comes to community guidelines, there is a lot more to them than just writing and publishing a single document. The application of them spawns a series of processes that ensure consistency and keep them up to speed with challenges currently facing the community.

Zack Sheppard has spent time in community at Flickr, Pinterest and Kickstarter, helping them to develop guidelines, enforce them and train staff members how to do so. This episode features a loose discussion around internal and external community guidelines. Plus:

  • The value of a strong mentor in the community space
  • How enforcement guidelines help create consistency between staff members
  • What it’s like to update the guidelines of a community like Flickr

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Medical Research in Online Communities

Amrita BhowmickAs health care and pharmaceutical companies aim to better understand specific medical conditions, they are turning to online communities of engaged patients, to conduct research and recruit for clinical trials.

Listener Jenn Lebowitz suggested that we try a Q&A episode, so we’re doing it! If you have any questions that you would like me to answer on the air, please submit them!

Health Union is at the center of these efforts. Their business is managing a collection of communities, each focused on a different medical condition. They generate revenue by connecting companies with the people in their communities – the patients those companies want to serve. This episode features a deep drive into these programs with chief community officer Amrita Bhowmick. Plus:

  • Why health care companies are choosing to work with online communities
  • What does the community get out of participating in research?
  • How Health Union seperates community from sales to avoid a conflict of interest

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The Power of Explanation and the Curse of Knowledge

Lee LeFeverThe ability to communicate clearly is so important for community professionals. We say this a lot, but we rarely break it down much beyond that. What we really mean is that you have to be able to explain things. Explanation is a skill.

How you explain something is as important as what you’re explaining. It impacts how well your message is understood and whether or not people will be supportive of it. Quality explanations make your life easier. Poor explanations make it harder.

When I need help explaining something, I turn to Lee LeFever, a pioneer in online explainer space as the founder of Common Craft. They have helped Google, Intel, LEGO, Ford, Twitter and others explain their products to the world. What many don’t know is that Common Craft was actually started as an online community consultant and Lee has a great background in the community space. We discuss:

  • Why you should create explainer videos for your community
  • How to explain changes and problems
  • The reasons that explanations fail

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How Companies Can Ethically Engage on Reddit

David DiGiovanniReddit is an online community, possibly best described as a series of smaller ones, much like independent niche online communities. One subreddit (or section of Reddit) can be completely different from another.

But just like other niche online communities, these subreddits can be very beneficial to businesses – if they participate in the right way. If you’re sloppy or fail to account for the community norms, you could do substantial damage to your reputation. This episode features David DiGiovanni. He helps companies and individuals tap into the power of Reddit in an ethical way. Plus:

  • How to host a successful Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything)
  • Should companies launch and manage their own subreddits?
  • What tactics does the Reddit community frown upon?

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Association Management = Community Management?

Katie BappleMembership-based associations have existed for a long time. Certainly before the internet and before online communities. But as online communities have grown in prominence, the association model has shifted to embrace them, mirroring the offline communities that they were already building.

Katie Bapple is the senior director of community management at Socious, a company that makes community software for associations. On this episode, we dive into the association niche of the online community space, including:

  • The career opportunity that associations represent for community professionals
  • How associations are adapting to the online community model for survival
  • Should every association have an online community?

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Planning a Community Redesign (After Having the Same Design for More Than a Decade)

Chris BowyerIt can be a big challenge to redesign an online community. Our members visit on a regular basis, and they become accustomed to how things look and where they’re located. To the point where they can become resistant to change.

Chris Bowyer has managed MovieForums.com for almost 16 years. After using the same design for more than a decade, they launched a comprehensive redesign that the community embraced. On this episode, we walk through the steps he took to achieve a successful launch and the unique experiences you gain when you manage a community for so long, plus:

  • Could you see yourself managing the same community for 30 years?
  • The right way to do self-moderation
  • Community culture and how quickly it forms

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Abusive Lawsuits Can Silence Your Community (Even if You’ve Done Nothing Wrong)

Eric GoldmanAbusive lawsuits and legal maneuvers threaten our communities and our members by silencing them under the weight of excessive litigation and costly attorney’s fees.

If a member of your community criticizes a company, and that company doesn’t like it, they can sue you or your member. Even if you are completely in the right, your finances can be drained as you work to defend yourself. For this reason, many community professionals simply opt to fold to demands and remove the content, even if it would otherwise be acceptable.

Our guest is Eric Goldman, a professor of law at the Santa Clara University School of Law. His focus is internet law and he is part of a group working to pass federal legislation that will make it harder for these speech-chilling lawsuits to be successful. Plus:

  • How companies are contractually supressing consumer reviews
  • The most crucial piece of legislation for U.S.-based community professionals
  • Understanding the difference between your terms of service and your community guidelines

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How the Washington Post Builds Community

Greg BarberThe Washington Post received 12 million comments last year. They believe in community, in engaging with readers where they are – and in moderation. They have collaborated with the New York Times and Mozilla to create the Coral Project, an effort aimed at developing open source tools and resources that help publishers build better communities.

Greg Barber is a 13 year veteran of the Post, currently the director of digital news projects, where he focuses on interactivity, personalization and alternative storytelling. This episode focuses on community at the Post, plus:

  • Using community data and history to identify great contributors – and harmful ones
  • The limits of self-moderation
  • Why news organizations look “like a repair person who only uses a hammer,” in how they approach online discussions

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