Yesterday, hailing from from various parts of the US and Europe, 15 excited individuals shared a single destination: Seattle, WA - home of the the ArenaNet offices.
What do they all have in common? An inexorable passion for Guild Wars 2, the community around it, and the developer. Oh, and an invite to ArenaNet's 'Community Open House' event.
Many community builders make the mistake of setting up their ideal community site before a single member joins. This may seem like solid preparation, but it lands you in the difficult position of developing a community on a stagnant and potentially restrictive platform.
A disturbing new trend is developing in the MMO gaming industry in regards to developers and community manager's − a noticeable and marked retreat from their fans.
It's become more prevalent that community manager's are less interactive with their communities and have turned into a simple marketing tool. It's become almost common knowledge that a developer is simply there to code and meet that impossible deadline, rather then loving a game and participating with their fellow gamers. I don't believe this is the fault of the CM's or developer's themselves, but rather that companies want a tighter control over their message. With that control comes scripted messages, dissenting opinions silenced or marginalized... all the while telling their community that it's for our own good. It's done under the guise that they are providing a clearer message, that they are focusing their communication with fans.
People will pay more for better services, providing the income necessary to invest in improving or expanding those services further.
Modern, innovative, web based businesses have become masters at implementing this feedback loop via smart monetization of their services, whether it's subscriptions, micro-transactions, one-off payments, sponsorships, advertising, or (more often) a blend of any number of those. It's generations ahead of the traditional product/service -> payment model. This is due, in large part, to the hugely competitive market for web services, where competition isn't restricted by physical boundaries.
Community 101: Your small core community is equally as valuable as your large peripheral community. Seriously, this has been an established and observably important principle of community management since the dawn of time. Every marketing exec. wants to say 'But it's impossible to quantify how that impacts sales figures!', but anyone experienced with online communities knows exactly the impact it has, and how important it is.
If your community seems directionless or inconsistently toned it's probably because you haven't done enough to encourage the formation of a hierarchy - and you should. It allows you, as the administrator or community manager, to much more effectively shape the community. One person can't effectively influence thousands on their own, which is why you grow a chain of influencers to proliferate your message.
- Give some visual recognition to senior members who are particularly helpful and constructive. It rewards their efforts and contributions, and it makes them immediately apparent to new members as role models.
They really do. As a discussion platform they are fundamentally flawed, and in this era of 'social media' they feel more and more like a clunky anachronism. Over the years we've developed methods to compensate for this, from advanced moderation/administration strategies to utilizing various clever plug-ins, and the functionality we've come to expect from a forum package basically limits us to expensive custom builds or high-end commercial solutions. But still, they suck.
Unfortunately there's nothing better right now, and forums are still the backbone of pretty much any large online community. How else do you provide a method for hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people to get together and enjoy structured discourse?
It might be obvious to some of you, but it's something that I can't stress enough: The report function is an essential part of running a large, healthy community.
Unless you can afford to hire a dozen extremely competent moderators providing around the clock coverage, community self moderation is key. This is one practical application of that, and a vital one, for a few reasons:
1) It eases the workload.
On the larger of the two communities I run there are one to two thousand people online at any time. There's no way I can guarantee complete coverage, even with forty volunteer moderators. Even if only one in ten of the online members uses the report function I immediately have massively improved coverage and response time.
2) It gives the community a healthy way to fight back.
There is some satisfaction in hitting the report button on a post if you know it will be dealt with. Without that healthy form of retribution people might resort to returning fire - doubling the problem and the workload.
3) It spreads responsibility.
The life of a moderator isn't easy, as they can occasionally be the target of complaints. The majority of complaints we see are about issues not dealt with in a timely manner, most of which can be countered with a simple question: 'Well why didn't you report it?'
Do whatever you can to encourage use of the report feature. Even over-enthusiastic members who report dozens of posts a day are still doing you a favor if only a couple of those areworth dealing with.