When to stay quiet and when to get personal

by Martin Reed on 21 July 2007 in Articles

I have previously written about the importance of being personal and why you should ensure your site has personal appeal. Some may question just how far they should share their opinions with their community – particularly when it comes to areas that traditionally raise emotions.

Should you share your political opinions with your community members, for example? By sharing your opinions you may well strengthen a member’s sense of belonging in your community. On the other hand, your opinions may enrage them to the point that they leave!

Why it is important to be personable

Being personable in a communityBeing personable and friendly in your own community ensures that your members feel comfortable and happy. It is all too easy to forget that behind every user name lies a real person – by sharing your thoughts, opinions and sense of humour you are reminding people that you, too are a real person.

Personal relationships are the foundation of a successful community – you must be seen to be approachable and friendly – someone that any member of your community would love to invite out for a drink at the pub!

By being friendly and personable, you are setting the standard for others in your community to follow.

Consider the potential consequences of your contributions

Even if you want your members to consider you as just another member of the community, they will always see you in a different light. They know that you are the administrator, or hold a position of power within the community. They will hopefully feel happy to joke around with you and feel able to approach you, but they will always have the awareness that you are a little different to the other community members.

Should a ‘regular’ community member say something that others do not agree with, a discussion can take a negative turn. If you, as the community developer were to say something that particularly irks a member of your community, that member may feel far more angry or disappointed knowing that it came from someone in your position.

Controversy and suspense can be beneficial

Controversy can encourage interactionControversy and suspense can encourage interaction in your community. Be aware though, that if you are going to undertake this strategy, you are playing with fire and may get your fingers burned.

Some members may love a little controversy here and there – but always consider the others that may not like what you have to say. You need to always weigh up the risks -is it worth generating more interaction through a little controversy if you are going to lose a few members as a result?

Know when to keep quiet

At times you may feel you have something fantastic to say. At other times, people may say things that you feel so strongly against you want to dive in and get involved. Before doing so, you should always think about your actions and their potential consequences.

Let’s say someone writes something that politically you are strongly against. Should you get involved and clearly state your thoughts and opinions? On one hand you will be getting involved and potentially generating more interaction within your community. On the other, you may raise peoples’ emotions and alienate some to the extent that they leave.

You may decide that at times, keeping quiet is the best policy – particularly when a conversation is developing nicely without you. I always say it is a good idea to leave a little mystery around yourself, too – if people know everything there is to know about you they may get a little bored. Keep some intrigue, know when to stir things up, but most of all know when to stay quiet!

Don’t stay quiet here! What are your thoughts?

Have you been involved in a particular conversation that you later regretted? What was the subject? What are your thoughts or personal guidelines on when to stay quiet and when to contribute? Share them by leaving a comment below.

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Smiley July 21, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Heh heh, this is good advice for me to take on-board more than any other!

You know politics & I just don’t mix !!

I get involved in most of the serious discussions and leave my own opinions here and there, but I don’t get sucked into a debate, I keep quiet if it’s an emotive article or discussion.

I’ve learnt to stay nice and calm these days – amazing!

Good advice – thanks for that!

Biddy July 21, 2007 at 4:51 pm

If you have the sort of forum where controversial topics come up a lot, and you want to get involved but don’t want to risk alienating people because you’re an admin, then create another sign-in which looks like just another poster.

Emma July 21, 2007 at 11:06 pm

Knowing when to stay quiet is a good skill to have! :grin:

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 22, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Smiley – I think it is important to strike a balance and always be aware of the consequences of getting involved in particularly heated or emotional conversations. At times it really is best to just stay quiet!

Biddy – That is a good idea; there is nothing stopping you from creating an alter-ego so that you can get involved in any discussions that take your fancy.

This way you are distancing your professional persona from any controversy, but are keeping conversations and interactions alive by getting involved.

Just make sure you don’t forget to continue contributing to your community with your recognised user name – oh, and don’t allow your alter-ego to get found out!

Emma – Knowing when to keep quiet is definitely a skill. Very often it is a challenge, too!

esvl July 23, 2007 at 2:00 pm

But quiet speaks loud sometimes.

Chicago 2016 July 23, 2007 at 2:34 pm

I think it depends on the type of blog. If you run a professional, well-maintained (and regulated) site, you’ll know what to do instinctively. Sometimes posts require a personal response and sometimes you should take a more detached approach.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 23, 2007 at 2:55 pm

esvl – I hate to use clichés, but you’re right!

Daniel – I definitely agree that different communities require different actions. Personal and informal communities will be more tolerant of the developer getting involved and sharing their personal opinions. The professional and austere community may be a little less forgiving!

Moving July 25, 2007 at 6:47 am

I think you should never discuss politics on a blog, forum, or community that you have a business presence on. The other topic that should be left alone is religion.

If you can’t resist getting involved in the topic, I would go with “Biddy’s” idea and create another sign-in name.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 25, 2007 at 12:37 pm

Moving – Sometimes it can be a good idea to make a mental note of a few subjects you want to prevent yourself from getting involved in. Politics and religion are certainly two that raise emotions!