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Diversity and inclusion in community building

Diversity is packed with meaningIt covers gender, sexual orientation, education, where you live, what language you speak, what sphere you work. Here is Erica McGillivray, the senior community manager at Moz on how to build your community with intent on inclusion.


Lack of diversity is not a purposeful discrimination

It happens typically because we have unconscious biases or some things don’t work well for certain types of groups. But we as community managers can not even realize it.


Global community

Nowadays we are building our communities in Internet through social media, forums, and groups. Internet is a global community, as basically every person having Internet access can reach our community. Therefore, we can not ignore diversity and inclusion.

For understanding others we need first understand ourselves: who we are, where we come from, how we interact with people and then we start understanding others.



Debunking 7 common myths on diversity and inclusion


Myth 1: Internet is a meritocracy

Meritocracy: a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.

The main idea is that the best and most talented people are rewarded. For example, if you hire an employee, you choose the best one basing on their achievements regardless their background, gender, social status and so on. We found that it is not true.  Because our culture has biases and Internet is built on our culture.


For example, this is a photo of MozCon after party and it tells a lot about our community. There are some things that may not be inclusive for other people. Firstly, we are drinking, which is not acceptable for everyone in every culture. This is a very social event, so people who are extraverted will like it, but introverts will probably not show up. We also dress very casually, even though this is a professional event, which is not acceptable for some people. And we are doing karaoke, which many people will not be doing.


All communities carry biases

We as marketers develop our products for certain people. Personas. They also can have biases.

For example, MOZ have several personas for our search product. We did a research with our users and the feedback was that all the personas had male names and white hand reaching out notebook. So, mostly all the personas we use have gender, race & ethnicity. In case of MOZ it did not really reflected, who are our users and that was just automatic. So, we made improvements and changed it all.



Myth 2: Anonymity allows for people to be their authentic selves

Anonymity means bad behavior’s hard to track down. Anonymity makes the web less accessible especially for those, who are not digital natives. These things help brake down anonymity: email verification, captchas, ips.


Myth 3: The fewer rules, the better

It can bring to branding disasters. Reddit’s community freaked out when they started banning topics/people. There are many examples when bigger or smaller brands had problems in relation to diversity and inclusion when they did not have any rules on how to fight it. Here is the great suggestion to build a code of conduct. You also need to brand the language for code of conduct. Here in Moz we have MozCon guidelines called TAGFEE where we emphasize Empathy as the core Moz value. Also you need to get explicit to prevent micro aggression.


Myth 4: Community managers will work for free

Many companies think they don’t even need a community manager and they can get their forums and groups automatically regulated. This is weird. Even huge companies like facebook, youtube and others have human community moderation.



Myth 5: Diversity doesn’t affect my bottom line


Synergism is the key to great work. There was a research showing that groups of diverse problem solvers, people with diverse background, can outperform groups of high ability problem solvers as they were able to look at the problem from different angles. Therefore, diversity is effective in terms of group work. Retention of community members is a huge metric for inclusion.

If you don’t see yourself in the community, you don’t think you belong. As for MOZ, when we started to invite for the conference more women, having finally 50\50 gender representation on stage, we saw our audience had changed greatly and there were every year more and more women coming to our events.


Four retention metrics

  • Make sure members mix well together
  • Reduce the knowledge gap between new and old members
  • Adoption of community language and symbols
  • How quickly new members take ownership


Myth 6: Diversity and inclusion are just a ‘political correctness’

It is not political to be welcoming and recognize the humanity in others. Privileged groups think they are more diverse than they are. If women or minorities make up more than 1\3 of a community, the majority believe the minority is dominating.


Myth 7: Community managers never screw up

No, we do. We screw up quite often. Take stock of our rank and power.


Types of power

  •  Social (ethnicity, education, age, sphere of work)
  • Psychological (self esteem, being comfortable with yourself)
  • Spiritual (connecting yourself to something bigger)
  • Organizational


Don’t believe the myths! You can build a diverse and inclusive community.

Irina Titova