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Managing Your Community During the Holidays

Where does your community go during the holidays and your team is out of the office? Probably right to playing your game! Here are some quick tips on keeping tabs on your community when you and your team are 'afk'.

Community management is a role that demands 24/7 attention toward the community, especially during the holidays when they are most likely playing your game. What do you do when everyone else is out of the office and you are alone to patrol the player gauntlet?

The reality of the holidays is that they can be as much work for you as normal office hours, at least if you are not prepared remotely. You might be on a team that has no resources to hire either internal or contracted moderators from services like Metaverse Mod Squad. Here are some quick tips and resources for keeping the community in line, and your sanity in check.

Don't Leave Home Without It

The best way to mitigate potential issues and put your mind at ease is to ensure you know who to call, and what tools you need when issues arise. Have these following tools at the ready (keep in mind your company's policy for sensitive hardware and software):

  • Contact list of the following individuals:
    • Your direct manager
    • Everyone on your team
    • Other department leads, especially CS, IT, and PR
    • International and other location office main numbers
  • Sync with customer service on what you need them to be aware of (known unruly players, reoccurring spam attacks, planned server downtimes)
  • Status of in-progress builds (game, website, and all other active resources)
  • Recent and upcoming build notes
  • General software you can install on a home computer (your company may provide all full-time remote workers with a computer here)

Your Community Eyes & Ears

Find those reliable community members that can keep you updated when you are busy opening presents. Get them together on a central chat server such as Discord or Skype. This will allow them to discuss potential concerns and instantly communicate them to you.

Especially if your community is large enough, see if there's someone interested to help lead monitoring (but not necessarily moderate) in each of these areas:

  • In-game chat and general game server status monitoring
  • External chats, including store sourced hubs like Steam
  • If an open world game, general in-game wanderers
  • Official website and discussion forums
  • Social networks like Facebook and Twitter
  • Other networks like Reddit, Digg, Instagram, etc.

Preparing For The Worst

Here's a list of scenarios that may happen during the holidays. I've listed them from absolutely going to happen, all the way down to the very unlikely but definitely not impossible.

Consider each of these and who you are going to call if something needs to be dealt with that is beyond the toolset that you have. Make a list, check it twice, then find out who's naughty or nice...

  • Player concerns and questions about their game account
  • Positive praise of some kind (an immediate response may not be needed, but don't neglect upstanding community members upon returning to the office!)
  • Unruly players needing a suspension/ban
  • Spam on all social platforms and in the forums
  • Game wide performance issues
  • Game/server crash
  • Website/registration crash
  • Leak of unreleased content
  • A dev account was hacked, or someone is impersonating them
  • Someone in the company or affiliated spills the beans on an unreleased item, or worse, starts an argument with the community on balance or other concerns.

The last item should be impossible, but unfortunately it can happen. Before you leave for the holidays, be sure to fully brief everyone that has posting privileges so they understand what to say, and what NOT to say, to the community! Remind other departments as well of the general policy.

Data Driven Monitoring Tools

Aside from boots on the ground, there are also tools that can help automatically alert you to problems. Subscribing to the following will cover most areas:

  • Internal software: In-game, forums, and any official game blogs
  • Social networks: Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook as primaries
  • Website analytics: Hootsuite, SproutSocial, and Ninja Metrics

If something goes wrong or needs your immediate attention, you will find out on one of these platforms or through your community, even if the issue occurs elsewhere. If time permits though, due check every key area of your community... just in case.

Mobile Is Your Friend

Nearly every tool that you use on your main office computer has a wonderful app you can quickly download to your phone. Both Android and iPhone versions are likely going to be available for:

  • Google suite (Docs, Sheets, Calendar, etc.)
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine
  • Team Tools: Basecamp, Confluence, JIRA, Trello
  • Analytics: Google, Hootsuite, Salesforce, SproutSocial, Topsy, and all social networks

Don't Neglect Dessert!

"I think the line is a lot more fuzzy than it used to be in terms of tools/access. As such, CMs find it harder or are not expected to actually “disengage”, which is healthy for them and their community once in a while." - Nova Barlow, Community Manager

Community can certainly have their cake and eat it too, so know when to take a break. You need time to decompress from the past year's craziness. Community management is stressful enough on a normal day, so take time and enjoy family festivities during the holidays!

To follow more of Mathew's ramblings, visit his website or follow him on Twitter @mathewanderson.

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