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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 7 of 8 Next

Community and Communication

Most of the advice people learn in PR and communications studies are also relevant for community management, and I often think that the best community managers should have a PR and customer service background. This section will discuss some important points no community manager should forget.

Rule I: Know Your Community

A gaming community is like a country, with its own language, its own culture and rules, and even if a community manager does not have to be part of it, he has to know it well. Knowing the slang of your community is fundamental, as abbreviations can come from very diverse origins.

As an example, in the French community of Rappelz, we had players who came from the U.S. servers with their own language, others coming from World of Warcraft or from other games with their own habits, and in the first weeks after the release, these languages fought for domination, while another slang, coming from the new players, was created. This was a very interesting time to experience, but could be very confusing for community managers.

Knowing the language of your community also means understanding who your players are, what they do and where they come from.

In one game, the game masters were very strict on swear words and insults; I saw some players insulting each other with Japanese slang from the anime they watched, so the game masters wouldn't understand it. In that kind of case, having a community manager coming from the community itself may be very useful.

Knowledge of the community is also very important for understanding how it works, who the leaders are, what the implicit rules among players are, and more. Finally, knowing your community also means knowing your game.

It may be hard to understand why your community is crying about special areas in a particular map that give an advantage to one type of player, if you have never played in this map -- or even in the game.

Rule II: Communicate

This may be the second rule in community management, but it's the first and most important one in communications. As Paul Watzlawick said: "One cannot not communicate." This very famous sentence means that everything you do -- or do not do -- will be interpreted by your community, by the media, by your business partners, by everyone.

If you don't communicate, somebody else will do it for you, and then you can't control it. Any communications professional will tell you that uncontrolled communication is a prelude to disaster.

That's why you have to communicate, on everything, and with every tool at your disposal. Even the smallest maintenance has to be announced in advance and explained; any gameplay change has to be documented.

You have to communicate in a way that will be understandable to your players -- so ban technical language. If you're planning to apply an unpopular but necessary measure to your game, don't even think about trying to hide it.

If you do that, the players will find out in less than 24 hours and simply burn you alive. The best way is to communicate, discuss, and explain why this measure is important and why you have no choice but to do it. It's rare to have a chance to explain your customers why you do something, and talking to them directly will establish a real discussion, so don't miss out on it.

Of course, you can't tell your players everything -- and they don't have (and don't want) to know everything. So when you have to answer a question, just sit, look at the question, look at the information you can give them, and formulate the best answer you can with what you have. That's the best you can do.

Players are starving for communication. They constantly ask for it, and even if you want to be the most communicative company in the world, they will still think you refuse to give enough information.

If you communicate frequently, you'll minimize the risk of uncontrolled communication. If you communicate enough, players will read rumors, and think, "Our community managers didn't tell us anything about it, so we should just wait for official information." Isn't that the dream of anyone in communications?


Article Start Previous Page 7 of 8 Next

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