How Not To Fail At Web3 Community Management

Thought Leadership

Written for The Drum by We Are Social U.S. Senior Community Manager, Andy Barnett

As we enter the dawn of Web3, we’ve been given the unique opportunity to not only contemplate what lies ahead, but also reflect on what’s been and what currently is, writes We Are Social’s Andy Barnett. As individuals, this means coming to terms with the notion that the internet as we know it today could be facing an impending upheaval. When it comes to marketing, the shift to a Web3 world means adjusting the way we think about consumer behavior, consumer attitude, and, in general, the mindset behind brand perception.

One area of social marketing that bound to be significantly impacted by the establishment of Web3 is community management. In order to understand the full extent of the impact, we must first revisit the early days of Web2 and conceptualize just how much has changed in the past two decades.

Let’s set the scene: the year is 2005 and culture is shifting at hyperspeed. Tom Cruise is jumping on Oprah’s couch. Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” is dominating radio. YouTube launches as dial-up draws its last breath. In the midst of all of this, the rising popularity of online forums is paving the way for brands to be able to access and communicate with their consumers in a completely new way. Thus begins the community management movement.

In its initial form, community management focused on moderation for a select few. As brands began to create their own forums, they were typically selective about who was allowed in, and as a result, the user experience was heavily controlled and curated. The role of the community manager was to ask questions and give prescriptive answers, while injecting as little personality into the conversation as possible.

By 2010, the parameters of the internet had expanded yet again and the term “social media” had become commonplace. Facebook, Twitter and the idea of online relationships began to reign supreme. With the advent of brand pages that users could ‘like,’ the blueprint for community management for the coming decade was set into motion.

Coinciding with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, online brand personality became a necessary part of marketing plans, with community managers enacting this on the ground level. Inclusive of customer service, one-to-one interaction with users was at an all time high.

As new dominant platforms have emerged over the years, the way in which brands communicate their personalities has also shifted. The change became noticeable first on Instagram, where community managers took a more humanized approach and began signing off on their comments to inject a bit of their own voice into the response. Now onTikTok, we’re seeing the fourth wall being broken for the first time via ‘admin reveals’ and transparency regarding the actual job of community and social media management.

Simultaneously, brand activity in the metaverse space has skyrocketed in the past several months. Most recently, high fashion powerhouses such as Alexander McQueen, Guo Pei, and Tommy Hilfiger participated in the very first Metaverse Fashion Week, housed on the virtual social platform Decentraland. None other than the cyber queen herself, Grimes, served as a special musical guest (albeit under the moniker of ‘Mystique’, pictured below). Writeups in Vogue and Elle followed, with the ultimate question being, “Will this concept actually take off?”

Only time will tell if the metaverse is here to stay — but in the meantime, we must operate under the assumption that we have entered a new era of online interaction. In doing so, we must also think about the continued evolution of community management by assessing the foundational values of the space and utilizing what we’ve learned in the past in order to effectively adapt to this new medium.

At its core, and unlike its predecessors, the metaverse is meant to be a decentralized ecosystem — one in which users have control of their space and are participating in a certain level of collective ownership.

Accompanying this concept is a bevy of questions from the brand perspective — particularly in relation to community management. Top of mind is ensuring these communities serve as safe spaces for all, when simply hiding or deleting a comment isn’t an option. In response to this concern, Oasis Consortium, an organization of thought leaders across gaming, social media and dating, has issued a set of new user safety standards built around a framework of five ‘P’s:

1. Priority: “Establish that trust & safety is mission-critical to your company including accountable leadership, resources for development, and cross-functional collaboration”

2. People: “Develop policies based on representation, learning, and wellness including diversity & inclusion, employee wellness and becoming a learning organization”

3. Partnership: “Gain expertise, objectivity and prevention of real-world impacts by utilizing industry alliances, an advisory board and law enforcement to name a few”

4. Product: “Deploy up-to-date technology that enables your success with community guidelines, data for visibility, proactive detection, moderation tools and user reporting tools”

5. Process: “Define comprehensive processes for an effective operation that should include consistent enforcement, effectiveness audit, bias prevention and transparency reports among others”

While much has changed since the early days of Web2, this framework signifies the possible direction of community management as one that harkens back to the past.

Although the space itself will be drastically different, general moderation will be a key component in ensuring these communities in the metaverse stick around — or enter the space in the first place — with community managers serving as the ultimate stewards.

Cheers to the metaverse. See y’all there.