Why Coffee Is The #1 Community Management Tool


The police in my community are trying something new. Troy Police Chief John Tedesco has launched a directive created by Mayor Harry Tutunjian (aka @TroyMayor) to emphasize training in community policing. The initiative encourages Troy police officers to get out of their cars and head into the community to grab a cup of coffee with civilians like you and me. The cup of coffee is said to be symbolic of officers becoming more invested in their communities and taking ownership of personal ties and contacts. Officers will be expected to use their community policing experience to develop relationships and resolve problems

That’s how Troy, NY is working to make its community safer and healthier. How are you doing it?

Your community may reside on the Web, but that doesn’t mean managing it becomes any easier. In fact, the lack of real face-to-face contact may actually make it harder. You want to nurture a healthy community, one that doesn’t fall victim to drive-by spamming, comment war flaming or all-out bad behavior. But how do you do it?

You do exactly what the Troy police are doing – you form relationships with the people in your community and show them you’re present and not going anywhere. You walk your own beat and create your own face-to-face contact on the Web. You step out of your protected bubble and get your hands dirty in the community you created.

What does that mean?

  • It means creating and enforcing a code of conduct for site members. [Read our comment policy.]
  • It means becoming vigilant about moderating spam (crime?) out of the community.
  • It means responding to comments to show people you’re there.
  • It means routinely saying hello and building relationships with active community members to make them invested in keeping your streets clean.
  • It means asking for community input to identify what’s important to them.
  • It means familiarizing yourself with the behaviors of your community so you can recognize problems early.
  • It means acting on behalf of your community to help them grow.
  • It means inviting active members to do more and keep them engaged.

I’m asked a lot by clients and onlookers how it is you grow a healthy community. There’s really just one way to do it: Spend time on your own streets. Get to know your members, see what’s going on, listen to what they’re talking about and become part of that network. You improve your community by getting involved, showing them that the lights are on, and that you’re not afraid to stomp out bad behavior when you see it. Being a community manager is kind of like being a parent, with less drippy stuff. The face time really makes a difference.

It doesn’t matter where your community lives, protecting it means becoming an active part of it. Often you see community managers and bloggers content to turn a blind eye to the rowdiness going on in their turf. Unfortunately, bad behavior only encourages more bad behavior. If you want your community to thrive and remain active, you have to make it a safe place for people to hang out. I’m glad to see my local police officers are taking that approach to our streets. How are you protecting your community?

Your Comments

  • steve olenski

    Hi Lisa,

    As a fan of both coffee (addict) and the police, I absolutely freakin love this idea!

    You walk your own beat… fabulous analogy! Nothing will EVER replace good old face to face communications… NOTHING.

    Great post!
    Steve O

  • Carla Marshall

    Great post. Of course, being English, we’d do it over a nice cup of tea served in a bone china cup and saucer with a Fondant Fancy on the side ;-)

  • Kate Spiers (Wisdom London)

    Great piece, Lisa. Now that we’re all so busy creating, or adding to, communities online we also need to take our share of the responsibility to make them work and to help them be the best they can be. I’m a huge advocate of mixing online and offline and think this acts a great reminder to do just that.

    I also posted this week on “on when to take online offline” which echoes some of that sentiment, I think. Here, if you are interested: http://wisdomlondon.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/from-“mass”-to-“micro”-when-to-take-online-offline/

  • Man Ray

    I never saw coffee that way. I thought it was just a means to extend my work hours in order for me to pay for my wants an needs. If I get pulled over by a cop holding a cup of joe, and a krispy kreme donut, I’ll be sure to send you a picture of it Lisa.

  • Indian Marketer

    And now I’m craving donuts. :-/

  • David Zemens

    It’s all about relationships, isn’t it? Another shining example of how a community demonstrates that they “get it”. It seems so simple, but many people, and most communities, don’t “get it”.

  • Rebecca

    This is a great post. It’s so easy to forget that you are part of a community when you don’t actually see anyone. It’s easy to feel like you can neglect your online community because they’ll be there when you get back. But that’s not the case and I thank you for the welcome reminder.

  • Finn @ Golden Tech

    PR – great idea
    Tactically – might not be such a good idea for them. So long as they don’t get into patterns where they attend the same coffee shop on the same days at the same time. Predictability leads to vulnerability.

    Also, your post is costing this country a few hundred thousands dollars in lost income because of the many, many individuals like (@KristyPage) who now feel the urge to do a coffee run. Thanx, Lisa :-P

  • Marjorie Clayman

    Interesting approach in your hometown. My experience is that a lot of people mouth off when they see cops *gasp* eating at a public place. “Oh, those lazy cops, livin’ off the taxpayers’ dollar.” I think it’s interesting that they are being encouraged to mix it up in Troy.

    That being said, I love your analogy. I am struggling currently a bit with these concepts of late. I’ve noticed that as I network more with people, I tend to converse with them more, which means I have plenty of @ responses on Twitter, but perhaps I’m not sharing as much “Useful” information. Is that a bad thing? Which is more valuable, a cop getting to know folks and making them feel safe by association or a cop breaking down a door and catching a bad guy?

  • Boyd Neil

    Great lessons on community management . . . but do you think they can work for people who are community managers with government departments? Asking or community input is often problematic for bureaucrats because they might have to do something about it.

  • David Hackett

    Thanks for the nice post. As I was reading, I kept inserting the word “brand” into it and thought about how mass advertisers could use this. And especially small/medium sized businesses.

  • Jamie M

    SEO + Coffee= happy days!!!

    Clients please pay in good quality coffee :-)