Community Voice: Bridge or Divide?

There is a broken feedback loop. In enterprises. In cultural institutions. Everywhere. There is a tension between academia and explorers of the world. Difference divides. Yet, buried in the multiple conversations happening on and offline, are common threads bridging all communities. The problem is the feedback is not permeating the physical and digital walls of individual communities of thought.

Last week, the Louvre Museum in Paris, France opened a new wing dedicated to the display of Islamic art. The design of the added facility may have taken a decade to build and has a modern twist, but critics argue the content of the galleries is archaic. The New Statesman claims the Museum is missing an opportunity to discuss or explore the present-day conflict or misunderstandings and has built-up an idealized past using Islamic art from the 7th to the 19th century. In a quest for cultural collaboration, the Museum missed the mark and fans the flame of belief that cultural institutions like the Louvre are elitist and inaccessible.

“It’s comforting to imagine that misunderstandings and intolerance on both sides could be placated by a round of applause for what came before. But if all we can celebrate about Islam is its past, then we are ignoring the equally beautiful aspects of its present.” – Charlotte, Simmonds, New Statesman, 26 September 2012

So, what could the Louvre do to provide a provocative and topical catalyst of conversation? The tensions between religious and political movements are not new to the world or cultural institutions. The Louvre could always take a page from the playbook of the Anne Frank House Free2Choose exhibition. This institution tackles the conversations about human rights head on and does not flinch from the insights revealed in an open feedback loop. Museum participants begin by watching a film debating the conflicting views of human rights and are then asked to vote about their views. The results of the poll are then shared in real time in front of the audience. It is an experience meant to cause disruption and ask for people to think and discuss critically about the views they hold so dear and think about human rights from the perspectives of others.

Objects from the past do hold meaning for us in the present. We have to look beyond the voices who wrote history or idealized the object origins. The new wing in the Louvre is cause for celebration. There is much to be learned from the objects contained within those walls. Let’s shed the rose colored glasses and ask the public to give new meaning and interpretation to these objects and reflect on what they mean in our current state. Share those conversations in and outside the physical space of the museum.

The Louvre is a tourist destination. Ask the tourists from all across the globe to be participants in a modern Islamic conversation. Ask them to go home with more than a post card memory. Ask those who enter the doors of the Museum to reflect on a conversation topic greater than that space or contents. The community voice will only seek to remain a silo or divided from all others if it is offered no other path. The new Islamic art wing has the community, the reach, and the clout to offer the path less traveled.

How would you suggest opening the feedback loop? Or not?

May the odds be in our favor #SxSW 2013

As you may have noticed from the Book DNA mind map I posted earlier this week, I like YA and dystopian fiction. Just a bit.

Inspiration can come from a book, the lyrics of a song, or the obituaries. There is a never-ending supply of information and lessons we can apply to our personal and professional lives. So, when the wicked smart and fellow book enthusiast, Vanessa Rhinesmith, asked me if I would be interested in participating in a SxSW panel discussion about community management and lessons learned from the YA books we devour, I had to jump on the opportunity. 

I understand the hesitation to promote SxSW sessions. With so many voices and topics in the mix, the process for selecting content is far from perfect. I have not voted for any sessions…yet. Tomorrow, I will browse the topics and make my selections. I am looking for sessions that are outside of the box, will not be presentations found in any other venue, and created by fresh voices. If you plan on attending the conference next year (this will be my 7th SxSW), please take a moment to vote. And if you are intrigued by the description of our session, we thank you for your vote. I (in this instance, I can’t speak for Vanessa) plan on a Hunger Games inspired outfit if our session is chosen.

8 Lessons on Community from The Hunger Games:

What can books like The Hunger Games and other young adult fiction (YA) teach us about online community management, best practices in engagement, and the cultivation of loyalty? Perhaps, more than you think.

YA fiction often leads the reader into a struggling world seeping with compelling constraints and heavy expectations. The heroine or hero finds her or himself striving to make the world a more righteous place. Often taking the lead within a greater community that is in need or want of direction, resources, and/or growth.

Thematic parallels between life in Dystopian societies and online community ecosystems present a fun point of reflection as we look to focus on raw elements necessary for community building and management.

During this session we will enter the vividly dark worlds of The Hunger Games, Unwind, Divergent, Graceling, and other YA literature to provide attendees an atypical context for strengthen and tuning their community management skills.

Additional Sessions of Interest:

Ten selections to activate the taco cravings. And may the odds be ever in your favor. If you have any sessions we should know about, please tell us in the comments.

Battle Scars

While at a conference last week, I overheard a woman talking about community management being the “hot new job.” Pardon me, while I stifle a laugh. The position may be hot, but it is not new. It was not even new when I came on the scene in 2006. Before Twitter there were forums and before forums community management was taking shape in the physical world. Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that community management is being taken seriously and all of the hats of the community manager are (slowly) being recognized.

The job is not all fun and games. When things don’t go as expected, communications go awry, and the community goes from compliments and good times to complaints, the job becomes tough very quickly. Behind a keyboard, the masses become powerful and sometimes hurtful voices. What happens then? Who supports the community manager? Beware the dark side of social media and community management. At the keyboard it all seems clear to us what a person or company should do. Shouldn’t everyone see as clearly as we do?

Go ahead. Search my tweets and Facebook updates for when I have publicly called out a company or a person. It doesn’t happen. Not because I have never had a rough customer experience or I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs to anyone who would listen. I don’t because behind the company avatar, the business is comprised of individuals. Fellow human beings, like me, who are monitoring and responding to online dialogue or simply doing their jobs. You don’t know the inner workings of the company. You don’t know what makes the company tick, the people who recognized an issue and attempted to resolve, but found their hands tied because they were not empowered to make decisions. You just don’t know what happens behind closed doors.

Compliments are wonderful and enjoyed by most communities, but as you may personally know, it only takes one negative comment to bring you down. It is easy to become trapped into a constant cycle of negativity as a community manager when you are listening and responding to the complaints and issues of the community. While there are issues that are legitimate and you empathize with the community, there are times when the masses rob the community manager and company of the respect and mature conversation that may have occurred in the physical world and not in the ether. The job of a community manager takes a toll. Those of us who have the battle scars remember each and every strike that caused pain. The scar tissue builds up. Skepticism is but one tweet or status update away. Keeping the darkness at bay is the difference between an emoticon and #epicfail.

There are two sides (or more) to every story. Before you weigh in and add your two cents to the latest scandal, just remember, there is another human being on the opposite side.

The Life of a Social Media / Community Manager

Calling all who have felt the Dilbert comic was based on their lives or they must be victim of an episode of Punk’d. Shall we document the random, funny (now) and heartbreaking things we deal with in the life of a social media / community manager?

*Used Precise V5 pens – Pilot Pens hired me to write this post as part of their Power to the Pen project. In addition to a selection of products, I was compensated for writing this post. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Power of Thank You

I am really excited about this week. For those of you who know me, I may be an online savvy gal, but I am never without a pen and my moleskine. Each day this week, all posts will be in ink. A lot can be said or implied with standard text via the keyboard and the written word can be very powerful. Why not start with one of the most potent types of writing? A thank you card.

Pilot Pens hired me to write this post as part of their Power to the Pen project. In addition to a selection of products, I was compensated for writing this post. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Conversation Doesn’t Take a Vacation

And how was your holiday yesterday? Did you enjoy BBQ and stare hypnotically into the shimmering lights of fireworks?

Holiday? What holiday? Yesterday was a holiday?

Yes. In the United States of America.

When one enters into the social sphere of Twitter or Facebook, geographic boundaries melt away. The news and conversation cycle is 24/7/365, though the company may not hold or be expected to keep such hours. If we want our companies to empathize and display human emotion, we are assuming the organization is comprised of humans with human expectations and a growing desire for work / life balance. It all comes down to expectations and how these needs and processes are communicated to and from the organization and the communities they serve.

I don’t advocate an organization being online 24/7, but I expect an organization to be listening 24/7 and escalating conversations with certain keywords or references throughout the company for appropriate response by the right person at the right time. The right time may be five minutes after posting or during the next business hour. Only your organization can determine and set that expectation inside the organization and to the community. This determination needs to be made before a crisis situation occurs. It can happen at all times, because while you may be on holiday, someone is sitting in front of their computer or using their smart phone to talk about your organization, product or services. The conversation never sleeps.

How should you be preparing?

  1. Don’t limit holiday thinking to those happening only in the United States. What communities does the organization serve and across what continents? What is considered and holiday and when do those holidays occur? People take time before and after a holiday. They are idle and are spending more time on their smart phones and computers. Is your company listening or there to respond to concerns and inquiries?
  2. If you automate content, be expected to be a part of the conversation in real-time.
  3. Establish an escalation grid. What types of conversations require an immediate or timely response? Does this response need to occur publicly or take place on another channel? Can the conversation wait until the next business day after a public acknowledgement of issue or inquiry? Who needs to see and hear the conversations playing out online?
  4. A process is only as effective as those people responsible for completing the necessary activities. During a holiday, it is is not just your community with extra time. Your workforce is enjoying time with their friends and family too. Align your escalation grid with a phone and email or social profile tree. When a response is required and legal or communications approval is needed, will you have the right people in the backchannel and front lines ready to pull the trigger?
  5. Communicate who is on point internally and externally. Your community managers do not need to sacrifice their lives to be online at all times.  Holidays should be treated no differently as weekend or after-hour time periods. Establish a rotation plan and include other members of your organization to check in and listen to the conversations and escalate as required throughout the day. Don’t forget to tell your community who will be listening and how to contact the organization during these times.

The conservation does not take a holiday. Be prepared and have a plan so you and your community can enjoy the time.

Share some tips about how you prepare your organization and community for vacation or a holiday.