Meet the speakers: Larah Kennedy


Meet Larah Kennedy, senior community consultant at Quiip (our longest serving Swarm sponsor, and home of our co-founder Alison Michalk).

Larah worked in broadcast media as a research analyst, before becoming a community professional. She has managed branded online communities for Woolworths and Hungry Jacks, Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation and more.

At Swarm this year, Larah is facilitating a workshop on building successful Facebook groups. We hit her up for a coffee and a chat before the big event.

Where do most community builders using tools like Facebook go wrong?

I think it’s fighting an uphill battle. While Facebook is considered a ‘free’ platform, it doesn’t come with all the infrastructure and control that you can expect in a traditional online forum. This makes it incredibly hard to build a tangible community culture and even harder to foster peer-to-peer connection.

In saying that, there are opportunities to use traditional community building techniques within a social media environment that can be incredibly effective.

It’s not often that a Social Media Manager will reach out to a Facebook fan and ask them to answer someone else’s question or share their experience. But they should and their Facebook page would be better for it.

Larah KennedyHow is community management useful outside of digital groups?

As community managers, we have to find a balance between building relationships and reinforcing boundaries. If that’s not a life skill, I don’t know what is.

With a nature vs. nurture kind of lens, I often wonder if the attributes that make a great CM are learnt or naturally ingrained. I don’t know the answer, but I know that empathy, problem-solving, collaboration, conflict resolution and connecting people are just as useful for a weekend camping with friends as they are for managing an online community.

What’s your favourite community right now and why? 

I just signed up for the final year of Scott Pape’s Barefoot Blueprint and I’m loving the community. Such an engaged and informed bunch of people who are so willing to share their learnings and experiences. Being in the financial services sector they have to be careful about only providing general financial advice, and this extends to what community members are posting in the forums, so I’m sure it would also be a fascinating community to moderate.

What do you consider the most exciting thing about the community management space today?

The reach of the mega-platforms and the volume of content posted daily is continuing to grow. The platforms have been so slow to take any form of accountability for the content appearing on their networks. We’re now seeing the backlash to that approach starting to crescendo.

The evidence of this can be seen from Jacinda Ardern campaigning for stricter global laws for social media companies following the Christchurch tragedy. It can be seen in the UK’s independent internet and social media watchdog formed earlier this year and the EU’s GDPR. Closer to home, it can be seen in the recent Dylan Voller defamation ruling, with media and broadcast organisations now actively campaigning Facebook for improved moderation controls.

It’s exciting to see where this will go in terms of new laws and regulations, as well as whether it will result in improved platform functionality and moderation tools.

It’s particularly exciting for the community management space because it could be the catalyst that drives more businesses away from the wild west of social media and back to the proven methodology of owned online community platforms.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now that all community professionals should read/watch/listen to?

I have The Great Hack in my Netflix list and I’m pretty keen to get my eyeballs across that.

I think self-care is really important, as a CM, but also as a human, so if I could recommend one book that all community professionals should read it would be The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Naht Hahn. It’s an easy read and very accessible guide to meditation and mindfulness to find some calm amongst the chaos.

Why should community peeps come to Swarm?

If you’ve ever felt like screaming into an abyss after somebody has asked you “what does a community manager actually do?” or “so you just get to play on Facebook all day?”, you should come to Swarm. You’ll find your people and they’ll never ask you to explain what you do.

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