It has been a pretty hectic first month for me at Latitude Insights but what a blast it’s been. Already immersed in two very different communities, it’s been great to learn and understand the various methods that make managing a community such a rewarding and valuable experience, not just for me but for our clients and members as well.
I have an online research background, so the idea of communicating with people via the Internet wasn’t new to me and is something I find very interesting. There is definitely a certain skill required to get the most out of people with whom you have no actual direct contact with, but as people become more and more online savvy the less noticeable the gap between online and offline communications continues to become. You may miss out on seeing how people express themselves physically but online I find that people are much more inclined to open up to you with information they may not usually share in a face to face environment.
Online communities evolve and run like any other community. There are leaders, there are followers and a mesh of relationships will build with time. What surprises me is just how quickly this happens. After the initial login, members introduce themselves and find common ground, as you would when you meet someone for the first time in real life. As a moderator, it’s a matter of using and nurturing these relationships in order to get participants talking with each other and also with me. Before long members are discussing and posting topics of their own. Such is the comfort that they have sharing information in the community. Communicating online is now no longer seen as scary or the domain of the IT geeks, and as a result people are much more comfortable engaging with others and meeting new friends. They help each other, they celebrate each other’s achievements and support each other through troubled times, just like a real community.
As a moderator I’ve learned that in the end I have to keep order but still don’t want to be the ‘tough guy’ who isn’t seen to have fun, or a personality; I can be someone who members will want to chat and share their experiences with. How can I expect everyone in the community to share themselves if I’m not doing it myself?
I was used to conducting focus groups with up to 8 participants at a time so have had to adjust to communities of over 100 running over a much longer time period. Sure, not everyone is talking at the same time, but it really is great to see a larger group dynamic evolve to include me as well as the experience of friendships grow and build.
Like the communities, I’m looking forward to growing and building upon my experience as time goes on.