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Invision Community Blog


Managing successful online communities

Jordan Invision
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Help me, Invision Community. You're my only hope: from administrator to community leader

Harness the force as a community leader.

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A long time ago in the Interwebs far, far away... I proudly signed off all my posts and emails with the title: Owner, Administrator. Anyone in a 10-mile digital radius from me was made well aware:

I AM AN OWNER AND ADMINISTRATOR. I AM IMPORTANT I PROMISE. I OWN AND ADMINISTRATE!!! 

Granted I held off on the all-caps, but still.

My assertion permeated throughout all areas of my online presence. 

Though well-intentioned, my identity as an administrator pushed me away from the community I fostered. 

I focused more on growing the group rather than being part of the group, thus creating an unspoken hierarchy that placed my members below me. 

Recognizing your members are living, breathing, sentient people is one of the most important aspects of community building, but I couldn’t see the forest from the trees. 

Part of me enjoyed the authority and power attached to my role as the website’s administrator. But with that power came isolating separation – the dark side if you will. 

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A community I unknowingly built was unrelatable to me because I was unrelatable to them. Is it possible to remove “me” and “them” from the equation entirely and replace it with an “us?” 

Our community members aren’t naive to the fact that someone does technically own the community, and that part of your role as a community leader is administrating. It’s less about the title and more of the mindset. How can you connect with your community? By being relatable and approachable. Better yet? Leading by example.

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Become a community leader

Shifting your interpersonal narrative from administrator to community leader can profoundly change your community’s culture for the better. 

As a community leader, you’ll inevitably perform administrative tasks, including the nitty gritty like group promotions, moderating and reputation (all critical functions for a high-functioning community). However, it’s possible to execute said functions while cloaked under anonymity that the administrator title can provide (that’s not necessarily good or bad, it just is). An important component to community leading is visibility.

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For many years, I made sure my Invision Community software was up-to-date, licenses paid, the registration system worked, spam defense was light-saber slicing the plastic-surgery-gambling bots to Tatooine. I was a fantastic administrator, but my presence from my community, the very place I worked tirelessly to keep running, was sorely missed. 

The moment I went “all-in,” meaning I decided to become an integral part of my community outside of the administrator role (by commenting on members’ topics, responding back in private message group chats, reacting to content, listening to feedback and opening up about real-life success and failures) is the moment I evolved into a community leader. I wanted to be seen.

My deliberate change of self perception produced exponential growth in terms of traffic and new registrations. More importantly, I became a better community leader. 

I feel compelled to not only share pop music news with my community, but also what’s going on in my life. It wasn’t a comfortable transition, but a necessary one. Upon stripping away my title from administrator to community leader, I became a role model. I became someone my members came to for more than just technical forum advice. They wanted to see how I was doing. They wanted to share their wins and losses with me after seeing me succeed and fail in public. They saw me as a person; a leader. 

At the end of the day, community leading means forging connections, sharing your highs and lows and showing up for your members. That starts from within, which may feel incredibly awkward at first, but get comfortable with discomfort and watch you and your community blossom.

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Thoughts on transforming from administrator to Jedi community leader? Sound off in the comments! And may the +1 be with you.

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The group tag can be changed to whatever, but I prefer to remove it altogether and replace it with a ranking that makes them and me one of us - I have to work for my rank as does every member, but movement up the ranking system has to be realistic, raising the bar too high turns people off.  It also has to be fun and people must 'want' to see what comes next and they know they have to contribute to get that rank.

The headache side is deciding how many ranks and what to call them, but that's something that needs time and thought to execute.

I did consider, at one time, offering an Amazon voucher to the first person to achieve a higher rank, but that proved too difficult to assess.  It was a motivative idea with some kind of reward at the end for persistence of presence.  I suppose a developer could produce an app to mitigate such an idea 🙂

  

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Couldn't have said it better myself.

Becoming one with your community will allow the community to grow. A good leader is avoiding being a 'boss' per say. You can do everything that the administrator role entails but there is no need to enforce the status. People will already know you're in charge without you having to tell them. And in my opinion, it doesn't really matter if you remove the title altogether. So long as the administrator duties are being fulfilled in the background none will be the wiser.

Do what you think is comfortable and how you would want to see a community if you registered for the first time. Toxicity within the community and status are definitely things you would not be attracted to and will prevent you from visiting again.

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@Jordan InvisionI posted a comment in another forum posting about the fact I have come to know a fair amount of personal details about the staff here.   There was a time when they were more personally vulnerable and open with the community. Heck @Matt was the first blogger I kept tabs on.  That was long before blogs became a "thing". They "were" community leaders here but over time became Admins. 

When you start out as an admin and morph into a community leader its important to not to go back to being an admin as your members will miss the connection they had when they were a community leader.  You might take on lots of extra duties running your site making it difficult to find time to be community leader  an effort should be made to carve out a few moments each day to put on the community leader hat.

Any site bad news you may have to impart onto your community will incur less of a sting if it comes from community leader versus admin.  Community leaders are "one of us" while admins are often seen as cold uncaring individuals who think "it's my way or the highway".

 

Edited by Chris Anderson
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It's probably a good idea when in the role of community leader to hit the pause button on any communications you might feel inclined to send to individuals or the community until such a time as you "really" have a feel for your community and you have adopted a communication style that works for them and elicits the responses you are hoping for.

Your initial communication might not be the best approach and once sent can't be retrieved.  

You should consider giving your communication another once over a few hours later or the next day, maybe you might see something in the communication that might be better worded or an entirely different approach might come to mind. I know this is hard as we have become so ingrained to utilizing instant communication. 

You should gauge your community to determine if you should write at the high school or college level as well as how technical they are.

With that knowledge you can better determine which words you could readily use in your communications as well as how detailed you might have to be. 

On the other hand you need to be cognizant aware of the fact that If you are too wordy then you might lose people with extremely short attention spans. Know any Twitter or heavy sms users?

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6 hours ago, Chris Anderson said:

It's probably a good idea when in the role of community leader to hit the pause button on any communications you might feel inclined to send to individuals or the community until such a time as you "really" have a feel for your community and you have adopted a communication style that works for them and elicits the responses you are hoping for.

Your initial communication might not be the best approach and once sent can't be retrieved.  

You should consider giving your communication another once over a few hours later or the next day, maybe you might see something in the communication that might be better worded or an entirely different approach might come to mind. I know this is hard as we have become so ingrained to utilizing instant communication. 

You should gauge your community to determine if you should write at the high school or college level as well as how technical they are.

With that knowledge you can better determine which words you could readily use in your communications as well as how detailed you might have to be. 

On the other hand you need to be cognizant aware of the fact that If you are too wordy then you might lose people with extremely short attention spans. Know any Twitter or heavy sms users?

Yes to all of this! I personally also try to pause if I'm feeling a certain type of way. 100% of the time when I circle back, I'm able to manage my communication far, far better than had I reacted impulsively. Though I do love me some raw, in the moment emotion as well 😆 If you can act in the present moment the way you would in the future... that's goals! 

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13 hours ago, Chris Anderson said:

Any site bad news you may have to impart onto your community will incur less of a sting if it comes from community leader versus admin.  Community leaders are "one of us" while admins are often seen as cold uncaring individuals who think "it's my way or the highway".

This is an awesome point. 👏 

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This is a great blog post.  

I do think clients should think strategically about what role they'd like have in their community, how it's perceived by the community, and how that role can evolve (or not evolve!) over time. 

I like the point about Titles and language choices.  How you couch your titles, ranks, and phrases - calling visitors as "friends" or yourself as "Community Leader," for example - can make a difference in how those users perceive their relationship to the rest of the community. 

 

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Separating yourself away from the role of an administrator is easy. Separating that mindset away from other people's perception of you is not so easy.   

I, like yourself, once took on the role of administrator very seriously.  I was a wizard at keeping my community function and up to date. Managing the site's software and hardware a 'no-brainer.'  Policing the community when warranted clearly and respectfully, I could do blindfolded.  But as a person, I was always seen as 'the administrator.'

Having a simple conversation proved problematic. People would always act differently and reply differently when the administrator entered the chat. Think of it a lot like walking into the breakroom and the boss is there. I had never once used my authority to diminish anyone or rise above anyone in a casual conversation or debate. But that did not stop people from being more reserved when the administrator decided to include themselves in the conversation.  Should you disagree with someone in a casual discussion or debate, people did not see "John" disagreeing with them. They saw the administrator and site owner disagreeing with them and picking aside. On some level, it was always seen as more personal.  

I had started with only a single account on my site. But to further distance me from the role, I made a personal account. This helped a little, but the undertone of my old school members who knew it was me could not be genuinely shaken. As my community grew into hundreds of members, I noticed that never really changed. And as you can imagine, every once in a blue, someone would point out the fact.

"Bob" has entered the chat. - It may sound silly to you, but my "Bob" account is precisely everything I always wanted. I am doing everything I have always been doing since day one. Nothing about me has changed. Only the perception of my members has changed. Except for the staff, no one knows "Bob" is the site owner and administrator.  People feel comfortable debating and even arguing with "Bob" on occasion.  "Bob" is so well received that he has become a community leader who helps set the community tone. On rare occasions, someone will message the administration suggesting "Bob" be promoted to join the team.

Having a community means sometimes reading the room.  It means making what changes are necessary and not always trying to conform your members to fit your needs, but sometimes working on yourself to match theirs. 😉

Edited by Linux-Is-Best
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A community leader is still a top down leader even if they work hard to be generally accepted as "one of us".

There might be value in also having at least one Community Advocate who advocates for the community leaders and the community members.

A single point of contact the community can interact with to advocate for various site improvements, changes or deletions or anything else the community feels strongly about. This would lighten the load of the the community leaders allowing them to be more present  which should allow them to be seen as 'one of us" more readily. 

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

I'm not advocating for any particular title here, just using them for illustration purposes.

 

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One thing I forgot to mention in my reply, and it's REALLY simple.

BE YOURSELF!

Don't try to be someone you're not. Don't act or pretend. I understand that you may have to come across more "professional" at times but the more yourself you are the better your community will be able to relate to you, engage and continue being a part of your community. Being professional doesn't mean to completely change who you are. There is no right or wrong answer as everyone may have different opinions but if you were to jump into a room full of people, it's not too difficult at all for someone to pick up on a persona or someone not acting themselves. This is the same for a forum; people sooner than later do pick up on it.

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On 3/2/2021 at 12:48 AM, Prosperous said:

One thing I forgot to mention in my reply, and it's REALLY simple.

BE YOURSELF!

Don't try to be someone you're not. Don't act or pretend. I understand that you may have to come across more "professional" at times but the more yourself you are the better your community will be able to relate to you, engage and continue being a part of your community. Being professional doesn't mean to completely change who you are. There is no right or wrong answer as everyone may have different opinions but if you were to jump into a room full of people, it's not too difficult at all for someone to pick up on a persona or someone not acting themselves. This is the same for a forum; people sooner than later do pick up on it.

I love this! It's really easy to try and be what you think people want. Ultimately, people want authenticity. 

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On 2/26/2021 at 11:21 AM, Chris Anderson said:

A community leader is still a top down leader even if they work hard to be generally accepted as "one of us".

There might be value in also having at least one Community Advocate who advocates for the community leaders and the community members.

A single point of contact the community can interact with to advocate for various site improvements, changes or deletions or anything else the community feels strongly about. This would lighten the load of the the community leaders allowing them to be more present  which should allow them to be seen as 'one of us" more readily. 

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

I'm not advocating for any particular title here, just using them for illustration purposes.

 

Love where your head is at 😉 

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