An Open Letter to Aspiring Community Managers

So you’ve decided you want to become a Community Manager. Congratulations! In this letter I’m going to talk about two things: you and your community.

Image Courtesy of Pablo Casuriaga.

Let’s start with you, ‘cause, hey, you’re pretty darn awesome. If you want an idea of what a Community Manager’s job is going to be like, read through Erin Bury’s blog post, “Community Manager Job Description, A Definitive Guide.” Bury goes into a lot of detail about what you can expect (content creation, social media marketing, event planning, PR, customer relations, marketing, analytics and business development) and what people who need a CM are looking for. It sounds like a lot, it is, but it’s worth it.

Since we’re starting with you, let’s use Vadim Lavrusik’s blog post, “10 Tips for Aspiring Community Managers” as a jumping off point. I won’t be covering everything he talks about so I highly suggest you check out his full post (there’s also a great bonus section at the end too).

1. Be an Expert, Love your Company and be the Community’s Advocate: Before you start as a Community Manager for a company you should be well-versed in everything they do and you should like the company and product. “Good community managers are ones that are genuine advocates and evangelists for their products and their users.” This also means you should understand where the user is coming from. If it’s hard to connect with them imagine it’s you and you’re giving advice to yourself or to friends or family. Be respectful and give as much information as possible.

2. Be Authentic, Listen and Brush Up on your Communication Skills: The key to being authentic is being you: don’t try to be someone you’re not. For example, I am an enthusiastic person by nature and when I write to people I tend to use exclamation marks a lot and smiley faces. Listening is a very important skill to have, especially when it comes to others. Like being authentic, people will be able to feel comfortable around you and won’t be nervous about sharing feedback. It will help you build relationships is others know you’re willing to hear what they have to say. Effective dialogue is important. The role of a community manager is to connect with others. This also extends to writing, being a good writer will help you when it comes to responding to your community members.

Image Courtesy of Elkokoparrilla.

Let’s skip ahead now. Congratulations, you’ve created a fabulous community and it’s growing! But now you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re finding yourself checking every email, making sure no one’s fighting and making sure everyone’s okay when you realize: you’ve turned into a parent. You’re running around taking care of everyone but yourself. It’s good to check in with your children and make sure everything’s okay but make sure to let them shine!

So what can you do? You have a fabulous community but you need help. So where do you turn? To your oldest, most outgoing and motivated members, of course! They are the ones who care about this community just as much as you do and who will help you prioritize.

“But wait,” I hear you say, “Hannah, it’s my baby, I don’t want to hand over my responsibilities to others!” Relax. Take a deep breath. It’s okay to delegate responsibilities! No one can run a community all by themselves. It’s okay to ask for help. If you’re unsure where to start, Richard Millington founder of FeverBee has eleven suggestions on how to lighten your load that serve as, “both technical, administrative and personnel-oriented.” I’ve shortened and combined them below (for the full list, click here):

1. Volunteers: Get a hold of some of your best and make them ambassadors for you. (Unsure why you should have some? Click here.) This is will also help you when it comes time to recruiting new volunteers. One activity volunteers can do is greet the newest members.

2. Guidelines: Are people continuing to break guidelines? Maybe it’s time to change them. This is an exercise that works well outside the of Internet too – most of my classes spend the first day talking about class guidelines to make sure we respect each other. This also extends to administrative guidelines, like how to resolve disputes with your company’s best interest (be fair but make sure you don’t promise something you can’t deliver on).

3. Content: Let some of your most trusted community members be in charge of content. If they’re writing for you make sure their name is featured prominently, they’ll feel good about themselves and you’ll have less work to do. Make sure part of that responsibility is going through comments and approving or denying bad posts.

4. Administrative: Create a community email address that your ambassadors have access too that can allow multiple people to access. This way the email load is divided. If you chose to do this make sure there is a system to document which member responded to what issue. Responding to the same person twice or three times is nice, you care, but if it’s five times the member with the issue might get irritated.

5. Acknowledgement: We’ve covered it a little above but here’s something else you can do: if one of your ambassadors excels in an area your company covers, let them try running a program (a forum, Q&As etc.)

Image Courtesy of Enrique Martinez Bermejo.

Yay! You are now one step closer to becoming a community manager! All that remains is for you to go out and try it! It’s a lot of fun and I promise you’ll find it to be rewarding. It’s hard at times but don’t forget to take deep breaths, ask for help when you need it and remember: have fun.

Lots of love,
Hannah

For Community Managers: in the comments below share advice you wish someone had given you and if you’re interested in becoming a community manager tell me know why: were you inspired by something? Have you done something like this before?

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