Building a positive community

This post is brought to you by Wattpad Co-Founder and CEO Allen Lau.Community is at the heart of Wattpad. It’s the environment and atmosphere that welcomes you as you start socializing. Numerous tech companies think they’re building online communities. In reality, most are building software and waiting for an engaged network to appear magically.

In 2006, when Ivan and I built Wattpad, we became our first community managers. We knew every Wattpadder personally and discovered that hosting a community is a lot like hosting guests at your home.

At an event, as more and more people start to attend, it gets harder and harder to engage in every conversation. As the crowd grows, keeping things civil depends on the environment and atmosphere you’ve established from the beginning. It's hard to change that atmosphere as more people arrive, this is the problem many networks face once they’ve reached maturity.

So how does one balance fast growth with community management? There is no simple answer to this, but I’ll share with you some insights I’ve gained over the years.

Know what makes a good community manager

Good community managers never feel bored with users and understand trust takes years to build and seconds to break. Good community managers are online social butterflies who build audiences and motivate volunteers.

Good community managers can make hard decisions. They see the dark side of the Internet daily, but know that they have the power to make the Internet better one user at a time. Without them it is impossible to build a positive and supportive atmosphere.

Hiring a great candidate can make or break your blossoming community. After all, they’ll represent the voice of the community within the company and vice-versa.

Interact with your users

At Wattpad, community training is mandatory for all new hires. This gives them a chance to experience the product in the same way users do. When personal connections occur naturally through user interactions, what most view as a chore becomes fun.

I spend time and energy to read stories, post comments, and thank new followers. Sometimes, great moments stem from small acts. For example, after I wrote this on my blog:

Wattpad turns 7 today.  Calling the last 7 years as life changing is an understatement. Not only for Ivan and me but also for millions of people around the world.

I received this note:

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.37.26 PM
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.37.26 PM

This message showed up in 250,000 Wattpad news feeds. That's how things go viral! Showing some love makes everyone feel good. Just check out the comments on Your Story to see what I mean.

Empower your community

Our community is empowered and connected to our team. They are our co hosts, interacting with as many guests as possible and reporting suspicious behavior as it arises, like any good house guest.

Through programs like Wattpad Ambassadors, passionate Wattpadder’s help us manage the day-to-day happenings. They come from around the world, and from all walks of life. As Wattpad grows, this team of passionate volunteers refers us to new, like-minded users - some of whom now work with us full-time.

Make user obsession a company-wide value

Creating this amazingly positive space is a team effort at Wattpad. Every department in this company plays a part in ensuring that the Wattpad experience is unique. It’s reflected in features we’ve built to protect our users, the work of Wattpad ambassadors, and the positivity and support we see daily. At Wattpad user-obsession is a core value.

We have the power to build a more positive Internet if we put love into our product and work diligently to support a positive atmosphere in our online communities. Have you ever come across a space so full of positive energy that you had to join in? It’s something rare to find, especially online.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, let’s talk positive communities - comment below or message me on Wattpad @Allenlau