Aaron Sumner


SXSW Interactive 2009 Day Three Takeaways: Lessons in Community Management

Can you believe that Flickr users upload 3,000-5,000 new photos per minute, and YouTube users upload 13 hours of new video in that same time? How do you manage that amount of content? That was the focus of Lessons in Community Management, paneled by representatives of Flickr, YouTube, MetaFilter, Current.tv, and Etsy. This was a frank, open discussion about what's worked for them, and what hasn't worked.

Lots of takeaways:

  1. As you move from early adopters to the mainstream, you'll need to adapt your rules of engagement and create new flag mechanisms along the way.
  2. It's harder to perceive trends in your community as it grows. You'll need to get smarter about sampling and data.
  3. It's important to communicate with the community at large, without losing the one-on-one dialogue. Above all, maintain transparency. This is especially important when dealing with censorship-related issues. Answer honestly, even if it's not a popular answer. Explain your answers and don't resort to "because I'm the mom"-type answers.
  4. The challenge is to "grow big but stay small"--people become less forgiving as you grow.
  5. When defining your community guidelines, make them as human-readable as possible. Avoid the legalese.
  6. Online communities don't replace your real-life communities!
  7. Critics makes us honest. We must learn which ones to filter and which ones merit listening. Remind yourself of the amazing things happening on your site instead of focusing on negative comments. Learn when not to respond (a la the advice during "Making Things Happen" on Day Two).
  8. Don't forget internal communications with your team--make sure everyone knows what's going on.
  9. Be flexible with your community! There is no way to anticipate what your users will do over time. Be willing to adapt, and empower your community to do good things with your tools. You get what you give.
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