A potpourri of topics last night at the SF Online Community MeetUp
The December rendition of the SF Online Community MeetUp featured Robyn Tippins (@duzins) who is currently the Sr. Community Manager at Current TV. You can check out more of her background and the agenda here and the Twitter stream at #octribe. Robyn, Susan, and the rest of the TechSoup crowd planned a potpourri-like event that covered 3 diverse topics, so it moved fast and was a pretty cool event!
Topic 1: Sharing community management strategies and best practices
Robin covered 3 community case studies from her experience at Yahoo: 1) Yahoo Merchant Summit, 2) Yahoo Developer Network Events, and 3) the Flickr community. I suspect Robyn's slide content might be available somewhere, so I'll focus on what I captured as the lessons learned.
#1 Take it local and f2f. Even primarily online communities need Barcamps, MeetUps, hack events, etc. to build, sustain, and nurture relationships. Local events can be great for increasing your social media content, pumping up evangelists, and creating a local love-fest which hopefully can include the media.
#2 Leverage local folks for your events. Robyn talked about how Yahoo would use their employees to have a bigger local impact. They trained them up thru internal tech talks where they could hone their public speaking chops. They saved a bunch of money by not traveling to the events, but still had attendance - their local employees who become temporary "rock stars". Yahoo also had a go-to person for each region.
#3 But my company isn't Yahoo! We don't have global presence and 1000's of employees. Try to focus on empowering your local community members or customers, especially the evangelists (but not the crazed zealots - you gotta vet them!). Try to target top members and influencers to carry your messaging and possibly play a key local role by providing them any resources you can, expanded visibility, contests, even swag!
#4 Local community events can be done on a tight budget. Try to combine your events with other on-going events. FInd unused local community centers. Offer sponsorships in exchange for using their facility (Valley entrepreneur groups do this endlessly with local law firms). Find sponsors. Again, use local people to cut costs.
#5 Kit it up! Create a process for running local events to make it easier for the organizers.
#6 Who do we invite? Should it be exclusive? Not sure there was one answer on this one. Certainly there are opportunities for exclusive events that feel like rewards for the top members. But where does your revenue come from? Does the top tier of members generate most of the community value and/or revenue, or does your community have a longer tail?
#7 Be transparent - especially when you know you're gonna piss people off. It's inevitable that you'll be making some business decisions that the community doesn't like. That's when it's most important to be honest and transparent. Make sure to create opportunities for the community to air their concerns and ask questions.
Topic 2: Outsourcing community moderation - good or bad idea?
Lots of vibrant discussion on this one. I think the room had a general opposition to moderation which may have been voiced best by Susan Tenby who felt that "outsourcing moderation could be a crutch against building trust". It might be better to empower your engaged members who have a lot invested in your community and (hopefully) the motivation to help. But certain communities have REALLY engaged members who aren't always providing positive content and value, such as news-oriented sites and blogs. On these sites it's common for the active members to flag each other as "offensive" which may not be appropriate. You have to consider whether people are abusing the ability to flag abuse!
It seemed that one of the common threads in the discussion was that you can't risk losing touch with your community. Can you outsource to folks who GET your community and brand without losing touch with your community. If so, then it's probably worth considering.
What about pre vs. post moderation? And should it be automated? Current.tv reacts to any abuse flags but doesn't do any pre-moderation. This seemed to be a common approach. Reputation management systems were mentioned as a great way to prioritize bad content, but they can be very expensive.
What about deleting content? It seemed that a common approach was to "hide" inappropriate content and make sure to document why it was hidden. I mentioned that I believe GetSatisfaction does a really nice job of providing sensible post-moderation tools, particularly allowing for hiding content with an explanation. Much could probably be learned from their model which is used in 1000's of support communities.
Topic 3: HootSuite vs. CoTweet - a continuation of the info sharing in the online digest
What Robyn learned from the digest discussion: most big brands were using CoTweet. TechSoup switched from HootSuite to CoTweet because of cost per user (which recently become a premium paid service at HootSuite), but still use HootSuite on a personal basis. Common thread: everyone who had experience with both tools preferred HootSuite's UI, scheduling ability, assignment of Tweets, and analytics over CoTweet but felt that HootSuite's new pricing model overwhelmed all those "relatively minor" benefits. For example, HootSuite now charges $5 for the first two users, and $15 for each additional user on a monthly basis (unverified!). So a team of 5 people would pay $50 per month vs. $0 for CoTweet.
One major upside of CoTweet that was mentioned: it shows which user in a company actually posted a Tweet (but don't you have to be using CoTweet to see that extra info?). Bottom line: if money is no object then the preference seems to be for HootSuite.
Susan Tenby mentioned Sprout Social but no one was using it yet. Perhaps someone can share their experience with Sprout Social if they check it out. And one last "must-have" free tool if you're not already using it: NutshellMail. It's a great daily summary of your social networking activity across a variety of social networks. Perhaps one of the most important features of NutshellMail is seeing your quitters and having an immediate "unfollow" button available if you are currently following the quitter. Bloggers note: that little button kinda feels good to press at times ;-)
Undoubtedly I missed a bunch of worthy ideas and content. Please add them as comments here or into the #ocrtribe Twitter stream. You can also reach me at @thecommunityguy with any comments or questions. Thanks to all the organizers for another great event!