In celebration of Community Manager Appreciation Day (a.k.a. #cmad) on January 26th, one live Google+ hangout after another was broadcast for 24 hours covering a wide variety of topics about community management. I participated in a panel talking about change in communities in hour 20 of the day. Entitled, Change Management: Migrations, Redesigns & Upgrades, Oh My!, we talked about how change is inevitable and the best practices in dealing with negative comments, how to communicate the change, not-so-popular decisions by upper management, technical breakdowns, and more.

I was in good company with many veterans in the industry representing a wide variety of communities in many sectors; Allison Carney, Patrick Cleary, Scott MooreLauri Travis, and host, Jenn Emerson. I provided the perspective from migrating corporate websites owned by a corporate communications team.

A complaint is a gift

One of my favourite takeaways from our discussion was a quote from Scott Moore who said that “A complaint is a gift”. While no one wishes to receive any complaints or negative comments, they do provide valuable learnings that can improve your product/community/whathaveyou. I believe it was Allison Carney who shared her experiences with this. Your organization can benefit from both positive and negative comments.

If it weren’t for some unexpected negative feedback that I’ve received for Stuttering is Cool, I wouldn’t have come up with an idea for an awareness campaign that generated a lot of reach on Twitter, Facebook, and even Tumblr! Which, in turn, generated a lot of new insight from audience comments (all positive).

You are the member advocate

Another favourite take away came from a discussion about how the community manager plays a dual role of advocating for the community and the organization. It can be tough since sometimes the needs of the organization may not be the same as that of the community. I think Jenn Emerson summed it up best by saying “You are the member advocate”.  Community members like to know that their voices are being heard.

 You gotta be comfortable being yelled at

During the panel, Allison Carney tweeted that part of the community manager’s job is being able to deal with being yelled at. Or, as, viewer @racrozier put it, “[you] need a very thick skin”. That’s why I like to put myself in the shoes of the commenter and try to see it from their perspective. It’s a great way to avoid taking things personally and see from an angle outside of your tunnel vision.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the issues we discussed. If you’re dealing with change, I highly recommend watching the video above. And look out for Patrick Cleary’s clever use of disco analogy!