I don’t know if I’d call it a “new trend” or perhaps a new movement in how moms are taking over the Internet space but more and more I see mom bloggers starting their own online communities or managing other online communities. Most of the communities they are managing or claiming the title of “community manager” for are of course, geared towards moms and families.
On one hand, I think this is wonderful. Moms have influence and a voice that is worth being heard. Plus, we’re smart and savvy. It can make good business sense to hire a mom (or even a group of moms) to moderate your community members. Being a mom myself, I can definitely see where family oriented and mom based sites would benefit from having other moms running the communities.
On the other hand, I can’t help but question those looking to hire the influential mom bloggers to oversee the community and its members. Simply because a woman holds the title, “mom” or “influencial mom blogger”, “social media diva” (insert your own combination) does not make her qualified to manage or moderate an online community. A person needs to have the right qualifications to do the job as my friend Angela points out in her post, Worthy of Hire.
I know I might be taking aim at my own community but I firmly believe that not everyone is cut out to manage an online community and it’s reason number one why anyone who searches out moms specifically to manage an online community should do their due diligence to make sure the people they are entrusting their communities to, have the skills and the knowledge to handle all the aspects of running such. If you’re looking for someone to manage your online community, don’t choose someone because their biggest selling point is they are the target demographic of the community you’ve started or they’re a popular blogger with big influence. Yes, it’s a bonus to have a mom as a part of your management team but it shouldn’t be the only thing you look for, and sadly, I think that’s what many online communities are doing today.
What leads me to believe this was a recent problem I had with an interactive feature on a mom based website. I made the point of tweeting how frustrated I was because I couldn’t get a feature to work (hey, I may be a community manager myself but I’m also an end user entitled to air her grievances when a feature doesn’t work). Of course I tweeted after numerous attempts to try the feature I wanted to use and checked for potential problems on my end that would inhibit the interactive feature to work and after finally feeling fed up, I tweeted about it. I got a public reply giving me the same information I’d been using and I got replies from others experiencing the same problems as myself. It looked as though someone (though they didn’t identify themselves as working for the site) was trying to help us all and that was much appreciated. However, what I found in my direct message box moments later was a message that looked to be from the founder and CEO of this website. The tweet read:
“wouldn’t you hate it if someone tweeted about parentsclick with the tweets you’ve tweeted today. Sorry for the glitches.”
First of all, while I am a community manager for MothersClick, I was tweeting from my personal account; as myself. As I mentioned before, I’m an end user just like everyone else is and I was tweeting as an end user. It would be unrealistic of me to wear my community manager hat 24/7. It would also be unrealistic of me to tweet sunshine and rainbows all day long. I’m not a sunshine and rainbows every day kind of person.
Second, I didn’t tweet about the website. I tweeted problems I was experiencing using interactive features of the website. That’s far different than tweeting “Site XYZ stinks because I can’t access their chatroom” or something to that effect.
I don’t believe that the direct message I received actually came from the founder/CEO of the site. However, I do believe that it came from one of their community managers or support people and therein is why I suggest that not everyone is cut out to manage or moderate an online community.
When it comes to managing a community it is never OK to respond to an end user the way I was responded to. I took that message as being scolded for saying that I was frustrated. It has even been suggested that the comment was a tad on the bullying side (as in me being bullied). I’d never considered that until it was pointed out to me.
As a member of that particular site, it doesn’t make me want to come back and use the features of the site. What if I had problems again? Would I be scolded or bullied a second time or perhaps not helped at all? These are the things running through my head as an end user. Community managers need to know how to deal with the problem of their community professionally and respectfully. They need to respond to the community in a way that lets them know we’re here for you and we’re here to help.
For years I worked as a customer support representative. It was my job to daily handle problems with end users and our customers. I corresponded through emails and phone calls with hundreds of people (both in the US and internationally), providing them assistance with everything from teaching them how to navigate the changes of their company’s employee website, to resetting passwords, creating accounts, troubleshooting ordering problems and even placing their orders for them when they too became frustrated with the features of the ordering site. Never once would I scold or reprimand them for being frustrated.
I think in an eagerness to find someone to run a community, some webmasters will bring anyone who shows an interest on board. I don’t think that’s the right approach. Anyone who wants to work within the community needs to have patience with the community, be able to troubleshoot, calm members when necessary and be sympathetic (lamenting with them over their frustration is fine to do). Above all else, they need to have demonstrated experience with dealing with the public. Running a popular blog and responding to reader comments doesn’t make anyone an expert in customer service or community management.
Had I worked for this site, I would have handled it far differently. Be it publicly or privately, I would have asked exactly what problem someone was having, provide them with my email so they could tell me in more than 140 characters and worked with them to solve the problem.
That is how you manage member problems. You don’t scold them for being frustrated and you definitely don’t throw the brand they are connected with into the mix too.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have tweeted about how frustrated I was but I did and I can’t change that. I see how it can come back to bite me in the butt later on. However, butt biting or not, the person on the other end of the direct message WAS representing a brand when I received that message and their reaction to my frustration will stay with me as a community MEMBER and end user long after my frustration wanes.
As you can see, I got a little winded on this one – if you read completely through Kudos for making it to the end. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this:
What do you think is the right way to handle a member problem? When dealing with social media, would there have been a better way for this person to respond?