Coaching a Community by Laura Brunow Miner

Some of us in the “community” space think about these topics every single day. Seldom do we get a good soapbox to talk about them. Laura Brunow Miner, editor in chief at JPG Magazine, did on A List Apart in her brilliantly detailed yet simple piece entitled Coaching a Community.

“In the end, we’re talking about fundamental social principles of mutual respect, open communication, and effective incentives. People often want to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves, and that their talents and skills are appreciated. So polish up the skills you learned in the dorms, the glee club, or the Elk’s Lodge, and lead your community online.”

In her article she actually scratches under the surface to reveal details that I believe have been talked much less about in recent years than the broad strokes of community building. When the idea of “community” really began to take stride we all talked about openness, communication, actively greeting your new members, and hand-holding. But Laura touches on things that go below that. She strips off the layers of community building to reveal the duties of the community builder to be much more refined and those that have longer-term affects than making your newest members feel at home.

Here is what she said regarding rewarding good work.

“It’s human nature that one negative comment affects us more than ten positive ones. So praise liberally, but keep in mind that different positive actions deserve different rewards. Keeping them separate is really important, or you risk deflating the value of all of them. Think of school: you wouldn’t get an “A” just for perfect attendance, but you might get a certificate.”

This is a very insightful thought put more succinctly than I could have pulled off. At Viddler, as an example, favorites and comments come in droves (for a good video). But how do you balance that out between good work and hard work? Some people publish great videos every single time. Do you react the very same way for each video? What about distinguishing hard work from just blind luck? In our business sometimes simple, unedited videos (like my Random 60 videos) get more attention than well thought out, highly refined, and fine tuned works of art. Such is life. But those are two very different examples of “good work” and each should be rewarded in their own way.

I think this part of “the job” is probably one of the hardest challenges faced by community managers. You always want to give kudos where due, but how can you keep the value of that praise at a high level? Food for thought.

She also makes some great points about incentives, looking for trends that match your community’s interests, and mentoring. Really a must-read for anyone trying to build and ultimately coach a community.

An excellent article by someone who truly gets community on the Web and off.