Sunday, November 2, 2008

Keep it Simple

Using trendy language or jargon often confuses both staff and members. The resultant backlash can cause difficulties when trying to gather input or explain new features. From every perspective, there is nothing more disconcerting than posting an unclear message. Lack of clarity can also create a negative impression of staff's willingness to understand the participants needs and community managers may end up with an erroneous perception of the members. For example, a frustrated response may lead staff to assume that the members are not in tune with corporate goals when in fact they may simply not understand what was asked. In addition, staff may misinterpret the connotations or references used by members, even for concrete terms and words referring to specific products, features or site activities.

With this in mind, the best approach to interaction is to rely on language and expressions we find ourselves most comfortable using. We know that members represent every walk of life so it should be apparent that clear, concise messages are of paramount importance. The recipient's education or abilities cannot be taken for granted so the focus of communication should be built on sharing pertinent information. While reassuring members that the staff expertise is valid, we need to be mindful that we don't have all the answers or that we are somehow more capable.

By asking for clarification and reframing what we believe we are reading, employees can better define for themselves and the community, exactly what is being conveyed from both sides. The ultimate goal is to ensure that members are comfortable with our sincerity, professionalism and understanding of the current issues even though we may not agree with them.

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