Community Manners

Etiquette basics such as you’ll find in Miss Manners, Debrett’s and Emily Post apply in online communities also – yet it’s easy to forget about manners when we are saturated in a day to day online community environment, so we thought we could share a few manners we have found most helpful to guide our daily online community lives.

Understand people are different and don’t assume.

Do you like to have your mobile phone beep at you with new status notifications?  How about listening to the noise of a colleague who has sound play for each tweet or instant message that arrives?  The first question is about how you manage your preferences.  The second is about how other’s preferences are important.  Both are part of good manners.  Language is also important – we may think we are being clear when we post a comment on within a community, but often they require clarification, explanation and/or further context.  So, don’t be offended if someone comes across short, unclear or frustrated.  Remember to be understanding, apologize and try to find another way to approach the topic.  So don’t assume that everyone has your experiences, cultural understanding, knowledge or common language – because we don’t.  Do assume positive intent and just invest in deepening meaning and understanding through dialogue and inquiry.

Invite! 

With corporations, individuals may play a role formally, but do have many competencies outside of their current role.  Don’t assume that an individual can’t or won’t contribute simply due to their role, title, etc.  Often times you can miss great contributors if you aren’t trying to assume how and/or what role they play.  Simply extend invitations and offers and allow members to determine where, what or when they will engage with the community.

The old adage that if we build it they will come simply doesn’t work.  We can turn on facebook pages, twitter lists and linked in groups – but that doesn’t mean they will come.  You need to understand your audience first and what is in it for them (WIFM) so that we are building a true ‘community’ where people are connecting over a product, service, business problem, or support issue.  It’s important to be spending time to tend and nurture this community in a non heavy handed way and marketing is NOT equal to community.  If you are approaching the communities as simply the same old marketing materials but in a new medium – that won’t work either, so make sure that you are bringing real conversations that are authentic, open and transparent into the social sphere.

Be honest.

If you don’t have an answer – quickly turn around and use your network within the organization or escalate through your management chain.  The most important thing we can do as knowledge brokers is to find the information quickly and share it back with the requestor and then teach them what we learned.  Was there a broken link?  Then tell them and thank them for highlighting this oversight but tell them you fixed it.  Then share feedback intra organization about this and/or think about how you can influence shoring up any broken processes in the meantime.

Jump in – walk the talk.  You will get more credibility in a commuity if you are active in another networks–don’t limit yourself, consider joining other communities and post interesting research information, good videos and/or other content that isn’t just marketing focused.

by Lauren Klein & Sharon Crost

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