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Online Community Management: Communication Through Gamers
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Online Community Management: Communication Through Gamers

April 1, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 8 Next

Common Community Management Tools

Official website. The game's official website is the only totally reliable source of information for fans. Interviews in the media can be misquoted, fan sites can be wrong or deliberately lie, but all information in your official website must remain reliable. It is the center of your community and the meeting point of all of your different communities around the world.

Official boards. Some community managers choose not to have official boards for different reasons: if you provide official boards, you have the responsibility of their technical support, moderation, and so on. This is very hard work, and if you're not ready to invest enough time and resources, it could be better not to do it.

Official boards can be useful if you want your community to remain at your website and not disperse to fan sites. This is very important if you want to show your existing community different products, or if your website is a vector for marketing (for example, free-to-play online games or merchandise sales).

Official boards are also a fast and direct way to gather your community before a real fan site network is created. In the end, official boards also are a good way to collect feedback and suggestions from your community, without wandering around a huge number of fan site forums.

It's hard work, but if you have a realistic vision of your objectives for it, it can really be worth it.

Fan site kits. These packs of downloadable files should include every asset needed to start a proper fan site. We're talking about banners, site designs, screenshots, artwork, and sometimes even information.

The purpose of these kits is to avoid the problem of having 2000 empty fan sites about your game littering the web. Don't forget that fan sites bear the image of your game, and I'm sure any publisher would prefer to have fan sites showing proper, high-res, official screenshots than crappy, low-res pictures that came from who-knows-where.

Blogs. To be honest, blogs are a great tool, but very hard to handle. If your CM or someone from the dev team wants to start a blog, be sure it's not to talk about his life. Being a "celebrity" among a given community can sometimes lead people to write things they shouldn't write about -- at least not under an official position.

Blogs allow CMs to communicate in a very different way, close to the community, but they must not replace the official website or boards, and they must have a special purpose and be controlled and managed properly.

These are useful tools to give information to your community on a regular basis. A part of the community won't visit the website, the official boards, or on any fan site regularly, if at all.

The newsletter is a good way to summarize what has happened within the last week (or month) and focus on the important points. Be careful with the frequency of the newsletter, because an empty newsletter is most likely to go directly to the trash bin or the spam box.

Many more tools can be used by the community team, as well as by the PR team: podcasts, wikis, social networks, community videos, and more. I won't talk about them all here, but keep in mind these questions when you're thinking about using one of these tools: is it relevant?

If it is, can you correctly handle and manage it? If both answers are "yes", you should start considering what this particular tool will bring to your community, how much it will cost in terms of time and money, and after all that, start using it within your communication plans.

Keep "Control" of Your Community

First of all, you will never be able to really control a community, but you can try to lead it the right way -- at least, the way which is right to you.

Community rules. By establishing clear rules of conduct from the very beginning, and making sure they're respected, you can establish and influence the structure by which your community will live. It's always easier to establish rules from the beginning than applying them afterwards. When you set up the rules -- for example, the code of conduct -- think of anything that could happen, because a code which changes too often loses reliability.

Community education. The first adopters of a game -- the "early adopters" in marketing terms -- are likely to set the example for others. Teaching your community, and especially these community leaders, what behavior you want them to adopt from the very beginning will help you later on, because the community will manage and moderate itself.

Community managers and moderators can't be everywhere, but if the players are involved in the process of moderation and management of their own community, it will be much easier. I'm not talking here about players with special powers and accreditations, like the helpers we can see in some games; I'm talking about a community that controls itself using social links and peer pressure as a means for moderation. Unfortunately, this tends to stop working when the community gets too big.

Fan site programs. Fan sites will be created and grow without your help, but fan site programs allow you to nurture the development of quality sites and reward the best ones. Don't forget that fan sites about your game do contribute to the image of the game. By rewarding quality and showing the best fan sites on your website through a community program, you will encourage the webmasters to do their best, and thus promote your game at their best.

Trust and reliability. The trust and respect of a community has to be earned. If the community team doesn't earn it, don't expect it to control anything. This is related to the "role and behavior of a community manager" section.


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 8 Next

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