Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the Online Community Unconference along with fellow Ning colleagues Allison and John. It was an amazing learning and sharing experience to collaborate with about 130 community, social media, marketing, and new media professionals attending.
How did this "unconference" thing work?
Rather than a pre-set agenda with speakers and mostly one-way conversation, the agenda of unconferences are designed and built by the attendees. At the beginning of the day, after a quick round of introductions, anyone who wanted to propose a topic announced their idea and then found a time and a place to convene their session. With almost 20 meeting spaces available and five hour-long sessions, over 60 topics were tackled during the day... and that doesn't even include all the side conversations and chat over lunch and dinner after the day was over.
Two of the sessions I attended, in particular, really had some great community takeaways for me.
Social Customer Service
Before I got into community, my first jobs were in retail. I worked good old mall jobs in high school, a bookstore during college, a retail travel agency afterwards. The intersection between social media/community and customer service/support has always been one that's interested me. Hearing other professionals talk about how they best used social channels for customer service was great. One idea that really stood out to me was that any good social strategy is grounded in customer service... not marketing, not acquisition or lead generation... customer service. If you get that part right, the other parts will come together.
A couple of practical tips that will stick with me: 1) Discourage internal bad-mouthing of customers within your company. Everyone needs to blow off steam, yes, but talking about patrons internally in bad fashion can subconsciously affect the way that employees deal with those patrons, even if they've never had a bad experience with them personally. 2) When communicating with upset patrons, make sure to focus on "I" statements - using "you" statements can get people defensive and less receptive to the information you're giving.
Designing a Community of Shared Purpose - Creating Movements
This session explored how well-designed communities can spawn and sustain movements that grow beyond the initial community. While you can't genuinely manufacture something that mobilizes a community, you can spot events or conversations that can become tipping points. Some ingredients for movement mobilization include:
Base – You have to have a base of passionate people. They can be a minority, and often are.
Interest - A shared interest that engages your base.
Hook - To connect people together around that interest
Trigger – specific and actionable.
A tangible enemy to fight against doesn't always hurt, either.
The notes from the sessions are currently being compiled. The event had a great response and I look forward to the next time!
Did you attend the Online Community Unconference? What session did you most enjoy?