Unlike many adult/teen communities, tweens/kids need to feel a sense of safety (you may disagree– but I’m telling you… this is the truth). Stranger danger is SOOO part of their thought process. Same with fairness & right/wrong. There have been MANY studies about the high level of moral righteousness existing in kids/tweens.Kids may try to break walls and push limits… but it’s all about the challenge. Reaching beyond their own limitations, trying to prove (if even to themselves) that they CAN do big things… it’s all part of growing up, ya know?
Basically, if you build a community based around a young, small brand, you’ve got to hold hope. As long as you believe in what you’re doing, and continue to make a positive environment filled with humor and imaginative freedom (to a certain degree) and listen to the needs of the people… then you have to just TRUST that you’re on the right path. And continue to WORK IT!!
Some kids come in, say a funny thing or tell the world they love the books/cartoons, then leave– feeling content that they graffiti-ed our space. The kids that stay want feedback/reactions/continuations of their comments. Like a sort of “acceptance.” The very definiition of a community. You can’t be a part of a community if you don’t want to (thus the definition of a hermit).
So if I were given the choice of 1,000 one-off community members (who stay for a day or one week) versus 100 regular community members (who stay for weeks to months), It’d take the 100 every time around. EVERY TIME.
I have found that limited members are soo amazing. They really, really grab hold of the space you provide and claim it as their own. The community becomes this safe-haven playground. A pocket in time that stays relatively constant. They look out for each other and play with ideas about the brand– bringing in elements from pop culture
The big difference between tween branded communities & teen/adult communities is the cyclical nature. Tweens are only tweens for a certain amount of time. They go into a “phase” and grow out of a “phase.” I can’t begrudge 12 year olds who turn 13 and decide to move on to teen-oriented sites. They always come back for a “visit.”
There are particular “parts” certain tweens play. The crazed one, the leader, the moderator’s pet, the mother hen, the rule-pusher, the annoying one, etc… as soon as one kid moves on, another takes his/her place and the community lives on.
Thanks to Izzy for posting this open expression of how simultaneously frustrating and fulfilling managing a small community (and a tween one at that) can be and how important it is to be flexible in your expectations (and your celebrations).
I know for a fact that there are not enough honest declarations from the trenches of online community management (probably from lack of time/energy). I am sure this will help at least one of the growing masses of OCMs pulling their hair out late at night while wondering what they have gotten themselves into with their community.
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – repeat. 😉
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