Acculturating new readers who find us on Facebook

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Offbeat Bride's Facebook page has blasted into the stratosphere lately, with 400 new Facebook followers every single day. We've doubled our followers twice in the last year.

Ok, so this is great, right? So many people finding Offbeat Bride and being introduce to the awesomeness, right? So many new readers! So many new eyeballs! Well, yes and no.

These new followers in many cases know absolutely nothing about us, other than our name. Because they're coming in via Page Recommendations on Facebook, in many cases these people have literally never been to the website. Not even once. They don't have any idea about the context of our seven years of history, no clue about our brand or mission, and in some cases aren't even sure why they're following the site. (Yes, some of them are engaged, but tons of them are vendors doing market research. Others are just looking for some entertainment and trainwreck material.) They CERTAINLY have never read our commenting policy.

When it comes to moderation, here's our division of labor:

  • Blog comments are moderated by the site editors, mostly Megan and Catherine.
  • Offbeat Bride Tribe posts and comments are moderated by the community's team of volunteer members, headed up by Kirsten, the Community Manager.
  • Facebook page comments are moderated by me.

Yep, me. At this point, with a fourth of our followers being brand new, there's a LOT of acculturating that's happening via the links we post on Facebook. Every morning, followers get links to our newest posts. And every afternoon, they get a guided tour of some of the most powerful posts from our archives — powerfully useful, powerfully philosophical, representative of our powerfully diverse readership, etc. My goal with these powerful posts is to show new followers, "See this? THIS is what Offbeat Bride and the Offbeat Empire are about. Welcome!"

Usually, the response is lovely! Not infrequently, it's not so lovely.

Most of the time, fucked up comments get a quick delete and block. Honestly, it's just not even worth interacting with certain kinds of Facebook followers. This is especially true when it comes to "Um, NO" comments. If a Facebook comment starts, "Um, no," it pretty much never goes anywhere good. Snide and dismissive just isn't how we do things, and few of our Facebook followers are interested in our long-established comment policies.

Likewise, I give a quick ban to vendors who step in to chastise nontraditional brides. My favorite was a (male) photographer who rudely dismissed a post using the logic, "It's always the bride who plans these things, so…" DOUBLE FAIL! Unfortunately, I don't have enough hours in the day to spend all my time on Facebook, educating rude photographers about their gender assumptions and online civility. When it comes to the "Um, no" comments and the "Let me teach you a thing or two about how weddings work, stupid Offbeat Brides" comments, I treat it as a quick litmus test that this person is not a great fit for the community.

But then every once and a while, something sort of magical happens:
secular ceremony

Acculturating

I don't think we gained Vanessa as a reader, which is fine. (I've known since the beginning that Offbeat Bride simply isn't going to be a fit for everyone — and as a niche site, there's no reason it should aim to be.) My hope, however, is that hundreds of new Facebook followers got to see a great example how we treat each other in this community when we're at our best. We're casual and honest, but also tolerant and accommodating. We allow each other to make our own decisions, and respect that we may not always agree.

For those of you who know the Empire's values and comment policies and culture, if you see weirdness happening in the comments on our Facebook pages, I encourage you to step in and do some acculturating yourself. Link the comment policy, share your perspective. Don't feed the trolls, but these 400 new daily followers could use some loving hands to hold, and it's up to each of us to make them feel welcome.

PS: Sydney, I owe you a cake.

  1. It's a shame how America has become such a sappy politically correct place. Cliqueish sites such as this pretend to be such high and mighty places that only their kind can stay. " If you disagree with us, please go elsewhere"……really, are you that shallow ? Of course you aren't. it's all about maintaining readership. It has nothing to do with values or morality. it's nothing more than corporate correctness. You're no different than any major corporation in America. "If you don't agree with us, well just go away, we're better than you and YOU are the one who has issues"………sad very sad. But hey as long as you maintain your membership of readers who are you puppets, that's all that matters. Akin to Scientology.

    • You seem to have missed the point, John. This community reflects an openness to many things. If you aren't open to at least learning, then there's no place for you here. It's not, "If you don't agree with us, go elsewhere." It's, "We're too busy supporting each other to deal with narrow-mindedness and one-right-way mentality."

      48 agree
    • Why would any blog, any company, or any brand want to gain followers who aren't a good fit for their product? If you want to hang around and disagree with everything, you're totally welcome to (as long as you're not being an ass to the people who do agree.) It just wouldn't be a very good use of your time.

      It's more like "If you don't agree with us, then you're probably not going to find anything here you like, so you should probably go find a blog you DO agree with."

      Though with such a diverse showing, the only people who really "disagree" with Offbeat weddings are the people who aren't willing to entertain the idea that any way but their own could be just as "right". Luckily for them, there are only about a million blogs and sites that cater to traditional weddings.

      29 agree
    • I know, right? The internet is just soooo lacking in places where you're allowed to say whatever you want and shit all over other people's choices. Can you believe the nerve of site owners who delete comments that offer nothing constructive whatsoever and just insult people? Makes it so much harder to get in all the hate-reading you're trying to do!

      (*ahem* Offbeat staff are free as always to delete this comment if you want; the two responders above had such good responses that I felt like turning on the sarcasm for a minute.)

      36 agree
    • Heyyyy now…. this feels a little setup-ish. Is this a test? Ariel posts about the community helping to steer newcomers and right out of the gate some "John Doe" steps up to prove her point completely with that stereotypical rant against "political correctness".

      This is a test, right? Where's the hidden camera….

      Ok ok I'll play along:

      "Dear John – when you post a comment that's full of pejoratives like 'cliqueish' [sic], 'high and mighty' and 'shallow', everybody reading it knows you're not here for reasoned debate. But thanks anyway for stopping by."

      24 agree
      • Oh and there's 50 points for anybody can identify where I lifted "feels a little setup-ish" from.
        (50 points people! You have to catch the Golden Snitch to get more. )

        4 agree
    • So sorry you feel that way, John. A lot of the Offbeat Empire readers come here time and time again to avoid the very attitude you're complaining about. I've lurked here for a long time and would say it's the absolute opposite of a clique.

      The internet is an aggressive and judgmental place – these communities provide a safe haven from that and while there may be posts occasionally about things I wouldn't choose for myself, they're still awesome choices for the people involved and an opportunity to learn.

      It's not about 'political correctness', it's about celebrating and supporting the wide spectrum of things that make people happy. Saying effectively "the only thing we won't tolerate is intolerance" doesn't seem outrageous to me.

      Plus, the shoes ­čÖé

      13 agree
  2. I'm thankful for these sites because they have opened my eyes to gender inequalities, gender questions, family structures and frameworks….so many new things that have broadened my horizons. I think I end up too "angst-y" sometimes, but I encounter so many stereotypes that I apparently believe it is my personal mission to set the people straight.

    7 agree
  3. I sort of want to smush you & Denise of Dreamwidth Studios together and make you talk about community management; it's fascinating how both of you have some of the same ideas/ideals, but are running very different sites!

      • Oh, dootsie, it's like you think brides are women with bodies who exist outside their weddings! How politically correct of you.

        (Do I get a prize?)

        12 agree
  4. Thanks for reposting that menstrual cup article!! I just realized it is time for me to buy a new one (I've been using the same one — The Keeper — for the last 13 years, which is probably a good 3 years past the recommended time!)

    1 agrees
  5. First off, I want to send big thanks to Ariel for being so upfront and transparent about how she does things. In a world where it seems everyone is afraid of everyone, and no one wants to give away their "secrets", and hostility seems more pervasive than ever on the internet – it's really awesome-possum-amazeballs that you are so open about how you do things and why!

    Second though, purely curiosity driven because I love stats : any idea on why the big surge of readership recently via FB? Does that always happen after Christmas (you know, people get engaged in December, etc, etc)? Do they hang around either on FB or the actual sites, or do they lose interest quickly and leave?

    2 agree
    • any idea on why the big surge of readership recently via FB?

      We always get a surge at the beginning of January, but NOTHING like what happened this year. Here's all I know from FB Insights:

      As you can see, things have calmed down a bit in February… we're at more like 200 likes a day.

      2 agree

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