Where is the line between community messaging and marketing?


(Jess Halverson Bowyer) #1

Does anyone have any examples of how they’ve trained staff on what type of content is appropriate to post where in regards to an association member community?

I wasn’t the original project lead on this, and now am, and people have gotten used to posting certain content that steps outside the bounds of “member only” content, like posting something “useful” from a sponsor (perhaps it was, but) or announcing about an event that we are trying to get attendance, sometimes bypassing me in the process.

At the moment, I have asked everyone to stop staff posts without checking with me first and am trying to create written guidelines for everyone (also taking into account the fact we do email blasts, a membership eNews every two weeks, and we have multiple social media accounts). This has also meant explaining the difference of “this sounds like advertising” and “this is useful content that benefits the members.”

To my feeling, we already have email blasts and eNews and marketing messages should not ever enter the forums. Do you have any documents you could share on this topic that you’ve used with your staff, and do you have any tips on how to get your point across without offending people? Thanks!


(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hi Jess,
Is the issue that they are posting in the wrong place, or that they are posting the wrong messages?


(Richard Millington) #3

A few thoughts that might help here:

  1. How well do they know you? Do they consider you just an authority figure, one of them, or a credible expert? This will have a big impact on the type of message you can use here.

  2. What do they feel about the behavior at the moment. Do they agree but not do it or do it? Or do they disagree with you?

  3. I’d try to avoid telling people what they can’t do and try to guide them into what we can do (i.e. setting up a distinct place for sponsor/advertising messages).

  4. No-one will read the guidelines. Believe me, no-one reads the guidelines for this community neither (not even me). There’s going to be some pruning involved no matter what you do.

  5. You’re always going to get some bad apples. It’s a case of how bad and how many.


(Doug Agee) #4

This discussion is timely for me too Jess. I have been looking for a simple guide to share with staff who want to be involved in our community.

My thoughts are to share the goals of the community and some best practices for writing for the community. I see it looking something like Richard’s re-engagement email elements.

I agree that people are going to drift from any suggestions we offer, but the idea would be to get them thinking about writing the best post to help the community grow.


(Nick Emmett) #5

For me, I think it’s less about telling them what they can’t post but educating them about where the value in posting appropriately for them is. What can the Community do for them?

What sort of things are they posting that you’d rather they didn’t, and why?
Do they really need to run the event post by you first?
I can imagine posts that going against the grain of the Community’s purpose would be an issue, but I’m interested to know what sort of posts you’re actually dealing with. Be certain you’re not trying hold on to too many cards, as that could be counter productive for both you and the Community as a whole.

Agreed about the guidelines - my community hasn’t any published guidelines - yet! I’m trying to avoid having to post any, although I am working on an internal playbook, describing internally the why, what and how.


(Jess Halverson Bowyer) #6

These are all great tips, thanks everyone.

I particularly like the “what we are trying to achieve and give examples” type suggestions. Yes I agree, no one reads the guidelines (I’m experimenting with a guidelines video for our online classes, where we really need users to know what they are getting into).

As I think more about it, why it bothers me is because staff isn’t on the community in general, and then only appears to do marketing messages. Maybe my time needs to go towards getting staff more involved when appropriate. We do have a great staff that is loved by our members, so we are lucky in that respect.

Thanks for the sense of balance!


(Nick Emmett) #7

OK, so what I’m getting here is that your internal team aren’t really engaged but those that are, are just posting marketing content on the odd occasion they do engage?

It sounds like there’s an educational piece to do internally around them understanding your why. Look for ways that the different teams can find and provide value in there, perhaps looking for feedback about products and services? Getting them involved in the design process for your product development and User/Customer Experience people?

Do you have people internally who ARE posting the right sort of thing? Can you use them in your messaging/education?


(Doug Agee) #8

The internal playbook is what I am hoping to accomplish too. Anyone have a draft to share?


(Sarah Hawk) #9

@JeffKRoss has shared the ESN internal community playbook in this thread.