Getting Meta: Inviting the Community to Drive the Community Builder Chats

by Amy Sample Ward on November 10, 2011

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For about a year, I moderated a monthly online chat focused on community building, community management, on and offline engagement, and the technologies that support those connections. The chat used the #CommBuild hashtag to pull regular and new participants together on Twitter and elsewhere, though we found that having the chats take place on a platform like CoverItLive helped people jump in and follow the conversation and create instant archives people could share and review asynchronously. In the last few months, participation had diminished to only a handful of actual commenters during the chat (though there were always many more “lurking” or following without commenting). I wanted to let the community lead, and if the community didn’t need me moderating a chat, then I wasn’t going to force it! But, during the last two weeks, I’ve had multiple people on Twitter contact me and ask for a chat again. So, this post is taking us meta on the topic: I’m hoping you, the #CommBuild community, will share just want it is you’d like to see with these chats. You ask for it, I’ll help make it happen!

Timing

Originally these were monthly chats. I opened up a blog posts similar to this one where much of the feedback said a monthly chat was all that people had capacity for. But, the downside of a monthly chat is that there are so many weeks in between to forget about it! Again, I would always set up the CoverItLive widget ahead of time so participants could sign up for a reminder when the chat was starting. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on moving to a weekly chat!

>> Share your time preferences!

I also have a scheduler set up where you can share the times during the week that you prefer having a chat! The times are set with 11 am EST as the earliest time (in case the times don’t auto-update for you when you open it). Please treat these dates as generic days of the week and not actually next week’s dates.

Topics

Normally, these chats functioned as an online open discussion. I always had questions, topics, and tools at the ready in case participants didn’t have a question to pose but it was rarely necessary for me to ask the question. Some times, people shared questions or topics with me ahead of time so I would queue those up when we started the chat to ensure we addressed them ahead of any other in-the-moment conversations. How do you feel about the free form nature of the conversation? Would you rather have a set topic or set of questions ahead of time? Do you like showing up with a question and posing it to the group for feedback?

Platform

As I said above, the chats normally took place on CoverItLive, with the most recent chat using Google+ Hangouts. I like using a tool that provides an easy way to archive and save the conversation – something that a video chat on Google+ doesn’t do. The CommBuild chat was borne out of the #4Change chats, a group-moderated monthly chat series that took place on Twitter of which I was one of the moderators. The topic was so large and many felt like we could talk every month just about community building, so I said I’d take the responsibility of wrangling (I mean, moderating!). We moved away from a chat on Twitter itself because of the regular issues faced with Twitter being down, search options not updating, and many finding too much other fun stuff on Twitter to talk about and dropping out of the chat. So, what do you think? Want to have the chats on Twitter, on a tool like CoverItLive, or something else entirely?

Volunteers

I’m happy to continue moderating and wrangling as a lone wolf, but I would really love to have a pack of volunteers working together. If we move to a weekly chat, perhaps we could split of up the month and have a different person leading the chat each week to distribute the work load. I also recognize that there are MANY people far more knowledgable and experienced than myself who would be great moderators and instigators on this topic. Please let me know if you’d like to be part of the team making #CommBuild a living chat again!

Anything else? What other ideas or suggestions do you have for the chat? Would love to hear from you! And, as always, thanks for all your feedback and participation both over the last year of chats and going forward!

  • @sociallysavvy4u ~ Manon

    Hi Amy…thank you for considering bringing the chat back, I have been participating in Twitter chats for a while now and the technology/platform as been very cooperative so although I am open to trying new things my preferred platform would be Twitter!

    I approach as a community manager myself I am always looking for ways to get better at it and the topics you covered are of a big interest for me…you can also count me in as a volunteer if this takes off!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Hi Manon-

      Thanks for your feedback! When the #4change chats were taking place it was 2009 and into 2010 and the #CommBuild chats started in the summer of 2010 – so, all through that time Twitter was not the most reliable as far as everyone staying connected, searches updating in anything close to real time, etc. But, Twitter has come a long way! And, the most important aspect to me, we also have more sophisticated third party apps that can help archive and summarize the chat so that people who can’t make it in real time can still review and learn later. 

      So glad to have you as another volunteer sharing in the process! Perhaps all of us that are interested in sharing the responsibility for the chat can get together on a call or g+ hangout or something to talk about next steps!

  • http://twitter.com/Tribe2point0 Kelly Lieberman

    Hi Amy,

    This sounds great. I have found Twitter chats to be an immensely valuable resource. I have met so many amazing people like @7d7e76cac6713383be0eff9e61f96ee8:disqus . I am a community manager/social media manager and really would love a chat dedicated to tips, best practices, etc.

    Thanks for bringing this back:)

    Kelly

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Hi Kelly-

      Thanks so much for responding! Great to hear that you are interested in the CommBuild chat continuing! It’s so fun re-evaluating the chat as a whole new set of participants have emerged than have ever participated over the last year+ that it’s been going. I’m really excited to hear from you and glad to know you’ll be part of the mix going forward. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/vrhinesmith Vanessa Rhinesmith

    Let me know how I can help! I would love to help bring back #CommBuild chat. Thanks for all your time on this and for your persistence :)

    Cheers,
    Vanessa

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Vanessa! Great to hear that you’re interested in continuing the chat and even better to hear that you’re up for helping. Perhaps those of us interested in leading together can jump on a call or hangout together to brainstorm how to work this thing as a team.

  • http://twitter.com/lnorvig Laura Norvig

    I’ve received tremendous value from the chats we’ve had in the past so would love to see it continue, but I’m not sure about a weekly thing – I kind of like the monthly schedule. Seems that with a monthly thing it wouldn’t be too hard to share leadership. One person could commit to setting things up technologically (if there is any way to help with that), encouraging people to submit suggested topics, reminding people it is coming up, moderating, etc.

    I like the archival functions that coveritlive provides. So I guess I am saying keep things the same but share the work it takes to make it happen. With all that said, I’m open to change, too, if that’s where group consensus is going. Agree that a quick Google Hangout might be good to hammer out the details going forward.

    • http://twitter.com/lnorvig Laura Norvig

      Oh, and forgot to mention I would be happy to share some leadership/tasks if I knew I only had to do that a few times a year!

  • http://www.robertbcairns.com/ Rob Cairns

    Chats have a great value. Many chats run weekly and I participate in several every week. I think starting with a monthly chat is a great idea. If your community drives it to a weekly chat then let it go weekly as long as you get some help with it. If you need some help monthly or otherwise let me know please.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks so much, Rob! Yes, the chats had gone for a little over a year as monthly chats but it sounds like there’s quite a bit of support for them to move to a weekly event. I want to leave comments open here for a bit longer then perhaps everyone that’s shared an interest in helping orchestrate the chats could get together for a call and make some real plans! So thankful for your interest and enthusiasm – thanks!

  • http://clairesale.com Claire Sale

    I’d like to suggest an “Anytime Participation” to supplement the live conversations.

    I LOVE the #CommBuild chats and have seen tremendous value in them, but I have trouble connecting live. I live in Saudi Arabia, and it seems to me that the majority of group members are based in the States. I think that coverItLive has worked well as a tool, and I really love the love discussions, but I would relish the opportunity to be involved in an “anytime” discussion as well. Perhaps via a facebook group or google group.

    I would be happy to help create/moderate such a space, if others agree..

    • http://www.communityorganizer20.com/ Debra Askanase

      I remember when I lived in Israel, and I would often participate in chats from 11p to midnight, but others (like Blogchat) were impossible to participate in because they occurred at 3am. You bring up a great point about worldwide time sensitivity and continuing the conversation as desired after the live chat has finished. I would really like that feature of continuing the chat as an “anytime” discussion. Perhaps on Amy’s Facebook Page?

      • http://clairesale.com Claire Sale

        Exactly! Glad to know I’m not the only one :-) 

        Amy’s Facebook Page sounds like a good place, but I wonder if something with more push functionality (that ends up in the inbox) will bring about increased participation. 
        Thoughts?

        • http://twitter.com/lnorvig Laura Norvig

          I’m skeptical of Facebook as the asynchronous conversation platform but not sure what would be better. When it was monthly, Amy took the time to wrap up the convo and post the coveritlive link here on her blog, which is as good a place as any to converse, but I can see how that would be a lot of work to do weekly. And that also doesn’t speak to a more general place to discuss community building.

          I’d love to have a place that had both a wiki and discussion boards, even though that might sound like a bit of overkill …

  • http://www.communityorganizer20.com/ Debra Askanase

    When I was able to participate, I loved the #CommBuild chats. The parts that resonated with me were the quality of the conversation, meeting fabulous community builders, and the platform (CoverItLive) that enabled a depth of conversation that Twitter just does not. I totally understand wanting to move it to other platforms, but I really enjoyed the ease of use of CoverItLive.

    As for a weekly vs. monthly thing, I know that I always had trouble remembering the monthly chat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’d make a weekly chat all the time, either. Moving it to a weekly chat probably means that more people will make it more often, and that the chat will garner more publicity as a result. However, if the chat were to occur on Twitter, I suspect a monthly chat would grow, as the viral nature of live chats on Twitter would bring in new participants on the spot. I’m open to both monthly or weekly, but mostly likely would participate twice a month due to scheduling.

  • Catherine Myers

    I just found this blog, and I’m interested in joining the community building chat. I’ve already learned something new – I didn’t know about CoverItLive, I’m going to go check it out now. My schedule is very flexible, so I’ll most likely be able to join in a chat scheduled at any time/day of the week. Thank you!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Catherine! So glad to have connected and look forward to having you join the conversations!

  • Catherine Myers

    And obviously I don’t know how to use the comments feature here – I signed in AFTER I wrote the comment.

  • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

    Hey everyone – Thanks for all your feedback and ideas, and especially your enthusiasm for being part of the CommBuild chats! There were a good number of responses to the Doodle poll about when people are most often available and the winner was Tuesdays at 4 pm EST. Shall we jump into a Google Hangout tomorrow at 4 to brainstorm how to divide and conquer this chat? If you’re interested in being part of the team, just respond to this comment and I’ll invite you into the hangout tomorrow to talk it over!

    • http://twitter.com/SociallySavvy4U ManonLeroux

      Hi Amy…sounds good to me 4pm EST works count me in! 

    • http://www.communityorganizer20.com/ Debra Askanase

      I’m in! See you all tomorrow at 4p EST. Assume Amy you’ll invite us via our G+ profiles?

    • http://twitter.com/parkview Andrew

      Oops, I clearly did not scroll down.  I’m interested!  

    • http://clairesale.com Claire Sale

      That’s midnight my time. I’m not a night owl, but will do my best to join-in :-) Thanks for organizing this, Amy!

      • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

        Claire – I just went with the Doodle poll results. I’m so sorry it’s so late for you and do NOT expect you to join a call at midnight! I will take notes and share them back on the blog of course.

        • http://clairesale.com Claire Sale

          No, totally fine! I would have done the same. I’ll try to make it anyhow :-)