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Inside LiNC'15 - 15 tips for new community managers

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

With new Lithium communities joining the fray every week, it can be a real challenge for fledgling community managers to learn the ropes of creating a space on the Internet where their brand can thrive. So Lithium's Kelly Thompson (@KellyT) sat down with two Lithium newcomers, Colby Braun of OpenTable and Ben Shute of CommSec, to discuss the most important lessons they've learned in their first two years of building and managing their communities. Their industries may be completely different, but when it comes to creating a community with staying power, many of the lessons they've learned are surprisingly similar.

 

Here are some key takeaways for community newbies from the trio's LiNC panel:

  • Make it easy for people to find what they need. Thompson says every community landing page should emphasize at least three of these five key elements: Top kudoed authors, top kudoed posts, top tags, accepted solopen.pngutions, and new solutions. In addition to that, Braun suggests putting support queries from the knowledge base front and center on your page. "When we first launched, we reduced our support emails by 50%," he says. "It sounded like a great statistic, but all that happened was that we provided a different platform to submit those emails, but now they were individual posts. Even if someone from the community wanted to help, they couldn’t, because they were so user-specific.” After switching to a design that emphasized support up front, and then discovery further down the page, OpenTable saw an 85% drop in support cases and a 50% increase in posts, without overwhelming the community with misplaced support requests. 
  • lith.pngEmpower your top contributors. The best way to get superfans and influencers on board is to be proactive about approaching them—without being so eager that you alienate them. "Know their messaging, know the feel of what they’re doing, but don’t hector them to come back," explains Shute. "Find the level of commitment they’re comfortable with, and build from there. Gamification allows them to engage without feeling like you’re pushing something.” When you have superfans looking to play an active role, get creative, and don't hesitate to bring in stakeholders from other departments, or even other companies. For CommSec, that meant monthly Q&A sessions with the product team, and bringing in outside experts on small-cap companies to satisfy the community's desire to learn more about long-tail investing. 
  • Rules are rules. Know what your guidelines are from the beginning, and stick to them. "As people get more confident with what they’re posting, sometimes they’ll cross the line," says Thompson. "Don’t be afraid to enforce the rules, even with a top contributor. Be consistent with the entire community, establish a level playing field and don’t give preferential treatment.” If a user complains about moderation, being able to direct them to a pre-ordained set of guidelines goes a long way in soothing tempers. Shute encourages community managers to "be aggressive in moving things around to the right spot. You can create a non-relevant discussions section for when people want to go off topic. And know when to get out of people’s way. The community figures out how to self-moderate.”
  • comm.pngListen to feedback (even when it's not positive). "Think of every post as an opportunity to get to know them and their needs, and for them to get to know you," says Thompson. "Know why they come and stay. Offer perks like additional permissions. And make it fun! Lithium provides gamification for a reason: it works." Using the Ideas module is a particularly easy way to engage users: Shute received over 2,000 submissions after a recent call for feedback. "It's a focus group that you just can't get anywhere else. The knowledge base you get from these folks is incredible." 

 

For more information about the presenting companies, check out these resources:

Lithy Submission - The Organization Game Changer

Open Table

 

If you are a customer, partner or attended the event, you can view a PDF of this session's presentation here.

 

All you community managers out there, what are your thoughts on top tips for new community managers?

2 Comments
Occasional Advisor

This was by far my favorite breakout this year (okay, it's my first year). Thanks for posting this to the blog; I tried to take notes but yours are much better than mine.

Occasional Contributor

Thanks for this, as a new Community Manager, it is very helpful to know about other community experiences and lessons learned.