How to Be a Group Leader

Jul 5, 2008
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

I wrote a post awhile back in the MagicMethod group here on ERE called “Get a Group, Get a Blog, Get a Website” and I know at least one person (Sam Medalie) followed my advice and started two groups here on ERE – the informative “Finding Passive Candidates” group and the ever-interesting “Interviews With Hiring Managers” group.

I hope (and believe) both these excellent groups will give Sam exposure for his phone sourcing business, Longfellow Search. More than that, I know Sam will personally go places he never dreamed he’d go as moderator of these groups! (How are those working for you, Sam?)

Recently I’ve been watching (and thinking about) the changes that are coming over our ERE site.

Being most concerned with my beloved groups here on the site, I’ve watched anxiously with the new design as the buttons for “Groups” and for “Discussions” descend from their former prominent placement at the top of the page to the bottom, bunched under the heading “ERE Network” along with “Feedback & assistance” and “People.”

Encouraged by the recent addition of community conversations on the right side of the Main page near the top, I notice I can watch all the recent activity at the site scroll by as it develops: Group Postings, Group Comments, Articles, Article Comments, etc., and click on any one of them to be whisked to the post. Knowing that ERE has made wise choices in the past regarding their site re-design, I trust in the powers that be and look forward to an ever-brightening future for the forward-thinking and powerful ERE. I feel privileged to be a part of this.

Getting back to the main subject, I know there are over 140 groups on the site broken into three categories:

  • Topics & Interests: 46 groups
  • Industries & Occupations: 38 groups
  • Geographic Regions: 58 groups

The site further earmarks groups by:

  • Active groups
  • New groups
  • Special groups

If you’re interested in getting involved in a community, joining a group and contributing to the daily discussions in that group is a good way to do it!

Beyond that, forming a group as a Group Leader is an option available to any ERE member. Simply click on the “start a new group” button on the Groups page, name it, fill out a Mission Statement for the group, and submit it for approval. The process couldn’t be easier and it is usually approved within 24 hours. Once you have a group you are free to direct its course. This part is not as easy as it sounds!

Creating a group carries a responsibility with it — by volunteering to birth and guide a group you are signaling to the community that you will be here for the long term. You’ll watch over and tend that group and make it an interesting and safe place for community members to “stop by” in their quests for information.

It goes without saying (or maybe it should be said!) that it is mostly up to the group leaders to keep a group on track and interesting. On a daily basis I watch over all my groups and attempt to contribute something to at least half of them (I have several) in an attempt to start discussions, keep discussions going, keep them interesting, and keep them contributing to the community.

It’s not an easy job.

It requires diligence, time, and an eye out for “issues” that might be of interest to members. I peruse the online news for topics and I freely use them, teasers with links to the originals, on my groups. I try to contribute something original from my own experiences at least two to three times a week. Sometimes this gets hard, but I try to discipline myself to this rigorous schedule. I don’t always succeed, but I try.

More than anything, group maintenance takes time. I spend two to three hours each day watching, reading, posting at my groups — it won’t take you nearly this amount of time if you only have one group to start. That’s how I did it — I had ASK Maureen first and stayed that course for a while before I got the bright idea of opening other groups. I start early, usually at 4 a.m. and I work my groups (both here on ERE and off) ‘til the birds start singing around 6.

Throughout the day, I spend another one or two hours between all my groups, so I can say with certainty I spend three hours a day on group maintenance. I like it, and that’s another advantage: it gets my creative side going and I enjoy that immensely. This is why it’s so important that we all understand what makes ourselves tick.

I push my groups hard. In the beginning of my groups (and I know Sam has done this) I invite people here on the network to my groups; you can do that if you’re a Group Leader. It’s not an easy process. In fact, it’s laborious, allowing you to invite maybe two people every minute, one by one. I encourage ERE to consider allowing Group Leaders easier access to the site’s members to make this community-building easier.

I also watch other groups and contribute when I can. There are many fascinating groups here on ERE that have creative and active Group Leaders who place community first and I appreciate them. I would signal out Diane Propsner, Sam Medalie, Barry Geiman, John DePolo, Steve Levy, and Steven Rothberg as outstanding and successful Group Leaders we can all learn from. There are others and I apologize for anyone I left out.

Here’s a trick that goes a long ways toward building community: If you’re the type to visit and contribute at other network sites, it’s a great boon to network (and group) membership if you include a link in your postings back to interesting posts/articles or posts of your own here on ERE. I try to whenever I can and I hope it helps build our membership base. I try to do this democratically, it should be noted; I link to other network sites as well as ERE. I confess to having a preferential fondness for ERE and links back here are probably more prevalent in my online posts.

Creating a group is just the beginning of an exciting and rewarding commitment to community that will return dividends you just can’t imagine. Try it!

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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