The power of a community spurned
Watching the current implosion of one of the world’s biggest communities Reddit, has been both cringe worthy to watch the botched handling of the changes being made, but also a stark reminder of the power of the community/fan/Redditor.
I’m sure the seemingly sudden, and unwelcome, decision by CEO Ellen Pao (who has since resigned) to remove talent director Victoria Taylor was at the time a simple HR decision. Although we don’t know the exact reasons for that decision, what I find most interesting is how the community and management have reacted.
The strength of their response isn’t a surprise to me, and actually it makes me proud. The Reddit community to the outsider can often appear an intimidating, close knit and closed group with their own language and terminology. Like moths to a flame, brands try to engage the community only to discover its not as easy as it looks. Redditors are passionate about not only their own areas of interest (sub-reddits if you’re asking), but about the technology and tools that allow them to maintain the community.
Reddit’s strong views can be dark, humorous, enlightened and narrow minded. But what they are above everything else is passionate. They care about their community. So when the management decided to make changes without consulting them, they got upset. When the management ignored those concerns, the community got mad, and then got even.[quote align=”left” color=”#999999″]Once you push the Publish button, you are giving over control of your brand[/quote] Was Pao right to let Victoria Taylor go? I have no idea. What I do know is that Pao forgot an important rule in this new digital age – Once you push the Publish button, you are giving over control of your brand and how it is perceived by the community. In Reddit’s case, the community is more than just their customer; they are the oil that makes Reddit work. They run vast swathes of this gargantuan site.
Its not just Reddit though, any brand that goes online should pay attention. Here at Performance Communications, we work for a car manufacturer that prides itself on cars that work to solve everyday problems. Some of those cars are very different design wise, they reject the norm.
This new design inevitably looks different, and different to the community isn’t always welcome. A recent dark post we ran on Facebook kicked up a vast amount of reaction from the community.
The analogies used by the community to mock the design have been funny and creative, but it’s also been interesting to see the advocates in the community come to the brand’s defence. What I’m most proud of though is our client’s reaction to this negativity of one of their key models. With the blessing of the client, our community managers have responded, with a smile on their face, using the human tone of the brand rather than block the detractors or ignored their negativity. And it’s worked. While we may not have convinced the detractors to like the new design, we have won them over to the brand and logic behind the design – they are now walking away with a better feeling about the brand – impressed by how they reacted.
So I guess the lessons, I take from the Reddit, and our client’s situation, is the importance of your community. For Reddit they forgot the power that community has to make their business work. For other brands, it’s about remembering who buys the products at the end of that sales funnel – their opinion counts. You should never ignore them. Accept that not everyone shares the same opinion. Don’t take it personally. Listen and embrace their views. Feed those views back to the people who make decisions so they can see the feedback. Share that with the community. Let them see that you are human and hear them.
Oh and yet again I’m reminded that Community managers are the real un-sung heroes of social media!