Managing Big Comunity Changes


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It's not a matter of if change is coming to a community, but when. Whether it's a platform switch, new management, a pivoting business structure or more, changes happen and Community Managers need to know what to do before, during, and after these Big Changes. Using examples from changes at companies like Ning, Causes, Wetpaint, and more Crystal will guide you through how to make a community plan for Big Changes that keeps your community intact and retains your members.

Presentation for San Francisco Online Community Meetup, March 26, 2014

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  • Tonight’s agenda
  • Types of changes: Platform (user-facing, back end; changes to internal platform or change from one platform to anotherDesign (can seem small, but can really freak people out)Management (changes in moderators, company, etc)Policies (moving from open to closed or vice versa; restricting membership or opening it upBusiness Direction (changes that result from business decisions but have end user impact
  • Be informedCreate a communication planBuild your kitExpect the unexpectedWe're going to look at Big Community Changes from a Disaster Preparedness perspective. Just like when you're preparing for a natural disaster, there are some essential planning elements and procedures you can put into place to make transitions smoother, but remember that something unexpected will always come up.
  • When possible, seek information and feedback about pending changes from your community before the changes are announced. Having a small group of community members that you can reply on for productive, honest, actionable feedback is a great benefit herePost announcement, provide avenues for feedback Actually do something with that feedback (and show what you’re doing)
  • The first step in managing a big community change is to draft a communication plan. Depending on the change, you may need to draft separate communications for public or external consumption and for your community (internal) consumption. 1- Your community should ALWAYS get the news first or simultaneously. These are the people who have been invested in your property. 2. Think about how you’re crafting your interval vs external communications. Really try to avoid legal proofing your community messaging unless it’s absolutely necessary3. Look at your communications from your member’s perspective: what are they could to worry about? What questions are they going to have? This change affects them and they have no control over it; be empathetic.
  • Build out a FAQsCanned responses (with some review and editing as needed) are going to be your friend. People don’t read.There are possibly going to be some things that your community doesn’t like, but have to be done for business purposes. Make sure everyone is on the same page and that the reasons behind this are clear.
  • Maybe also note here that you should have a bunch of staff on hand to help the CMGR out, and Engineering staff on call if there’s a product rollout. Having a bug during a big launch isn’t ideal, but if you fix it right away, it won’t steal your thunder.No matter how much planning, testing, and vetting you do, there are going to be things that happen that are beyond your control. Be flexible.
  • End of Freemium – When Ning began, it was a free base product with options to purchase additional add ons, permissions, functions, etc. After a big management change, we took a long hard look at the financial health of the product and determined that this just wasn’t viable. So Freemium went away and a pay structure started.What we did right: Addressed as soon as we could (was leaked unfortunately). Urged for empathy (as cutbacks were involved, too). Consulted with Alumni Council before hand What we did wrong: Announced a plan without a plan (AI: specifically, we announced the end of “free” without any specifics, so basically we just delivered bad news and caused anxiety/uncertainty without any concrete information)Ning 3.0 – By 2012, OG Ning sites were starting to look super dated. And worse, didn’t have all functionality in the available mobile versions of the networks. Plan went underway to revamp the product. Fresh looks, Responsive Design, remove dated features. On a business side, the infrastructure for 2.0 had grown inefficienent in maintanence and cost. What we did right: Ran test groups (NC Council alumni), had information ready to go.What we did wrong: Set dates (AI: and incorrect expectations), then completely failed to meet them (fess up post).
  • Causes started in 2007asone of the original 10 Facebook apps. By 2012, It had over 186m Users, and decided that it was time to branch out into their own platform. What they did right: Lots of communication, documentationWhat they did wrong: Seemed a bit drawn out
  • Wetpaint started in ???? As a WYSIWYG wiki company. They soon realized that the niche they really connected with was Entertainment (through deals with networks like HBO, Showtime, FOX, CBS? In ???? The company shifted to an entertainment publishing platform and retired the wikis by wetpaint product. What they did right: Didn’t just close down the product, which would have been a viable optionWhat they did wrong: Let the product flounder before it was sold.
  • Maybe a note here about being as transparent as possible (within reason), and how that can become an asset and mitigate some negative feedback that you’re bound to receive.
  • Managing Big Comunity Changes

    1. 1. MANAGING BIG CHANGES Community Tips from Disaster Prep #OCTribe March 26, 2014(Image: storm #2 from powazny on flickr)
    2. 2.  Community since 2006  Wetpaint, Hipp Theatre, Ning, and more  I tweet way too much (usually) @ThatGirlCrystal  Gators win everything in my bracket ABOUT ME
    3. 3.  What is a Big Community Change?  Planning tips from Disaster Prep  Practical Examples COMMUNITY CHANGE Image: Party Duck from Mr_Tentacle on flickr
    4. 4.  Platform  Design  Management  Policies  Business Direction CHANGE IS… GOOD? Image: change happens from atbartlett on flickr
    5. 5. Be Informed Create a Communication Plan Build Your Kit Expect the Unexpected MANAGING COMMUNITY CHANGES Image: right brain planning from stargardener on flickr.
    6. 6. BE INFORMED Seek Information Proactively Provide avenues for feedback Show your work. Image: Information from heathbrandon on flickr
    7. 7. COMMUNICATION PLAN Community First Internal vs External Communications Empathy Image: Playing the Whisper Game from kalexanderson on flickr
    8. 8. BUILD YOUR KIT FAQS Canned responses are your friend Provide reasons for unpopular changes Image: Kit Bag II by tonymangan on flickr
    9. 9. All hands on deck Some things are beyond your control Be flexible EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED Image: Surprise! From greencolander on flickr
    10. 10. Image: Hurricane Charley from NOAA PRACTICAL EXAMPLES
    11. 11. NING End of Freemium Ning 3.0 Image: Red Ning from fabricio on flickr
    12. 12. Image: Causes from cambodia4kids on flickr CAUSES Facebook to own platform
    13. 13. Image: WetPaint Paging Interface from paulwatson on flickr WETPAINT Shift to entertainment platform Selling off of wiki product
    14. 14.  Change is ultimately good, but scary – think about it from a member perspective  Over-communicate as much as you can (and be okay with repeating yourself)  Be transparent as possible (within reason/liabilities)  You WILL make mistakes LET ME SUM UP Image: San Francisco lucky double rainbow from davidyuweb on flickr
    15. 15. Want these slides? Gimme some feedback: Resources and More Info: QUESTIONS? Contact or Connect: @ThatGirlCrystal crystal@thatgirlcrystal @Ning Image: Question mark graffiti from bilal-kamoon on flickr