Community Management And Using An Authentic Voice

Posted by Patrick Groome on Nov 14, 2013 12:33:33 PM

3 minute read

be_yoselfHi! Welcome to this, another blog, from me! I’m going to be sure to be really bright and cheerful, and to end as many sentences as possible with an exclamation mark! I read somewhere that being enthusiastic and cheerful would make my blog posts .5% more interesting to certain demographics! Please like and share!

Are you bored of that yet? I am. I’ve read countless super enthusiastic blogs written along those lines, to the point where it’s hard to really work out what they’re trying to say. They don’t have a voice, just a tone that they picked up from somewhere of how cheerful, enthusiastic people are supposed to act. I hear you ask “What does this have to do with forums? When are you going to get to the point? What happened to that joke about making this into a Breaking Bad blog? That had potential”. Well I’ll get to that. And no one is talking about Breaking Bad any more.

The problem I’m describing exists everywhere, communication becoming homogenised in an attempt to reach as many people as possible. People who deal with the public are encouraged to be a kind of warm, glassy-eyed friendly so that they don’t turn anyone off their product or service. It’s fine, it’s understandable, it’s corporate. It’s something that community managers should avoid like the plague.

There are thousands of forums out there. Forums for every possible subject. Chances are, unless your particular forum is based around a particularly specialist field, you’ve got some competition. What’s going to make your forum stand out from all the other, uh, archery forums on the internet? It could be that you have a cooler theme, a better layout, better mods. It will certainly, to a point, come down to the quality of the users you manage to hold onto. But, since things like theme design may as well be witch magic to a luddite like me, I’m more focused on how the management side of things can contribute.

Think of your rules thread for example. It’s hopefully the first thing that new users read, and chances are it’s incredibly boring. Instead of using this opportunity to introduce people to the real culture of your forums, it’s typically a dry run down of the ins and outs of the forum. Don’t post spam, be nice, don’t swear etc. This is the application of a corporate mentality to a situation that doesn’t require it. Be creative in how you get your point across. Be funny, if you’re good at it. Aside from anything else, people are more likely to read the rules if they’re vaguely entertaining.

This goes for all of your interactions in your community. You don’t need to be Professionalism Bot #425 to be a real community manager. Hang out, have fun, be cool. If someone is being an asshole, it’s ok to tell them they’re being an asshole. You don’t have to find a way to phrase it that like, totally reinforces the strong customer service ethic of your brand, yeah? That would be awful. Be less like the manager of your local McDonalds and more like the landlord of your local bar. People will go anywhere for a burger, but if they like a landlord they’ll drink at his bar for years and years.

Injecting some personality into proceedings makes a lot of typical forum problems a lot easier to deal with. If your forumers like and know you as a real person rather than just an administrator, they’re more likely to help you out when you need it. They’re more likely to behave whether you’re watching or not. They’re more likely to tell their friends that the place you run is pretty cool. If you can’t have fun on your forums, how can you expect anyone else to?

Please like and share if you agree! Obviously. I won’t see it though, I’ll be on my forum, working hard. Talking about spaceships.

Patrick Groome HeadshotGuest post by Patrick Groome. Patrick is the Administrator of the Penny Arcade forums. Penny Arcade is one of the most popular and long running gaming webcomics and organizer of the PAX gaming conference.

Topics: Community, Marketing

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