It is important that you share information about yourself if you expect your members to do the same. Unfortunately, as an administrator or moderator you are not the same as other members, so how much information should you share?
What is your community’s personality?
In real life, we reveal varying amounts of information about ourselves according to our audience. We may be willing to share sensitive medical information with our family, but would probably try to avoid this in a job interview. You need to understand the personality of your online community before determining whether sharing certain information is a good idea.
What information should you share?
An online community with a jokey atmosphere may not like to hear about your previous bouts of depression; you may well be commended for sharing such a sensitive part of your past, but such a serious topic would not be suitable for such a community. You may however, chose to share information about the time you fainted before getting that vaccination a few years ago as this personal anecdote fits in with the spirit of the community.
Is the information appropriate to share?
It is not a good idea to share everything with your community. Some things about you should be kept personal. If your community is against animal testing, you probably shouldn’t reveal your past as an employee of Huntingdon Life Sciences. You should also think about how people will react to the information you wish to share; does your community frown on the youth of today? If so, you may not wish to share the fact you are only 17 years old!
Only share what you are comfortable with
When I started Just Chat, I chose to reveal very little personal information about myself. At the same time, I wanted to come across as friendly and approachable. I was happy to share my personality and small anecdotes from time to time, but I didn’t want my community to focus around me – I wanted to take more of a back seat, and allow the community to evolve its own personality.
I was uncomfortable with sharing too much information about myself; I chose not to share my age, because at the time I started Just Chat I was only 19 years of age and thought that this may result in some members deciding they did not need to respect me or the community. Sure, if they decided to be disrespectful I could simply remove their posts or account. However, I chose to avoid the situation by not revealing this information about myself.
Share, but don’t share too much
You will struggle to develop a successful online community if you do not share information about yourself. It is important though, that you know what is appropriate to share, and what isn’t. This depends on the personality of your community and your objectives. Don’t feel forced to share information you are uncomfortable with, but make sure that you do share something from time to time.
When we share, we build relationships and trust. If you share, your community will follow your lead, resulting in a far more interactive and engaging community. Remember – you need to be involved in your community, but you don’t want to overwhelm it. Your online community shouldn’t be full of content that involves you talking about yourself. It should however, involve you and see you sharing some personal information from time to time.
You can be personal without revealing too much information about yourself – it’s all down to you deciding what you want to share, and how appropriate it is for your community.
Hermits can still be successful administrators of online communities
It is entirely possible to develop a successful online community with your members knowing almost nothing about you. Hardly any of the members at Just Chat know my age, what I look like or where in the country I am from – I have chosen to keep that to myself. At the same time though, I like to think that my members consider me approachable and personable. I achieve this by getting involved in the community, sharing what I am comfortable with and displaying an interest in my members.
You shouldn’t be anonymous – people want to see that you are a real, human being. At the same time, you need to decide just how much information you want to reveal about yourself. Remember – once the information is out, you can’t retract it so think carefully before hitting the submit button!
How much information do you think administrators of online communities should share? Should they be forthcoming with any and all information their members request? Should they remain invisible and impartial or should they be the driving personality behind the community? How much information do you share? Share your thoughts, opinions and experiences by leaving a comment below.