When Community Members Die

Sue JohnIf you manage an online community long enough, you will have members who experience the ups and downs that life has to offer. They’ll accomplish great things. They’ll find love, get married and have kids. But they’ll also deal with personal loss. They’ll fall ill, and they’ll die.

Sue John, a community manager and engagement specialist at Emoderation, launched the definitive community for British expatriates. She guided it for 15 years, and it grew to more than 10 million posts. Not one, but (at least) four couples met and were married, because of that community. Members have also passed away. On this episode, we explore the joy and pain that comes with the long term management of an online community. Plus:

  • The credibility that comes from being the community founder
  • How to leave a community that you have managed for a long time
  • Why forum-based communities are Sue’s “first love”

Big Quotes

“[Your community moves] through these different organic stages when it’s growing. … If you wipe out the beginning part, how does that explain how it got to where it is today? You can’t see it progressing through all those different stages, the membership progressing and the culture progressing.” -@SueOnTheWeb

“When we’ve had people die, and their spouse has not been a member of the community, we’ve started a thread to remember the member so that people could share their stories. I used to print it all off and mail it to the spouse so that that person’s got a record and can read through all the nice things that people have said about their other half, and shared in the memory of that other person. I think that’s really important.” -@SueOnTheWeb

“It’s hard to let go of something that you have founded. You have to do it slowly. When I had the thought that it was time for me to move on, it was about 18 months before I did stand down. I tried to do it in increments of not being quite as engaged in the community and then not being around quite as much for the moderators, trying to get them to be used to the fact that I wasn’t always going to be there to bounce ideas off or ask questions. I had a slow transition of 18 months where I stepped back gradually, then moving up to the point when I left. It was difficult. But I think if I had done it very quickly, that would have been worse. You have to do those things slowly.” -@SueOnTheWeb

“[One reason why forums are] still around, and they’re still very active, is because [some] people do not want all their social profiles all lumped in together in one space. They want to be able to keep them separate. When you go on forums and other similar software platforms, you don’t have to connect your stuff up to Facebook and Twitter, you can create a whole new identity. I’m not necessarily saying you have to be anonymous, … but your conversations that you are having on there are not connected to your Facebook page.” -@SueOnTheWeb

About Sue John

Sue John founded BritishExpats.com, a community launched more than 16 years ago that has more than 11 million posts. She currently works as a community manager and engagement specialist for Emoderation. With more than 16 years of experience in community management, moderation, social media and online customer care. Sue was doing “social” before it ever became a buzz word for connecting online.

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