SXSW Community Engagement Takeaways

The Community Engagement Strategies: Rational Debate or Herding Cats? session at South by Southwest was one of the best sessions I attended. There were too many suggestions to write about each one, so I’ll stick with my top five.

  1. Start a community IN PERSON first because then there’s already a connection. Communities must be centered around respect and it is a lot easier to respect someone you’ve met in person that someone hiding behind a keyboard. Even if the community started online, hosting a meet-up can increase member engagement and interactions. It can also make people be nicer to each other because they know they are talking to a real person.
  2. Directly contact the crazy person and try being reasonable. Ask them what on earth are you doing and gauge their response. Sometimes calling a person out in real life can make them realize they’re acting foolish, they can apologize and everyone is happy. Other times it might get your head verbally ripped off. Obviously, if you think the person is a real danger, don’t confront them in person. Connecting online engagement with real life can only enhance the community (see #1).
  3. In your terms and conditions, be very clear about what the moderation rules and consequences will be. Don’t be afraid to enforce them. Without guidelines in place, people will break the norms of the community. Without consequences, you as a moderator have no control. When asked to color in the lines, most people happily do.
  4. Community moderation is not the easy answer, it takes time and energy. If you aren’t willing to cultivate the community, by keeping the blight out and the comment board free of spam, the reflect that. It’s a bit like babysitting. Not to mention, a good moderation system can protect against extreme crazies.
  5. Identifying your bias and areas of expertise is a way to keep arguments from spiraling out of control. For example, if you’re an expert in child psychology and you say so in a post about the relationships between best friends in a specific setting, you’re more likely to be taken seriously.

Those are the top five takeaways from an awesome community engagement session. If you’re interested in reading about what others had to say about the session, check out the #community engagement search.

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