With proper management, social media, niche groups, and brand communities provide vital connections that support learning, growth, and happiness.
Every few years, I get frustrated with social media and the communities I participate in. I notice that ads feel irrelevant and that I’m seeing more ads than normal. I notice I’m seeing less from the people I care about most and more from people I don’t know or barely know. I notice that communities have changed and no longer align with why I joined them in the first place.
While some of this stems from a shift in how I use social media, how often I post, how I engage with others, and what I share, much of it comes from being an early adopter of social media for business and in those early years, everyone connected with everyone and used social media to build brands. I amassed friends, followers, and connections and joined groups because that was what everyone did.
The rapid growth of social media as a business marketing tool helped me grow my network, build a brand, and attract new high-end clients. It’s also how I first connected with some of my best personal and professional friends. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some regret.
That initial connection frenzy means that now I’m connected with all sorts of people I don’t know and that’s not what social media is supposed to be about. It’s meant to be a tool for building and strengthening relationships, interacting and engaging with others, creating community and sharing ideas, and entertainment and fun.
Choosing Your Community
My social media experience is a result of the groups I have joined and the community I have created for myself. The same is true for you as well. Our experiences are shaped by who we connect with, what groups we join and participate in, what programs we sign up for, who we learn from and follow, and who and what we allow into our feeds.
So now, when I feel frustrated with a community, I leave it. And when I feel frustrated with social media, I do a little housekeeping and prune connections with accounts that:
- Use their dog, cat, or other pet; a body part; a stuffed animal; or a landscape, sunset, or stock photo as an avatar.
- Tag me and others in videos, photos, and posts that have nothing to do with us.
- Speak and post in a language I don’t understand and can’t read because this means we’ll never have a meaningful interaction.
- Never post anything or post things you shouldn’t share on social media.
- Use their request to connect to sell or pitch their products and services, or worse, wait until you accept the connection to spam you with a sales pitch.
- Use spammy marketing tactics that feel gross.
- Fill my feed with an abundance of repetitive game updates — I’m talking about five or more game updates in a row from people I barely know or don’t know.
The past two presidential election cycles and the global pandemic have also highlighted accounts to part ways with. The unfriend, unfollow, mute, and block options have made social media a much more enjoyable and positive place to be.
To be clear, I have no problem with people who disagree with me or have different beliefs. But I do have a problem with people who choose to be hateful and:
- Put down, belittle, or shame others and resort to name-calling.
- Are self-righteous or indignant and must always be right.
- Post hateful, intolerant content.
- Share or like memes that tear others down.
- Can’t or won’t communicate or share opinions without being rude, mean, or disparaging.
I refuse to tolerate that type of behavior in my personal life and because I walk my talk, I also have to be prepared to hold the same boundaries in my professional life.
Managing Professional Communities
As someone who creates and manages communities for programs like Profitable Project Plan and Content Creators Club and events like Content Camp, I am responsible for what happens in those communities. If you create communities for your brand — public free communities or private paid communities — you also are responsible for those communities.
- It’s our responsibility to establish a clear code of conduct, ensure every member understands it, and act swiftly on violations.
- It’s our responsibility to create a safe place of belonging, where all members feel comfortable engaging and participating.
- It’s our responsibility to not shy away from the tough conversations and decisions required to maintain the integrity of the community.
And, as members of other communities…
- It’s our responsibility to be good stewards of those communities and speak up if there is a problem.
Proactive Community Management
Today, I strive to create safe spaces of value for those in my programs and never shy away from a tough conversation about what is and is not tolerated. And it’s not always about reigning in hateful or toxic behavior or even correcting bad behavior.
Sometimes it’s about reminding members what the group is and is not for and removing distractions and irrelevant things that pull people off course. For example…
- If you’re hosting a live training or interview and a participant is blowing up the chat with off-topic, semi-related chatter, you must nip it in the bud. Otherwise, the distraction will take away from other members’ ability to learn — and they’ll complain about it, even if they too were part of the distraction.
- If you’re managing a Facebook group or other niche group and a member starts posting off-topic content that isn’t what was promised or is expected, you must remove it. Otherwise, it will degrade the value of your community for other members.
You created the space, you established the rules, you set expectations with members, and it’s on you to protect the space, uphold the rules, and meet expectations.
Manage your group or community with the same voracity used to manage your personal social accounts and don’t let people into your community who do any of the spammy, obnoxious, and hateful things I listed above.
My friends at GoWP manage their Facebook Group For Digital Agency Owners really well. They vet requests to join by asking for an email address and requiring you to answer a few questions, proactively moderate the group to keep it valuable for members, and remind everyone of the code of conduct at the start of every event and happy hour so there is no question about the expectations of participation.
Code Of Conduct Violations
I co-organized the Sacramento WordPress Meetup for seven years and WordCamp Sacramento for five years. During that time, we experienced code of conduct violations. Sometimes they were handled with a private conversation, once we had to escort someone off the premises, and twice it got bad enough that escalation to those with more power and authority over the WordPress community at large was required.
When you call people out on bad or questionable behavior, not everyone reacts well.
Some handle it like adults and professionals. Others get defensive, angry, and mean and continue to engage in unacceptable behavior — often to the detriment of the people running the community. While most community managers have thick skin and let things roll off their backs, one can only take so much. It’s why we see people walking away from volunteerism and communities they love and worked hard to build.
Community Member Removal
Just as you might break a social media connection with someone who detracts from your experience or fire a client who treats you poorly, you must be prepared to remove a member from your community.
To do this, I follow the same a three-step process our WordPress Meetup and WordCamp organizing team followed:
- Identify and seek to understand the full scope of the problem or issue.
- Discuss the problem or issue openly with the involved members, provide an opportunity for explanation, remorse, apology, and behavior change, and be very clear about the implications of unchanged behavior.
- If the behavior does not change, initiate the removal process and appropriate communication. How this step shakes out depends on your role as a community manager or owner and the number of “chances” members are provided.
Thankfully, I’ve not yet been forced to remove someone from one of my own programs based on poor behavior.
You’re Welcome Here
The freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners I work with are pretty amazing. They’re driven, dedicated, and hard-working. They’re committed to elevating themselves and those around them and willing to share what they’ve learned. And they’re nice. I feel fortunate to wake up each day and feel excited about what’s to come and go to bed each night grateful to be inspired by those in my community — and I want that for you too!
- I want you to live inspired, embrace imperfection, and seek satisfaction — even if that means liberal use of the unfriend, unfollow, mute, and block options across your social media channels and leaving groups and communities that no longer serve you.
- I also want the communities that support your brand and programs to thrive and be wildly successful — even if that means having tough conversations and kicking someone to curb.
If you’re looking for a community of smart, supportive, business owners to inspire you as you learn to do business better, come hang with me and my crew!
- Join Content Creators Club, a community of ambitious, passionate business owners leveraging content to grow businesses, gain visibility, attract high-end clients, and create exciting opportunities.
- Join Profitable Project Plan, a community of friendly, like-minded designers and developers building profitable, sustainable businesses with more freedom and joy.
We set bold goals, work with purpose and intention, get $h!t done, and have a lot of fun along the way — and we’d love to have you.