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Community Professionals Quietly Empower Movements

Posted by Patrick on February 29th, 2016 in Thinking

I believe that, behind any powerful movement, you’ll find community professionals. Or, at least, people doing the work. They may not do it for a living, they may just call themselves an organizer, but they do the work.

They aren’t usually the spokespeople for the movement. They aren’t the most visible faces in the community, they may not be the one talking to the media. But without them, the movement would probably crumble.

Groups need organization and management. They need people who work quietly to ensure that their efforts attract the right people for the right reasons; that those people know how to make their voices heard in a way that will be productive and effective. They need someone who will rebuke people who are co-opting their message in a way that makes them look bad.

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Rotten TomatoesBack in October, movie ticket seller Fandango was caught manipulating the star ratings on their website in a dishonest, misleading way. Users rate movies on the service, through a 5 star scale, and an average rating is then displayed to illustrate the sentiment of the average moviegoer. The average rating is always rounded to a half-star.

FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey crunched the numbers and found that, when this rounding occurred, Fandango was always rounding up. A movie rated 4.6 or 4.7 would become a 5, not a 4.5. In 38 cases (out of 437 movies), a rating was actually bumped a full half star or more. In other words, a 4.5 becoming a 5.

Suffice to say, this story gained a lot of traction and it has certainly impacted how people view Fandango and even online movie ratings in general. Fandango blamed technical glitches, and it appears that they have fixed the problem.

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When resources, both free and paid, crop up around an industry, it’s a net positive. It means that there is growth, to the point where businesses can be built around educating, connecting and empowering those who operate in the space – or, perhaps more commonly, those thinking about entering it.

With money, can come hype. Sometimes the people behind a resource might get a little overzealous in how they promote it. Perhaps they make it sound like it is required learning if you want to excel or that, if you don’t partake in it, you are somehow inferior.

In reality, these resources are simply a component, of many, that can help you become a better community professional. Books, college courses, conferences, certifications, memberships, training programs and workshops are simply optional components. They can help you to become great, but you are not great simply because you consume them.

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According to a new study, when a company responds to a complaint posted in an online forum, they receive a greater boost to consumer advocacy than when responding to complaints lodged through phone, email, social media or review sites.

The study was conducted by Jay Baer and Edison Research for Jay’s new book, Hug Your Haters. The book is about customer service – specifically, about embracing complaints. This is something I believe in. I sell more books by responding to bad reviews. As Jay says in Hug Your Haters, “Not responding is a response. A response that says, ‘I don’t care about you.'”

They surveyed “more than 2,000 American consumers who have complained about a company in the previous 12 months, with the study participants representing a statistically valid cross-section of ages, incomes, racial make-ups, and technology aptitudes.”

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For Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD), I organized a panel discussion about managing online community volunteer programs. I was joined by a wonderful lineup, including David DeWald, Rebecca Newton and Scott Moore.

The panel was part of My Community Manager’s 24 hour CMAD livestream. Thank you to everyone who was involved in putting the event together, including Jonathan Brewer, Sherrie Rohde, Dom Garrett, Berrak Sarikaya, Aaron Biebert, Rachel Miller, Christin Kardos and Carrie Keenan.

One of the consistent themes in the conversation was the importance of respecting volunteers. Part of that is having at least some understanding of the laws that relate to volunteers in your country. In the U.S., we have something called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is one of the most important laws for U.S.-based community professionals. It provides safe harbor from liability for copyright infringement committed by our communities by users.

Copyright consultant Jonathan Bailey contacted me the other day to highlight a very important point about qualifying for this safe harbor. It’s not enough to adopt a system where you proactively address copyright infringing material on your site. It’s not enough to make it easy to contact you through your website and to quickly respond to notices.

You must register your DMCA agent with the Copyright Office by submitting this form, and make sure that the designation stays updated. But no, you can’t just register the name of your company. You must also register the name of the community and any alternative names.

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Right now, I’m interviewing for a role at a company you know. You probably have one – or many – of their products. I’m not sure it’s the role for me – I turned down the interest initially – but I decided to take the interview out of respect for a friend of mine who is going to do amazing work for them.

On the first call, I was asked that great question we all love: how much do you make now?

As an independent, self-employed professional who manages communities, and engages in writing, speaking and the tiniest bit of consulting, my income varies wildly. I have unmatched freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want. That’s not what a role at a company represents. It’s quite the opposite. Less freedom, consistent paycheck. I’m not going to tell you what I make now.

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