On the spookiest day of the year, I wanted to dig into some of the spooky online communities that exist. These communities tend to be built around a shared interest and run by members from within the community; but there are noticeable similarities in how these communities of interest are structured and maintained when compared to what community professionals are doing with their companies' communities.
For those of you who are community professionals, how often do you find yourself taking a page out of your non-professional community-building book?
The SCP Foundation exists to secure, contain, and protect the world from various anomalies that threaten global security. The classified reports serve as a record of the anomalies and any pertinent details for future investigations. There's some creepy stuff in there, so read at your own risk!
[SPOILER ALERT] The SCP Foundation is a collaborative work of fiction among thousands of contributors. It serves as an experimental fiction playground where writers can submit their work, receive feedback, and assist others. There is an extensive network of admins, moderators, operational staff, and moderators-in-training who volunteer their time to keep the community running smoothly, and their continued effort over the past 10+ years has created a very cool, very creepy place for people to gather.
The SCP community spans multiple platforms, but the primary hubs are on-site forums, a subreddit, and their IRC (love when places keep it old school). There are almost 500k members of the community (there may be even more, but not all of their members are visible), and it's been trucking along since 2008. Community members contribute content in the form of SCP reports and artwork, join in discussions on reports from others, help people with their writing, and build this world in which terrifying objects and occurrences are the norm and must be hidden from the public. The SCP team promotes content from members, hosts contests, and has created an untraditional space where people feel comfortable connecting.
The community has even reached critical mass where there are a number of offshoot communities that have sprung up that have tens or hundreds of thousands of members routinely posting and commenting (peep /r/DankMemesFromSite19). The passion and commitment that the admins, moderators, and members all have for building and growing this creepy community is truly something to be admired.
MFM is one of the OG true crime podcasts (riding on the coattails of Serial) that helped spark a wave of true crime fanaticism across all media formats. Each episode dives into the history of one crime or another, and new episodes are released weekly. MFM started as just a podcast, but rapidly evolved into an enthusiastic community around the world.
The MFM community grew quickly and chaotically, spanning multiple platforms that were largely unmoderated at first. There primary platform for a number of years was Facebook, but after a significant moderation problem they shut it down and transitioned to a custom hosted platform on their website that requires a paid membership, an unofficial Reddit subreddit, a Facebook business page, their company Twitter, and, lastly, an Instagram account. Each of these spaces serves a specific purpose for their community, and all are quite active (and moderated).
Their moderation woes are a story that is all too familiar in the community world. When communities scale at an unprecedented pace and you don't have a plan set to ensure you can keep that community healthy, you're more likely to run into problems that derail your efforts and lead to a loss of trust from your community members. They were able to learn from that experience and build a new, intentional community space for their fanbase to connect with the hosts and each other.
Their community now consists of 150k members who are dedicated fans of the show and the true crime genre, and their enthusiasm helps sustain their thriving community. For paying community members, they get access to additional content, early access to events, special merch, and dedicated forums. The hosts use their community as a place for content creation and amplification: members share their own stories (which get reused as content for the show), create fan art (that gets turned into merch), and connect with other "Murderinos" (the name assigned to members of their community).
What started as a place to share weird unresolved mysteries has evolved into a community that has helped solve some of these decades-old cases.
The community itself only exists on Reddit (they used to have a Facebook group and a Twitter, but both are no longer maintained), though there may be unofficial offshoots in other subreddits or elsewhere on the internet. There are over a million subscribers and the community is quite active in posting and commenting.
The moderators have strict rules that are tightly enforced, which is extremely important for a community that straddles the line of personally identifiable information vs publicly available information. And oh boy is it a fine line being able to trust your community to do detective work without going absolutely off the rails. But somehow the moderators at /r/unresolvedmysteries have created a space where it's possible. Their most famous resolved mystery is the case of the Grateful Doe--the admins at Reddit have a great blog post about how it all came together.
The moderators know how to keep their community engaged, too. They host AMAs with journalists, investigators, and authors who have been involved in popular unsolved mysteries, and celebrate community members who consistently have good comments and posts. They create content and engage in the community in a way that adds value for everyone.
Do you have any favourite scary/creepy/weird communities? Share what drew you to them initially, what made you stick around, and anything you may have learned from the people building these unique online spaces.