With all this talk so far this semester about community managers, it’s easy to forget the other, perhaps more important, half of the equation—the community itself. Yes, community managers (CMs) have to be fiercely defensive of their communities, but the community has to be fiercely defensive of itself as well as the brand it advocates. As such, CMs bear the responsibility of building a community and maintaining it long enough before it can function on its own. And with proper building techniques, CMs can create communities that, in the real world, do what CMs can’t do on their own.
Building Your Community
Communities are comprised of individuals. Remembering that means remembering to reach out to one person at a time. Startups and larger organizations alike suffer the same problems of having to keep audiences in mind, whether that means having to start slow or having to do more than just “throw money” around to get eyeballs on content. Being a human comes first and foremost, since CMs have the dual role of representing and humanizing a brand. Reminding potential community members that there’s more to a company than just its logo and mission statement fosters a relationship that could translate into future loyalty.
Maintaining Your Community
Once customers start coalescing, conversation is key. Strengthening ties between the brand and the community as well as between community members themselves marks a key difference between CMs and social media managers; after all, it’s one thing to attract people, but it’s another thing to keep them there. Fostering natural discussion with community members ensures that everyone connects with each other. Starting simple and focused, rather than using rewards and incentives, allows for organic community growth.
Letting Your Community Go
This doesn’t mean actually letting your community go. Rather, it means working up to a mutual level of trust that both the CM and the community can function less intimately, but without losing efficiency. Just as show dogs grow tired with each hurdle, communities lose patience with every added hoop they have to jump through. Form upon form and promotion upon promotion can quickly become taxing, so CMs would be wise to step away from expecting more from their communities and instead let them work on their own terms. At the end of the day, word of mouth and fervent community dedication matter most—not micromanagement.
What brands or companies seem to have succeeded at community building? Which ones haven’t? Share in the comments!