Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | December 3, 2009

Why Your Community is Dead!

Raising sheep is not as easy as it looks. For some reason every book I see has pictures of these tanned muscular looking young men laying on the side of some grassy knoll somewhere enjoying themselves. Always a classic pastoral setting to behold, and this is the view most have of the ancient trade of shepherding. The reality is far different. Sheep are really DUMB animals. Seriously, they are stupid, if one walks in a direction the others follow willingly, not knowing the end of the path chosen, but heading off with the purest of intentions. Sheep are targeted animals, almost every carnivore loves mutton, and if given the chance they will take down one of these sheep in a heartbeat and fully enjoy themselves while doing it. The shepherd is also always aware, on guard and patient. Patient because it takes several years to grow a good herd of sheep that can produce enough wool to sell to be profitable. It takes literally thousands of hours worth of work to see some profit!

Does any of this sound familiar? If you are an experienced community manager it does. You see very easily the correlation between shepherding and CM. So..why is your community dead?

  1. Your Lazy- I know many community managers that are just straight up lazy. Harsh I know, but seriously….when I visit a community, and can see no signs of life at all, there is only one place to turn. If you are a community manager and there are dead links on your home page, or you have not updated, or done something in at least a month, there is a problem. Most of the time this problem is that the CM is lazy. If you are too lazy your community dies. Just like a lazy shepherd that lets his sheep free to roam while he enjoys a long afternoon nap and wakes to find his sheep devoured, you to will find your community destroyed much faster than you think.
  2. Your Arrogant- You think that the community that you have built is so tight, strong and all together wonderful that is will never be anything but. So while you bask in the glory of your uber-success there is trouble brewing inside. You continue on in your self-indulgence, remaining disconnected, and growing further apart from your community, when something hits. Something hits and it hits hard, and your once faithful minions are outraged, you are shocked with the realization that the community you have built was really built by them, and that they have allowed you to be apart of their community. Ouch! Many CM’s do not recover from this. Instead they take on a tyrannical approach to their management in an attempt to save face, and their communities many times self destruct.
  3. You do not ask for help – We have all been there right? You know exactly what I am talking about. You put so much into this community, you spend so much time, and you give so much of yourself, but always come up short. Guess what? You need to ask for help. I am convinced this is the number 1 reason most CM’s fail. They do not ask for help. You need help from your community, your family, your friends, your company, etc… You need help from anybody willing to give it. And you need to be very thankful for it when it comes. Don’t be stupid! Ask for help, and you will be a much better CM for it.

Is your community dead, or dying? I hope these three things will help you to look at yourself and explore the real reason.

I would be happy to conduct a Community Review for your community. Feel free to contact me here for more information.

Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | December 1, 2009

Managing your first community…

As I have been traveling and speaking about Online community Management, it has grown more and more obvious to me just how new this field is. Almost everyone that I talk to has said “this is my first community”. I am amazed at the number of new managers that there are out there right now managing some very active communities, and my hat goes off to them. So I thought in this post I would just encourage you- the new community manager.

This is not an easy job. You have to be aware of this right up front. But it is one of the most rewarding positions you will ever have. You have an amazing opportunity to help your members make connections with people they would never meet otherwise. There is a woman in Russia that loves to quilt, and because of your community she meets and becomes life long friends with a woman from Texas. You are responsible for their friendship! What other job pays you to do this!

There will be many posts to come about all the “How to” of management, but in this post I just wanted to say welcome.

Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 29, 2009

Community Manager Burnout…?

In the last 4 days I have eaten more turkey than ever before. I had it the night before Thanksgiving, for Thanksgiving, later in the day Thanksgiving, the next day for Breakfast and lunch, and on Saturday. I have Turkey burnout! It got me thinking about community managers, and burnout.

Are you a community manager suffering from burnout? Here is how to avoid burnout:

  1. Renew your passion– You have to be constantly renewing your passion for working in a community. You have to be reading, writing, attending conferences, meeting other managers, commiserating with them about daily challenges, and just finding your place to vent and renew. There are a lot of great places out there to do this, but I want to point you to one particular group that is outstanding. The Community Roundtable is a GREAT place for community managers to be a part of. There are great resources, and even better people. Always new thought leading information and valuable insight into community Management. Go and join today…you will not be sorry!
  2. Trust your moderators– If you have a community of any size you need to find and use moderators. If you do not trust your moderators to do their job, then they should not be moderators. You need to give your moderators boundaries and clear instruction, and then leave them alone. Let them work and trust them. You need to be able to step away at times, and to just let all the work go. In order to do this, you must have moderators. If you are the type of person that can just not give up any control- choose another profession, or prepare for failure. Choose them, and use them.
  3. Have fun– I know this one is used so much, but think about the opportunity that you have as a manager to facilitate the connections of thousands of people. You are responsible for friendships, and maybe marriages. You are in a great position doing a great work, and it is fun! It really is…do not forget that, and when you do visit my blog again!

I have turkey burnout…You must take care of your self as a manager to not get burnt out!


Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 23, 2009

Your Community is getting Fat!!

OK…in the spirit of the upcoming holiday I thought a post about Fat would be appropriate. As millions of Americans prepare to gorge themselves I think this is a good time to evaluate your community.

Is your community fat? What is a fat community? A fat community is easily identifiable as such by several things like:

  1. More non active members on the book than active members– It is the battle for many communities to keep members on the books, but it makes your community fat. You have thousands of users  in case management asks, but in reality you have very few active users. I like to keep my numbers trim, and to actively pursue those members that have joined but are no longer active. Many times these members will come back and be active, and you can clean up the list if they are no longer interested. Knowing the real numbers will be critical to your success as a CM.
  2. Lots of dead threads– Clean up your threads. Do not make members wade through thousands of dead threads just to get to the live ones. Many times it is only the experienced members that really know where things are happening, and this should not be! New members should be instructed on where to find the most active threads, and encouraged to participate.
  3. Lots of “lurkers” and not enough members– You know how many people are lurking right? If not click here. Ok…now you know how many lurkers there are at your site, and you know how many members you have in your community. SO…how do the numbers compare? So you have loads more lurkers than members? To have more lurkers is to be expected, but to have this to the extreme is a bad sign of your communities health. Why are these lurkers not converting and becoming members? You need to find out and you need to do it fast. Not sure how to find out? Click here to find out.

Is your community fat?? Deal with it this week and your holiday will be much more enjoyable.

Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 20, 2009

Every flock has a shepherd

Sheep are great animals! What is so interesting is how they are so much like humans. I know monkeys are supposed to be our ancestors, but sheep really are so much like us it is a little scary. I guess for a scientist to try to explain how we evolved from a sheep is a little farther stretch than from a monkey so…I can understand that.

Sheep need to be in groups, they need to belong. Yesterday in a conversation that I will be posting later Mark Sylvester and I discussed how community is predicated upon the sense of an individual and their sense of “belonging”.  Sheep are the same, you cannot raise just one at a time. Many of the leading shepherds say that sheep need to be raised in small flocks for best results.

As Humans we have an innate desire to belong to something, to “find our place”. We all have it, and it is a powerful force when considering online communities. But in this post I want to talk about an outside force that helps to foster this sense of belonging and helps to grow the flock.

Every flock needs a shepherd. It is true, sheep left to themselves normally end up dead, injured, or  lost. Sheep by themselves are really self-destructive animals. A shepherd is needed to help the sheep to protect the sheep and to nurture the sheep. It is the shepherd that decides when a new sheep is added to the flock, and it is the shepherd that decides when to move the flock. And on it goes…I hope that you can see where this is going.

As a community manager our job is to help our members, protect our members, and nurture our members. To provide for them a comfortable place for them to interact and connect with one another. These things cannot happen with out a manager, and they cannot happen well without a highly skilled manager.

You would never leave your sheep to roam free, this should be your philosophy with your community members. Find a good community manager and you will be amazed at the results.

Need help finding a Community Manager? Let me know!

Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 20, 2009

Your Community is in Danger…

Your community is in danger. A very real danger, and your enemies are just waiting to destroy what you have worked so hard to create. Do you know where they are? Are you watching out for the attacks, or are you too busy to see the signs of a coming attack.

So many managers are so busy that they miss the very obvious signs that your community is about to be attacked. Busy with the day-to-day activities that are good, but do not protect you from an attack.

So, who are these enemies? They are a number of different animals from software viruses to what I call wolves in sheep’s clothing. It is the wolves that I want to warn against, and give you a few activities to ward these predators off.

First you have to be in touch. There is no better deterrent to a wolf than for you to have a visible active presence in your community. You have to wear so many hats as a manager and one of them is guardian. An active and visible presence will let wolves know that you mean business, and that if they think they are going to mess with your sheep that they better think again. OK..a little Mr. T there “I pity the fool”…

Second, you need to be ready to take action. A very wise man once told me that as a leader there are times you have to “cause trouble to save trouble”. There are times when you have to be ready to step up and confront a problem member in your community before they are able to cause irreparable damage to your community. You have to be able to see when a member is a part of your community for the wrong reasons, and you must have the strength to remove this person from you community. Are you up to it? Your sheep are depending on you.

Third, You have to ensure you members safety- Sheep by nature will flee when threatened. Their defense is to run. So it is with members of your community. The natural reaction to any threat is to flee immediately and never come back. You cannot afford to let any member ever threaten another member, or for any member to feel unsafe inside your community. You will find members that will bully and harass other members, and you have to get out in front of that. There is no place for that in any community, and to allow it will only breed more of it. If your members feel unsafe or threatened they are gone. Stick up for them and they will thank you with their loyalty.

Hopefully these few thoughts will be a help to you. These were learned tha hard way, so please take these lessons to heart and save yourself and your community the trouble.




Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 18, 2009

Rescuing one member..worth it?

We have all heard the Biblical account of the “Lost sheep”.  The shepherd was putting his flock away at night, he was counting all of his sheep, and he came up one short. He counted again, and again, with the same results. He secured the flock, and left at night out over the treacherous country side to find that one lamb that was missing. He looked everywhere. high and low, and as a storm was blowing in, the shepherd found the lamb hiding from the night between some rocks, and the shepherd rescued him.

I have spoken with many, many community managers, and it is so disappointing to hear some of them say “if they get mad and leave over little things, who cares!”. Every time I hear this I can tell you that a community is on the rocks. I know that we all do not like to admit it, but most communities are literally one mistake away from destruction, one errant word from ruining  a Brand’s reputation. Most communities are very fragile, and could not take even the slightest upset with out massive repercussions.

How do you strengthen your community? How do you prepare them for the worst all the while working to deliver the best? I think we need to take a lesson from the Bible on this one.

  1. Every member counts– I believe that every member that takes the time to join your community has value, real value, not just because they may buy a product, but what they may bring to your community. As a manager every member is so important that caring for them is job #1. It should seem obvious right, but how many times to software updates, or a new blog post take precedent over taking care of your sheep?
  2. How you treat one is how you treat them all–  (Ok..I will take credit for it, but I’m sure somebody somewhere has said it before. ) You have to treat every member of your community as if they were your last member. Be willing to go the extra mile, be willing to search for them and find them, and bring them back to the fold. I know there are certain members that really push your buttons, but you have to be bigger than that, and realize they have worth. I am not saying never throw someone out. (more in a later post) I am saying that as a community manager you have to put in the extra effort to bring any lost sheep home every night.

So…what are you waiting for, you know there are sheep out there that need your help, go rescue them before your competitors eat them for lunch.

Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 16, 2009

How to Introduce New Features to Your Community

Though not normally a “How-to” type of writer, I have been asked about this many times, and wanted to share from my experiences. Not surprisingly, I learned a lot from studying shepherds and how they introduce change to their flock. A well-known shepherd says:

Here are a few tips I have picked up from experience and other shepherds:

Food: Icelandic sheep thrive on grass and hay.  They will eat almost anything, but introduce new foods gradually.  Avoid too much alfalfa.  If a sheep eats too much rich food, it can “bloat.”  You should keep a bottle of Therabloat on hand just in case.

A shepherd is warned here to introduce to their flock a new food gradually, and for good reason. Notice the second sentence- “sheep will eat almost anything”. There is so much  that can be applied here to community management, but let’s stay on course.

How to introduce changes to your community. I was speaking at Pod Camp NH recently about Online Community Management, and the question that took up most of the class was how do you introduce new things to the community. In my experience and I am sure yours, like sheep communities are VERY sensitive to changes. Things as little as change in font on a certain page, move some links around, adding contact us page, and many more. Communities are sensitive. Here is the rub… most corporations  that  have a community are also wanting to see changes and “improvements” to the communities, and managers have to be ready to introduce those on a time-table. There is going to be conflict.

At a recent event, an attendee told me the story about his company, they had these new great features that they had spent all this time and money on, and they were sure that this would fire up their community. You all know how this ends, the community revolts at the forced changes, and does not use the new features at all. So, what is the secret how do you introduce a new feature or a change?

In an earlier post I talked about Leadersheep, you need to know your community! I can not emphasize this enough, you need to know how they will react to the change you are suggesting. Here are some easy steps to follow to introduce a change to your community.

  1. Determine if the change is for you or for them– the community is about them. It is about people connecting with people not about you selling more product, or pushing your amazing intellect on people. So…is the feature or change you are suggesting for them or is it for you? If it is for them proceed to step 2. If the change is for you, I would freeze and reevaluate the decision. A change must be good for both of you to be a true success. It must be a win-win. I know cliché right? But it is true! You have business goals and objectives, and your community has passion and connections, can the two work together? They better…
  2. Start at the top and let it filter down– You need to gently introduce a change. In-order to do this I suggest you start with your moderator team, then your power users, your community leaders, and so on. Let the idea float out there, and see the reaction. The idea is not “we are going to be changing the font in 3 days”. The idea is “what do you think about changing the font on this page?”. You need to sincerely ask for their feedback, and listen to them.  Watch as your idea floats down the chain, I would let it work itself out… not interfering too much in the conversation.  You will see that the idea once it has gone all the way down will start to come back up, but this time it will be their idea. It is in this moment that a change or a new feature will be adopted heartily, and you will be cheered for listening to your community. Your community will gain a greater sense of worth, and your company will benefit from it.
  3. Wait for it!! – The challenge is that you may see a great need for a new feature. It may be so obvious to you and you can just whip it out and throw it out there. Please do not do it! The community is owned and run by the community, so please use step 2. It may seem small to you, but it could be huge to your community. You must respect them by sending it down the chain. Many times a CM will be in a rush because their corporate over lords are wanting them to show that they are doing something, so they will develop a calendar of new feature releases. I understand having goals and preparing, but you had better wait for your community to be ready for it, or it could be your undoing. Let it go all the way down, and work its’ way back up, and you will be a star. Rush it and force it on your community, and be a scoundrel. The choice is yours.

These are my thoughts about introducing a change. What are your steps to new features, or other changes?

Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 15, 2009

I have a Community Management question…

question-mark3a The Art of Community Management is one that is never fully learned. There are so many challenging twists and turns that a manager’s job is never done. Neither is their learning. I just created a page on my site that I hope will turn into a great resource for you and all Community Managers. I am calling it “Top Questions” and if you visit the page you will see that what I have done.

Any question you have about Community Management can be asked here. I will take the question and forward it on through my network of professionals. Once I have an answer or two, I will post those and the person who gave it to me. I will of course create a short Bio, and link to their blog etc. But the point is that you get your question answered by a pro.

If you have the question you know others have it as well, so please for their sake and yours ask it. Just post your question in the comments section. I will take it and post it in the thread, and then send it to my All Star Virtual Panel.

Are you ready to learn? Go here and ask a question.

Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 14, 2009

What does a Community Manger do on the Weekends?

Relaxing by beach The same thing they do all week. An effective online community manager never stops managing their community. So many communities fail because a manager will take time off. I’m sorry for those of you out there that are looking at this new exciting field as a way to easy street, but that is just not reality.

Community Management is very difficult. There is no easy way to break it to you. Do not take a Community Management position if you think that you are going to float through. You won’t! I keep hearing all this talk about pay lately, and certainly there is a place for that, but seriously how many candidates out there can actually do the job-nothing to say for doing it well.

To all you Community Managers out there that are doing what you do well, I tip my hat! Thank you!

To those of you looking for a quick pay day with out any work…Keep looking Community Management is not for you.

Have a great weekend!


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