Harness the force as a community leader.
A long time ago in the Interwebs far, far away... I proudly signed off all my posts and emails with the title: Owner, Administrator. Anyone in a 10-mile digital radius from me was made well aware:
I AM AN OWNER AND ADMINISTRATOR. I AM IMPORTANT I PROMISE. I OWN AND ADMINISTRATE!!!
Granted I held off on the all-caps, but still.
My assertion permeated throughout all areas of my online presence.
Though well-intentioned, my identity as an administrator pushed me away from the community I fostered.
I focused more on growing the group rather than being part of the group, thus creating an unspoken hierarchy that placed my members below me.
Recognizing your members are living, breathing, sentient people is one of the most important aspects of community building, but I couldn’t see the forest from the trees.
Part of me enjoyed the authority and power attached to my role as the website’s administrator. But with that power came isolating separation – the dark side if you will.
A community I unknowingly built was unrelatable to me because I was unrelatable to them. Is it possible to remove “me” and “them” from the equation entirely and replace it with an “us?”
Our community members aren’t naive to the fact that someone does technically own the community, and that part of your role as a community leader is administrating. It’s less about the title and more of the mindset. How can you connect with your community? By being relatable and approachable. Better yet? Leading by example.
Become a community leader
Shifting your interpersonal narrative from administrator to community leader can profoundly change your community’s culture for the better.
As a community leader, you’ll inevitably perform administrative tasks, including the nitty gritty like group promotions, moderating and reputation (all critical functions for a high-functioning community). However, it’s possible to execute said functions while cloaked under anonymity that the administrator title can provide (that’s not necessarily good or bad, it just is). An important component to community leading is visibility.
For many years, I made sure my Invision Community software was up-to-date, licenses paid, the registration system worked, spam defense was light-saber slicing the plastic-surgery-gambling bots to Tatooine. I was a fantastic administrator, but my presence from my community, the very place I worked tirelessly to keep running, was sorely missed.
The moment I went “all-in,” meaning I decided to become an integral part of my community outside of the administrator role (by commenting on members’ topics, responding back in private message group chats, reacting to content, listening to feedback and opening up about real-life success and failures) is the moment I evolved into a community leader. I wanted to be seen.
My deliberate change of self perception produced exponential growth in terms of traffic and new registrations. More importantly, I became a better community leader.
I feel compelled to not only share pop music news with my community, but also what’s going on in my life. It wasn’t a comfortable transition, but a necessary one. Upon stripping away my title from administrator to community leader, I became a role model. I became someone my members came to for more than just technical forum advice. They wanted to see how I was doing. They wanted to share their wins and losses with me after seeing me succeed and fail in public. They saw me as a person; a leader.
At the end of the day, community leading means forging connections, sharing your highs and lows and showing up for your members. That starts from within, which may feel incredibly awkward at first, but get comfortable with discomfort and watch you and your community blossom.
Thoughts on transforming from administrator to Jedi community leader? Sound off in the comments! And may the +1 be with you. View the full article
As we approach the release of Invision Community 4.6, I wanted to take you through some improvements for using Invision Community on a mobile device.
Web push notifications
For some time, we've used the local browser notification API to show users notifications. There's a big drawback though: users had to have the site open in a tab for these to work. This is particularly problematic for mobile devices.
In 4.6, we've added support for the WebPush API, which allows sites to push notifications to users' browsers & devices even if the site isn't open - or even if the device is asleep.
We already have support baked in for push notifications via our beta mobile app, so we've piggy-backed on that system and expanded it to support browser-based push notifications.
Choosing push notifications
For users, it's a simple process. A little while after joining a community they will prompted to accept notifications from the site when they open the notification list dropdown (or they can opt-in any time from the notification settings screen). After accepting, they will be able to choose a "Notification List + Push" option for any of the available notification types.
Push notifications enabled
Existing users, who may have already granted permission to the site in the past, will be re-prompted to accept push notifications upon logging in after the 4.6 upgrade.
Push notifications typically show on the homescreen of a phone or in the notification tray of a desktop computer, so receiving dozens of notifications could be overwhelming. For that reason, Invision Community will automatically merge related notifications - for example, multiple mentions from the same topic, or multiple new topics from the same forum.
Grouped push notifications
And, of course, users can stop push notifications across all of their devices with a single click if they want to opt out.
We're excited about the engagement potential of push notifications, since they allow you to immediately reach users who aren't currently on your site - a job previously left to email alone.
On the subject of notifications, one more thing: we've heard your feedback about notifications for new replies/mentions being merged with notifications for likes/quotes, and will be separating these two types into their own permissions in 4.6. We're acutely aware that making notifications annoying results in users turning them off, so we're always looking to ensure there is a reasonable balance.
Splash Screen Images
When you add a website to your phone's desktop, it appears like a native app. Tapping to launch the site can show a blank screen for a few seconds while the website is loaded. Fortunately, you can now set a 'splash' image in the Admin CP which is shown when launching the app.
Sharing using native share options
Another enhancement coming in 4.6 is the addition of the device share sheet when sharing content from within Invision Community. Users will now see a "More Sharing Options" button (providing their device/browser supports the underlying API) which, when tapped, will open the device share sheet. The options available depend on the device, but typically include actions like sharing links in WhatsApp, posting to Facebook or creating a note.
With a larger share of users now using mobile devices for most of their browsing comes the problem of patchy phone signal and internet connections dropping out. For a dynamic web-based platform like Invision Community, it's difficult to offer much in the way of full offline support, but starting in 4.6 we will present a branded offline page to users when they have no internet connection and try to access the community.
We hope that you are looking forward to these PWA improvements coming in Invision Community 4.6! View the full article
You’ve probably already noticed that something looks a little different in our community today.
As part of our ongoing community improvements, we’ve performed some housekeeping to streamline the forum structure, make more distinction between areas and open up a few areas to guests and friends.
The big visual change is that we now have four separate areas: support, community, marketplace and developers. It should hopefully be clear what each section does, but let's go through a few examples.
This area is where you can leave feedback on existing features, help shape Invision Community’s future by suggesting new functionality and also where you can get quick support from fellow Invision Community owners and our team.
Starting today, you can post in the Help & Support forum to get help from our team. If you’re unsure what a feature does, or think you’ve spotted an issue that needs our help, then you’re welcome to start a topic. Of course, if you want private support, then you are welcome to create a ticket in the client area as normal.
Even the most seasoned community manager needs a little help from time to time. This section is the place to ask about strategy, to blow off steam in the lounge or to ask for fellow owners to help with support requirements outside of official support, such as configuring servers, databases and so on.
Our Marketplace brings hundreds of new features, themes, language translations and plug-ins to your Invision Community. If you need support or have a request for something you’ve purchased from the Marketplace, drop into the forums here.
Invision Community is blessed with a strong developer community extending the rich functionality of Invision Community. If you’re looking to develop an idea for Invision Community, these forums will let you connect with our development team to answer questions as well as get help from other marketplace authors.
There are a few other changes of note that I’d like to go through. Firstly, ‘Visitors’ (that is a registered member without an active license) are now ‘Friends’. Who doesn’t need new friends? Guests and Friends can now view the official support forums, but cannot post a new support request or reply to existing ones.
We’ve merged ‘General Chat’ in with the Client Lounge to form ‘The Community Managers’ Lounge’. This is still a perk for active customers and the topics are not viewable unless you have an active license.
Finally, we’ve gone through and spruced up some of the forum rules, descriptions and custom error messages.
I hope these changes make it easier to find what you need and get a little help when you need it. View the full article
Cloud and Enterprise Community customers can create automated workflows between Invision Community and over 3,000 other apps including Google Documents, MailChimp, Facebook and Twitter with just a few clicks.
If you haven’t integrated your Invision Community with Zapier yet, you’re leaving organic growth on the table!
It’s been a wild year, so we’d like to refresh your memory regarding the very powerful Invision and Zapier marriage (hey, remember when weddings were a thing?).
Zapier is a service that allows you to connect over 3,000 web apps.
Last year, Invision Community released the 4.5 update, and with it a beta service of Zapier integration.
Zapier is the first smart community enhancement available for Cloud and Enterprise Community customers exclusively.
It’s worth it’s weight in gold. Or, crypto? However we quantify value these days, Invision Community and Zapier together creates real value and has the potential to elevate your community (and bottom line).
If you haven’t yet set up Zapier, you can follow our guide to creating your first ‘Zap’ with Invision Community.
As @Matt previously mentioned in our announcement post, the Invision and Zapier integration can communicate with some of the Internet’s most wide-reaching platforms, including Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Trello, Facebook Ads, ActiveCampaign, Zendesk, Asana, Salesforce, Hubspot, Discord, Stripe and more.
There are three key items we want to highlight:
Triggers: Invision → Zapier
A “trigger” takes place when there’s a specified signal in your community. For instance, a member registering or a topic being posted.
A trigger can be sent to Zapier to then run actions in other apps.
Here are a few examples:
When a member registers, add their email to a Mailchimp list.
When a moderator posts a topic in a news forum, share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.
When a member posts something that requires moderator approval, send a message to a Slack channel for your moderators.
Actions: Zapier → Invision
An “action” is similar to a “trigger” in that there’s movement, but it happens by setting up an action in Zapier first which then tells your community to perform X action.
Whereas a “trigger” happens by setting up an action in your Invision community first, which then tells Zapier to perform X action.
Here are some examples to wrap your mind around:
When you add an event in a Google Calendar, create a Calendar Event on your community.
When you receive an email to a feedback email address, create a topic on your community in a forum for moderators.
When you create a task in Trello, add a record to a Pages Database on your community.
When a new member registers, add them to your mailing list via MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, etc.
Self-integrated: Invision → Invision
We also included a self-integrated option that allows community owners to connect an Invision Community trigger to an Invision Community action. For example: when a member registers, create a topic in a welcome forum.
In a nutshell:
Triggers = Invision talks to → Zapier, then Zapier takes action.
Actions = Zapier talks to → Invision, then Invision takes action.
Self-integrated = Your Invision community talks to → your Invision community, then your Invision community takes action.
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below! I’m here to help you transform your Invision community into an engaging and efficient world with automated systems powered by Zapier.
Already on Zapier? What’s been your experience? Sound off and let us know what features you’ve utilized thus far and which triggers or actions you’d like to see for the future. View the full article
Promote kindness and foster interpersonal relationships through the power of vulnerability to outshine toxicity in your online community.
Before my time as a Community Advocate with Invision Community, I focused all my attention on my own online community, BreatheHeavy. Pop music and Britney Spears news are the bread and butter of BreatheHeavy. As you can imagine, fans of pop stars are energized, vocal and unapologetic. There’s real potential for conversations to slip into negativity.
16 years ago when I launched BreatheHeavy, I hadn’t realized I took the first steps towards becoming a community leader. It never occurred to me such a role existed. My mission evolved from forum administrator to community leader, and during that process, I discovered a love of community building. Along the way, I’ve learnt invaluable lessons about toxic community culture (shade a pop star then let me know how that goes for you).
What is online community building?
It’s the act of cultivating culture and creating connections on the Internet. It’s an essential aspect most businesses don’t focus on enough because it’s hard to quantify its value A.K.A. the bottom line.
I spent the majority of my career writing news articles. My resources went into content creation on my company’s blog section while my community members, completely segregated from my news posts, ran rampant. I recall thinking, “negative comments are better than no comments!”
That thought eventually led to the demise of my community. The trolls had infiltrated and won.
A mob of toxic commentators had free reign, thus scaring away quality members. Freedom of speech is imperative, but it also has limitations (screaming “fire!” in a crowded theater is not applicable to free speech).
To better understand how we can combat negativity in our communities, let’s first define what makes a community toxic?
When a member or group of members devalue the community.
Their negativity permeates throughout the community in such a profound way that it repels others from contributing, engaging and worst of all: not returning.
As much as I hate to admit it, toxic members are powerful. They can influence your community, albeit in the opposite direction of what community owners want. Their role deteriorates the community they call home. The compounding effect of flippant responses, snide remarks, indifference, arguments and attacks ultimately creates chaos.
The sad thing is... they’re usually unaware their behavior is adversely affecting the community. If they’re oblivious, there’s no opportunity to turn things around.
In an effort to better understand their motivation (and avoid smashing the ban hammer), I personally reach out to these members in a private message. Call me a sap, but I’m a firm believer that people can change if you communicate with them.
This is a great opportunity to send them a private message.
People just want to be heard.
When someone exhibits toxic behavior... ask yourself why, and more importantly... can you help them?
Typically, a troll’s demeanor stems from what’s transpired in their real life, and it manifests onto your community (lucky you!). Know there’s a motive behind the negativity; a harsh reality they may not want to face.
You’re not necessarily required to reach out, and a suspension is a lot easier, but taking this upon yourself as a community leader to uncover what’s really going on is an unrequited and selfless act that’ll set your community apart.
In other words: it’s a very kind thing to do.
Kindness in communities
The most profound way to fight toxicity in an online community is by not fighting at all. It’s by offering kindness to those who need it the most. That’s done through outreach and personal displays of vulnerability.
Members on the other end want to know they’re talking with another person. A person who also encounters struggles in life, but found ways to not only overcome those hurdles, but lean into them as they forge mental fortitude - an important component for successful community leaders.
Your past challenges can inspire change in peoples’ futures.
A powerful way to do this is through being vulnerable.
Dr. Brené Brown, who’s extensively researched what it means to be vulnerable, said it best: “The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”
It’s easy to expect others (in our case toxic members) to share with you some real life hurdles they’ve encountered. It’s much more difficult for us (the community leader) to shine a light back on ourselves and share that vulnerability back. However, it’s the secret ingredient to creating a perfectly baked community cake.
The act of opening up to an anonymous person in need not only can inspire them to change, but it opens a door towards further self-discovery.
Being vulnerable with your members empowers them and you.
So the next time you notice a toxic member’s pattern regarding how they post, take a pause. Remember there’s more behind the curtain, that hurt people hurt people, then take the opportunity to be kind, practice being vulnerable and watch your community garden blossom.
How do YOU battle toxicity in your Invision communities? Sound off in the comments below. Hero Image Credit: Unsplash View the full article