I recently attended SIEGE 2010
in Atlanta, GA and one of the reoccurring themes I was pleased to hear from public relations professionals, marketers and community managers was the importance of “being genuine with your users.” This includes not only being honest when you’re caught red handed, but also means you have to be open with your users about potential issues.
As Sanya Weathers recently explained
, sticking your head under a blanket and hoping nobody notices your mistakes isn’t good community management. You have to be open with your community: apologize and address the issues. Expanding further, it’s not enough to just address the issue; you have to honest about it too. Trying to cover up your mistakes with excuses and lies is only digging yourself deeper.
To anyone that has worked in community management, this probably seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, some companies find it easier to fabricate a story as opposed to trying to explain their way around mistake or uncomfortable situation. It makes sense that the temptation to lie would arise. After all, you don’t want to reveal something that could tarnish your company’s image. But lying to your community is actually significantly more dangerous than telling the truth.
You think you can lie and get away with it? Don’t count on it! Never underestimate your community. Your most hardcore users are watching everything you do and somehow manage to find even the smallest, most secretive updates to your site. And in this time of exploding social media, your secrets will spread like wildfire through Twitter and Facebook they’ve come to light. You can’t contain it. The obsession and dedication that you typically value from your community will be the very thing that brings you down.
There’s always a chance that you’ll be able to get away with your dishonesty, but is it really worth the risk? Of course not. It’s disrespectful to the people that you depend on for your product’s success and it’s setting you up for drama if (or when) they find out. When your secrets come to light, you risk angering your community, damaging your reputation and losing users.
One of the primary duties of a community manager is to handle communications with your user base. This relationship is necessary for helping you gain feedback about your product and keeping your users informed. A community manager needs have earned the respect of the community, be able to relate to the users and talk to them at their level. If your users don’t trust your community team, then your community manager is totally worthless to you. Even a small lie can severely damage the relationship between your community team and users, so I can’t emphasize the importance of honesty enough.
Everyone knows that some information can’t be shared with your community. Your users might not like it, but they understand the concept of confidentiality. However, there’s a big difference between withholding confidential information from users and outright lying to them. Whatever you CAN tell your community, you SHOULD! There’s no need for secrets. As an added bonus, having an honest and open community team allows you to control the release of information and keep rumors and exaggerations at a minimum.
Lying might seem like the easy way out of a tough situation, but being honest, apologizing and admitting to your mistakes is the best way to keep the trust of your community. Not to mention, if your company truly values their users, then the least you can do is be upfront with them. A good community manager should be able to handle a community crisis and should be empowered with the ability to be truthful when these situations arise.
Labels: community management, Rant