A Game of Thrones is a not-so guilty pleasure for many of us. At the moment, many of my peers are deeply engrossed in either the books, the HBO series or both. While it’s a wonderful indulgence, Game of Thrones also offers many valuable lessons about the people who we put our faith behind, and the kingdoms they rule, or in this case, the communities they manage.
Now, you may think it’s a silly analogy, but I think there are many important comparisons. Who you trust, who you put your loyalties behind, and what those people do (or don’t do) to repay that trust and loyalty all play a part in the overall mood of the community. If you don’t act in the best interests of your people, anarchy and chaos ensue.
Behold, 5 community lessons from Game of Thrones.
Warning: May create a spoiler or two.
1. When you have the trust of your community, it’s a good idea to stick around
Community managers are torn in different directions. Everyone needs us for something. Though our first loyalty is to the brands that hired us, we also have a loyalty to the people in our community. There is no task so important that it should keep the community team away from the people.
When the community is abandoned, two things happen. The first thing is that people lose faith in the brand and discontent sets in. They complain and eventually they leave for greener pastures. The second thing that can happen is someone else can appoint himself community leader and take over. This leads to resentment. If you build a community you have to stick with it. You have to talk with your people every single day. You have to give them a reason to put faith behind you and your brand. If they think you don’t care, they won’t care. It’s as simple as that.
Why should there always be a Stark in Winterfell? Because as soon as the Starks began to leave Winterfell everything fell to crap. Now those Starks who aren’t dead are stuck in some pretty gruesome situations and Winterfell has fallen. Even if they come back, their community is a pile of smoking ruins. Don’t let this happen to yours.
2. Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean people will like you
My way or the highway may work in Kings Landing, but it won’t fly in an online community.
People appreciate leaders who are caring, show compassion and look out for the general good of the people. Leaders who are mean, abusive, and are in it for themselves find themselves dead or overthrown. If you’re not a people person, consider a different career. Community managers need to think about others more than they think about their own personal agendas.
Joffrey Baratheon may be powerful but no one likes him, and even more important, no one trusts him. Make decisions and interact with the best interests of your community in mind. Don’t be that guy.
3. With the right nurturing your community will grow over time
Ok, so your community is kind of small, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should step aside. A community doesn’t have to be an overnight sensation to be successful.
If you take the time to learn about the people who make up your tribe and do the right thing by them, you’ll achieve a wonderful steady growth. Being in charge doesn’t mean pontificating to the masses and making up silly rules, it means taking the time to gauge their wants and needs. When you have the trust, respect and faith of your community, and if you’re welcoming to all, you’ll notice a good, steady growth. Over time you’ll achieve the numbers you hoped for, and you’ll have a reputation of being the best at what you do.
Danearys Targaryen may lead a small group of followers but they’re extremely loyal because she takes care of them. Plus she has dragons, and that kind of rocks.
It is known.
4. Too many crowns only lead to confusion
Westeros is an interesting continent. It has the warmth of the South, the cold beauty of the North, and even a few Wildings and White Walkers beyond The Wall to mix things up a bit. But do you know what it doesn’t have? A community united behind one single king.
People just can’t up and appoint themselves as leaders, they have to earn that role. Moreover, when everyone wants to be king, it gets to where no one knows who to put their faith behind. In this social media age, everyone is looking for a title and sometimes those titles don’t make a bit of sense. It’s better to not be in charge than to be one of five people vying for the crown. Having more community leaders and moderators than you have members is kind of silly.
If people are confused they won’t stick around and if you’re good at what you do you’ll earn your title. The iron throne isn’t built for comfort. If you’re going to seek it out, be sure you’re ready for all the aches and pains that come with it.
5. The right team makes all the difference
Varys, Littlefinger, and anyone with the last name “Lannister” all have their own agenda, none of which match up to be in the best interests of the community they help to govern. The community manager is only a small part of what makes a community tick. There’s a whole team of customer support, marketing, editiorial, and operational people to help things run smoothly.
You may only know your community manager’s name, but rest assured there’s a whole awesome team behind him or her. When everyone works together, the community is positive and productive. When they’re off to pursue their own agendas, that disconnect and discontent also reflects on the community. If the team behind the community doesn’t care, neither will the people who makes up the community.
It’s all about trust. Robert Baratheon’s council didn’t have it and look where they are now. But don’t worry. I won’t spoil that one for you.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? What lessons can you take from it?