It was a pleasure to be asked to be a member of a panel the PRIA conference in Sydney. I was joined by renowned social commentator, writer and lecturer Jane Caro and we were asked to speak about the challenges involved in creating safe and civil online communities. Jane and I were given forty minutes to try and condense our thoughts, it was a challenge, but hopefully we succeeded. Here are some of my thoughts on how we create successful social communities at Touch Creative.

Strong social strategy creates the strongest results

Before we start creating a rewarding and influential social community, we need to examine the purpose behind it for our client. There is a wide range of social channels, each with its own benefits and unique traits. We spend time listening to our clients and working out the business perspectives and priorities. It is then our responsibility to embed their thinking into our social strategy. Only then are we in a position to leverage their thinking and create an engaged and beneficial social community.

Planning for the future

Social communities mimic real life communities. They encompass incredibly passionate people, from differing backgrounds and at its best, they can house incredible conversations. At their worst, there can be negativity and abusive comments. The key is to always have a strong plan for every eventuality. Long before we start our social communities, we have a strong conversation plan that we sign off with the client. It means that when negative activity happens, and it will, regardless of the client, we are able to reply in a timely fashion. By planning for the future we are able to provide the best possible community for our clients.

Reacting to aggression

Sitting on the panel with Jane Caro was fascinating. I have watched and read Jane’s work for many years, and her perspective on dealing with aggression online is something that stayed with me. Jane has a high profile online, specifically through Twitter, and has dealt with trolls many times. She utilises a two strikes and you’re out. She also responds to nastiness with warmth and kindness, interestingly, more times than not, this helps her form a relationship with someone that was previously nasty. There are lessons to learn from Jane for our brands. We should always seek to engage, where possible, and if it becomes impossible, then we have to have actions in place to isolate the offensive party. Safety is paramount for any online community.

The Role for Influencers

We have a role for strong social media influencers if they are suitable for our brand’s purpose, but most pertinently, we want them to invest in the creative process. We want to provide the best results for our brands via our social communities, so it’s crucial to get our influencers invested in the process. We get them to help develop their own content ideas, so it becomes a collaborative process, between client, agency and influencers. Ultimately, we have found it to provide the best engagement for our brands.


Every social community we create for our brands, must have a purpose and parameters. Once we have a safe and civil space, it creates incredible conversations and engagement, and ultimately enhances our brand’s reach. We work with a variety of brands, each of them have their own business priorities and challenges. It is our job as an agency to listen intently, and create the best possible communities that will bring outstanding results for our clients.