An Event Apart: Shepherding Passionate Communities

by Luke Wroblewski August 18, 2008

At An Event Apart in San Francisco, flickr’s community manager Heather Champ shared her experiences and insights managing one of the world’s largest photo sharing sites and its users in her talk Shepherding Passionate Communities:

  • Flickr: 3 billion page views a month, 2.7 billion photos & video, 28 million members, 5,000 new uploads a minute
  • Being a community manager is like being a piñata. People beat you with sticks and you still need to give them candy
  • The responsibility of the community manager is to bridge the community and the product team by being active in the forum and responding to people in a calm, authoritative manner.
  • Bubble up the good: leading by example is the best way to get people to behave in appropriate ways. Highlight examples of good behaviors in blogs and in your product.
  • Flickr’s community guidelines define what it means to be a good member of the community in a way that accounts for the large number of people on the site.
  • Lawyers will want you to have a lot of text in your community guidelines to cover all bases. It’s more important to keep things human readable.
  • Member Tools: put tools in the hands of your members –flag this photo, block member, report abuse.
  • Communicate: communication is key. Keep people up to date on what is happening.
  • Own it: fess up when issues happen.
  • Don’t wait: Flickr waited 18 months to let people merge Yahoo! accounts with Flickr accounts. If you need to make a change to membership terms: announce the change, give people 6 weeks, then make the change. Waiting 18 months was worst thing Flickr could do.
  • It’s ok to make changes. You just need to communicate well.
  • Don’t create super villains: you may need to make tough decisions as community manager but don’t fan the flames.
  • Set appropriate expectations of how people’s content will be used. Take time to get permission if you need to use their contributions in different ways.
  • Make lemonade: Flickr had downtime and turned it into a coloring contest. Let people contribute images and got great marketing & PR out of it.
  • Change is hard: when Flickr launched video, started engaging with community about “how people can tell stories” using video. This helped people to understand why change was happening.
  • In first 48 hours after rolling out a new feature, you are going to have a response focused on the fact that something changed on the site. Over two weeks, you will have clearer understanding about what people like or dislike.
  • Embrace the chaos: plan for worst-case scenarios.