With the advent of social media, creating groups based on common interests, whether it be a particular hobby or even a specific brand, has been easier than ever. Due to online communities becoming so prevalent, many companies now actively employ community managers who work to advocate the brand and interact with consumers on a deeper level. Community managers serve very different roles than social media managers do, despite both being very reliant on social media technologies. Whereas a social media manager’s main goal is to represent the brand and promote it, a community manager operates on a much more personal level. They often take on a personality and give a product a human element, making connections with other users and actively seeking feedback to best improve the user experience. However, just because this what a community manager should do doesn’t mean it always happens. Having poor community management reflects negatively on a company because it shows a lack of understanding of the consumer base. In recent years, gaming companies have come under fire for having ineffective community management on many different levels, leading to outrage from gamers who previously had put a lot of faith in these companies. This list will explore what behaviors to avoid as a community manager and provide examples using gaming companies who did not meet the expectations of their communities.
5. Shirk Active Communication – Niantic Labs
Niantic Labs are the creators of the biggest app of the year, Pokémon Go. During its peak popularity in mid-July, there were about 44 million active users, but fast forward to today and that number has dropped by about 14 million (pictured in the graph above). Not only that, but engagement, which is the measure of how much users interact with the app, has also been steadily decreasing over time. The underlying cause for this massive drop in users stems from multiple problems within the app that prevented players from being able to have a full experience. These issues ranged from servers crashing, to lack of support for rural and suburban players, to the removal of the tracking feature the app so heavily relied on. To make issues worse, Niantic was completely silent on social media, not providing any information regarding if any improvements were coming or even acknowledging the problems in the first place. They also went as far as to disable comments and remove their email from their official FaceBook page. Effective community management conveys what is currently going on within a company as well as seeks improvement for their products. Had Niantic at least apologized and relayed to players that a fix was being worked on, many players would have been more understanding of the situation. However, since Niantic chose to remain silent, players took it as a sign that the company was either not aware of the situation or outright didn’t care.
4. Stifle Creativity – Nintendo
One of your goals as a community manager is promote creativity among the fanbase and uphold individuals who are are passionate voices of the product. With the rise of YouTube’s popularity, many fans used the site to share their experiences and love of Nintendo’s games through various means, such as remixing their music or recording walkthroughs. In some cases these YouTubers would receive enough popularity to the point of becoming a YouTube partner and earning some money from advertisements on their videos. Instead of reaching out to these content creators, Nintendo decided that these creators were abusing Nintendo’s copyrights and started issuing copyright claims on their videos, effectively removing their ad revenue. Not only did Nintendo essentially remove free advertising of their products from YouTube, they also lost the trust of their most dedicated consumers. Instead, Nintendo should have embraced these community members and worked with them to grow their brand. This would have been beneficial to both Nintendo and the content creators as Nintendo could showcase their products to a wider audience while the creators could produce new content that their audiences want to see.
3. Act Defensively – Comcept
When you take on the role of a community manager, you are expected to be able to take on the complaints and concerns that a community may have. While some members might be courteous, many others might take out their frustrations on you directly since you are the most readily available employee they can contact. In these situations, no matter how personally attacked you may feel, it’s key to still respond in a respectful manner. Enter Dina, the community manager for “Mighty No. 9”, a game developed by Comcept. When questions arose regarding if she was truly qualified for the position and why the game was constantly delayed, Dina decided to censor posts on the official forums instead of responding. She even went as far as to ban people who helped fund the game from the official Twitter page because for having legitimate concerns about her behavior. Regardless of the situation, barring all discussion while pretending there isn’t a problem does not inspire confidence that you are in control and only fuels the fire more. In this case, Dina should have either stepped down or allowed someone else to step in if she could not handle the position.
2. Ignore Feedback – Blizzard
It’s no secret that Blizzard’s flagship franchise, World of Warcraft, has been in major decline over the last few years, losing nearly 44 percent of its subscribers as of 2015. Many players have expressed their disappointment in the changes Blizzard made to the game across multiple expansions, which range from making the game too casual to changing how players interact with each other. As a result, many players begged Blizzard to allow an option to play the original version of the game without the changes these expansions brought. Blizzard’s response to these requests became rather infamous on the internet due to its blunt and disrespectful nature, as seen in the video above. A major responsibility of a community manager is to receive feedback from the users and then work with them to apply it in the most effective way possible. While this doesn’t mean you have accept every community suggestion, it does mean you that are actively listening to the suggestions and find a middle ground. Blizzard was not obligated to apply all of the feedback they received from players, but to completely deny that it wasn’t valid essentially no longer incentivizes players to provide it at all. Had Blizzard been more direct and actually explain their reasoning for not considering these requested changes, players might have been more understanding.
1. Lack Transparency – Bungie/Activision
As the most expensive game to develop of all time, at a massive 500 million, Bungie and Activision’s “Destiny” launched with a hefty price tag. The cost of the game with a season pass for it’s planned downloadable content already totalled to about $99.00 USD. So when Bungie announced the first major expansion to the game would cost an additional 40 dollars, players started questioning if the content included in it was really worth the cost. In an interview with Eurogamer, Bungie defended their decisions but could not provide any solid explanation for the high price. Bungie used vague terms such as “big, rich campaign” to describe the expansion and even asserted that players “would throw money at the screen” if they saw what it had to offer. The interview did not sit well with players and only made Bungie appear as if they were putting profits above them. Transparency about what the expansion really entailed would have helped consumers make an informed decision about if it was worth purchasing and sales could have possibly been driven a bit more. Since Bungie was not clear about the content, however, players lost faith that the company was working in their best interest. Without transparency, community managers essentially fail their role as being a conduit between the community and the company since they cannot effectively relay what the company’s intentions are.
Extra Lives: In Conclusion
While all of these companies eventually did manage to recover from their community management stumbles, it goes to show how the role can walk a fine line between enhancing user experience and negatively reflecting on a company. Within the gaming industry, effective community management is especially key since players constantly interact with the product and are more likely to be active in online environments. Effective community management can enhance a product and give consumers a reason to remain loyal to a company. To be an effective community manager, you must be passionate, professional, transparent, and be an active listener. Without these qualities, you’ll find that the community who was once dedicated to your product will turn against you if they feel they are not being heard.