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A Love Letter to a Terrified Former Self

It was my first KPI meeting of my career. My manager was explaining the concepts of attrition and retention and I had a number in front of me: what % of the community (that I was building) would leave every month.

To my young brain, this was quantifiable evidence of whether or not people liked me. If they liked me and my efforts, they would stay in the community. If they didn’t like me or my work, they would leave.

Never have I been so terrified of a number.

Don’t get me wrong, I was terrified of the other numbers too, but this one was especially horrific. What if more people left than we expected? How would I justify myself? I had to work really hard to make sure I never upset too many people. I wanted to design a system that allowed enough people to stay so I could make sure I hit that number. My boss wasn't even particularly concerned about this number - I was concerned.

My working hypothesis is I (and so many other community managers like me) allow lurkers and energy vampires to stay on in our community because we are scared. We are scared to report a lower number. We are scared that we’ll have to face that not everyone is resonating with our content or vision. And we see only scarcity.

This is a love letter to that former, terrified, Bri.

Dear Bri, not everyone is a good fit for the community. Best to not resist this, but go where you see the most energy.

Dear Bri, when you allow those who don’t align to gracefully exit the community, you honor those who do show up.

Dear Bri, you are the keeper of this space. Community lurkers are not serving the purpose of the community.

Dear Bri, if everyone is sticking around, something is wrong.

Dear Bri, someone staying but not engaging doesn't mean they like you, it means they’ve muted you. Speak to those who have ears to hear.

Dear Bri, your job is to champion those in the arena, not pass out snacks in the nosebleeds.

Dear Bri, protecting the space you steward does not make this a click from Mean Girls.

Dear Bri, you have a difficult job, be gentle with yourself.


The latter, more courageous, Bri

Photos Credit: Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash


About the Author

Bri Leever is Chief Community Architect at Ember, a splasher of water, and lover of books doing life in an ever-changing migration pattern ✈️


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104 views2 comments


Feb 12, 2023

Love this one especially, Bri! Younger Me in the 90s could have had this same convo with the Me in the 80s self. We definitely are not in "it" to create a personal fan club, so taking out the emotion of why some come and go is a huge maturity step forward. Kudos, lady! You are making a difference educating folks about what it really takes to create a sustainable online community. My first 40 years of community building was all face-to-face. So much translates, but some simply does not - one's energy & animation doesn't come through in merely typing 😊

Bri Leever
Bri Leever
Feb 14, 2023
Replying to

Aw thank you for sharing Suzy! Oh I couldn't agree more - this experience was hybrid with lots of annual in person events, but most of the ongoing work being our digital community space. So much gets lost in the technological translation if you can't be face-to-face. Thank you for sharing your insights, sounds like you have a wellspring of knowledge :)

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