Great communication drives community activity

picture-1.pngLike any good relationship, a community is or is not successful based largely on it’s ability to effectively communicate. Social groups have enough communication problems when they primarily based offline. (Remember that time your office mate said that thing that pissed you off so badly? Yeah, I thought so.)

Add anonymity and faceless interaction into the mix and communication, by default seems to be a disaster. A great community manager (or forum moderator, or blogger…) is constantly working to improve their communication skills. They’re always looking for better ways to defuse problems, excite users, and share information.

Want an example of brilliant communication? Check out this exchange between Time Magazine and (my man) Barack Obama.

Time: How do you deal with the idea that some people might not vote for you because of your race?

Obama: Racism is a function in our society. There are some people who aren’t going to vote for me because I’ve got big ears. Part of my optimism about Americans is that I don’t think they expect me to be deracialized in order to represent them.

Let’s break down Obama’s incredible response:

  1. First he acknowledges that the major issue exists and is highly embedded in our society. But he doesn’t go negative, he doesn’t get freaked out. He makes you uncomfortable without being defensive.
  2. He then creates an association that makes skin color racism seems absolutely ridiculous.
  3. And in order to ensure that he’s delivering a positive message, even with negative content, he brings in optimism.
  4. Lastly, he makes it clear that he not only understands the question, but that he’s an expert on the subject and can absolutely deliver on what he’s being asked to do.

All of that in 3 sentences. Impressive.

Here’s a few tips I’ve found helpful over the years:

  • Study the great speeches (“I have a dream”, “Gettysburg Address”, etc.). There’s a lot of great things to learn from the masters.
  • Study writing – whether you’re taking writing classes, or buying a few books at the bookstore, study. Re-read anything and everything you write. Ask friends/colleagues to review the content you create.
  • If you’re an overly enthusiastic personality (like me), write in the tone that’s normal to you, then cut 1/2 of the exclamation point and enthusiastic statements. Enthusiasm often reads as cheesy when overused… and it’s terribly easy to overuse it.
  • Use sarcasm sparingly since it’s hard to understand to some readers. Use emoticons if you’re making dry, sarcastic jokes
  • Remember that anything you write is more about how your audience reads it, not how you meant it to be received.