Avoid the 7 deadly sins of online communities

So you’re a community manager in charge of growing online engagement for your brand. Now what? Where’s the manual for this thing? What else should you be doing?

The concept of community is an evolving one and may carry a variety of responsibilities at every company, depending on size and basic organization. But by overlaying the time-tested 7 deadly sins on the most general of community management job descriptions, we can build  an initial list of “Don’ts.”

The 7 deadly sins of community


  1. If you long for a vibrant, active (and straight-up conversational) community like Redhead Writing’s, remember to set the desired mood. Most of us want to dance, we’re just too self-conscious to step away from the wall until we’re invited. Go Macarena, Electric Slide or Funky Chicken. Shoo!
  2. Remember to focus more on causes than counts. A large subscriber base may represent a deeper well but it doesn’t account for level of interest, likelihood of engagement, propensity to share, size of personal network, affinity or any other driver affecting distributed reach. Less can be more.


  1. It’s not OK to willfully neglect the squeaky wheel, or one who needs more detailed hands-on help. How you assist these (tedious) few will be seen by the masses. Be gracious.
  2. Build it assuming they should (will) come. Don’t do this.

community management 7 deadly sins


  1. Careful not to mistake self-forming for self-sustaining. All teams need leaders. Your job is to keep things bubbling while allowing for genuine free expression.
  2. Remember that others have expectations that need respecting, no matter what’s on your plate. You’re beholden to the community to resolve questions, respond to complaints, and direct them to proper resources.


  1. Avoid force-feeding your brand’s own Kool-Aid instead of a more balanced diet. Remember the food pyramid? Share and promote smaller amounts of self-serving content (top of the pyramid) and more good stuff from other sources (body of the pyramid). Haven’t got enough material to fill an editorial calendar? Here are 34 content ideas. Boom!
  2. Try not to give in to your baser instincts and forget your obligation to serve as a leader to a diverse group of people. Some people find the physical humor of America’s Funniest Videos hilarious; others not so much.


  1. Like the sin of Lust, community doesn’t grow where there’s envy. If you wholly ignore what a competitor is doing right with their online engagement, it’ll show.  Don’t be afraid to give props where they’re due.
  2. Yeah, if you’re reading this one then you know I ran out of juice. Come up with your own idea and share it in the comments, will you? <knuckles> I’m kind of married to this meme here.


  1. You shouldn’t take a community member’s comments personally, or react with emotions on your sleeve instead with a tempered, factual response that invites further discourse. The fathead’s comment was the event; you have to be controlled enough to dig into the issue. (OK, so maybe “fathead” isn’t kind. You’re allowed to say that in your head.)
  2. When a community member finds a real flaw in your product or a burp in the process, don’t get your back up. Blocking or removal is reserved for asshats, not people with legitimate concerns. Sure, it might be a little toasty with all eyes on you. Just remember you’re charged with grace under fire, and admitting to being human (flaws and all) can win you hearts and minds.


  1. Don’t move into every property, every shiny object with “land grab” mentality. That’s a knee-jerk response to the natural evolution of technology. Reserve your brand’s name if you’re concerned a competitor might squat on it, but take your time evaluating the scene before moving in.
  2. Don’t ask the community to pony up time to complete surveys, reply to posts, fill out profile forms when you don’t follow up or do anything with the information you glean. One-sided relationships aren’t very fulfilling. If your brand has inspired others to join it on Facebook or Twitter, don’t leave them hanging. It’s a community, not a focus group.

As always, I’m anxious to see where you’d take issue with my points, or what you’d add to make it stronger. The comments are yours, please leave ‘em!

Image courtesy of LoveThesePics.

Author’s note:  I first published this post, titled “The 7 Deadly Sins of Community,” on the Oneforty blog July 14, 2011 as a contributing author. I’m cross-posting here so that Insights & Ingenuity readers might also learn and enjoy.

Leave a comment


CommentLuv badge

Brand-Building Digital Marketing

Insights & Ingenuity helps brands earn customer preference.

We develop relevant, defensible brand positions, web content and content tactics that tell a compelling story while actually being useful to readers. We think our approach supports brand awareness and conversion objectives in ways that are appropriate to the brand and rewarding for its audiences.

Get Friendly

© Internet Marketing, Branding, Content Marketing, Social Media – Cedar Rapids, IA 2014 - Heather Rast, Principal