The Importance of a Positive Online Community Environment
There’s an old expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and it holds true for online communities. If you don’t like what you see in the first few minutes, it’s not very likely you’re going to stick around to learn more. Community members aren’t the only ones who make decisions and assumptions after a quick look. A good first impression is also extremely important for other important parties:
Advertisers and sponsors: The way that an online community is run reflects on the brand. If a community provides an enjoyable experience and has an abundance of well-mannered participants, it’s also attractive to advertisers and sponsors, who see it as being a pleasant place to get their message across.
Advertisers don’t want their names or money associated with communities that have a reputation for being poorly moderated— especially if the members argue all the time and thrive on drama and negativity.
Bloggers who may write about your community: Today, everything is worthy of a review, rant, or recommendation. Bloggers sound off about poor online experiences and put in a good word for the Internet spots that impress them. Even small communities warrant a tweet or status update if members aren’t getting what they should out of them.
All this commentary eventually gets associated with the brand. If the brand is popular, news about a good or bad experience can go viral.
The people you work for: The people who hired you to run their community may not be monitoring your efforts every day because they trust you and feel that you’re capable enough without micromanagement. Be assured that they’ll visit now and then, though.
Not maintaining a positive image or letting the inmates run the asylum won’t bode favorably for you. Never relax rules or let the community run itself because you figure that no one is watching; you never know who will come by.
If word gets out that your community is poorly run or provides a negative experience, you’ll be viewed as someone who isn’t effective, and this impression can put a damper on your career aspirations.
Competitors: It would be cool if similar communities stopped seeing competitors as competitors, but rather as an extension of their own communities. That’s because community managers should be encouraged to look at other communities and community managers as collaborators or colleagues rather than competitors.
Though you can all work and cross-promote together, you can also be assured that they are viewing you as competition. They’re watching your community to see what you do right so that they can try the same things. They’re also watching to see what you do wrong so that they can avoid those issues.
Collaborators: You may be interested in working with outside sources on special projects. If they see your community in a positive light, they’re happy to have their names associated with it. A community that’s in the spotlight for the wrong reasons will only scare them away.