Calling all you fabulous, wise and experienced Community Managers!
If you were to write a letter to your past self as a new Community Manager, what tips or nuggets of wisdom would you share?
Personally, I wish I had known how JUST important it can be to include my community in the decisions I was making on their behalf. While there is an important balance to strike between business needs and user wants, even just asking can build a stronger relationship with your users.
What would you share if you could?
In my very first job as a Community Manager, there were a ton of ideas about our community...ideas from me, my boss, users, other internal stakeholders. And I got lost in the idea-ness of it all and couldn't wait to implement the stuff that sounded fancy and fun! But I should have stopped and evaluated each idea and made sure I was focusing on the ones that would help me achieve our goals/objectives first. By the time I realized this, I was implementing things for our community that our execs so no value in, and I had already wasted so much time getting them going. Oh well, lesson learned!
Great question @KerriW
Rember that your brand is not a damsel in distress that needs to be protected. Allowing your community to professionally disagree helps build trust (and may attract the attention of the Product team).
Bet this will become a great thread.
Time to dust this puppy off: https://community.khoros.com/t5/Khoros-View-Blog/Top-Tips-for-the-Community-Manager/ba-p/27826
Aside from the tips in that blog post, I would just say at the risk of sounding dramatic, that people and the relationships you create with them are going to be the #1 factor in long-term success. Inside of your organization, outside of it with your customers, and with those that help you along the way (partners, your network). The business and operational aspects of running a community can be taught - a particular world view on how to focus a team of people on a singular goal and drive them to success isn't so easy to come by. If you can't successfully build and manage your own community, you'll never be able to do it for your company.
I think this is SO SO key. At the end of the day, communities are built on connections between actual people. They aren't just usernames on a screen, but they are unpredictable, passionate, complex, real live humans.
Nine years later, I still have connections with some of my first super users - and while some of the most challenging work I've ever done, also some of the most rewarding.
This was a long time ago for me (2002), and there were sooooo many things that I wish I had done right back then. The top one, without question, was creating a User Guidelines post that everybody could refer to.
Because the community was rather small, and more hobbyist in nature, I thought that the shared 'unspoken understandings' were an appropriate replacement for a list of User Guidelines. Sadly, those 'shared understandings' were mostly in my imagination. Hah!.
I wasted a lot of time debating people about infractions both large and small, and burned up a lot of private conversations with other Admins and Mods of the Community about what should be done. I had been participating in a number of other communities since the late 1990s already, so I never had to deal with being a Mod or Admin, and thus overlooked this obvious must-have when building a Community myself in the early 2000s.
The second thing that I did wrong was not getting my rank and reputation mojo going. Even the cheap platforms meant for a hobbyist community (vBulletin, PHPbb, etc) had some minor types of rank and reputation features. Instead I just created customer ranks (with custom rank titles) all the time for people. Of course that kind of unique and poignant work engendered a lot of loyalty in one sense for a medium-sized group, but I overlooked a lot of others that did not capture my attention, and probably lost some of their loyalty to the Community because of it.
Finally, I never measured jack-squat in those days. My sense of Community health was mostly done by ' feel', trying to 'sense' how the Community was doing rather than quantitatively measuring it (again, I did not even bother using some of the most basic metric tools that are embedded in the budget-minded Community platforms I worked with back then).
When I first came to Khoros (hmmmm….it was called 'Lithium' at that time), I realized very quickly that because customers were using Community as a business solution, I could not afford to let the Community Managers snooze on those things that I let slide in my own personal hobbyist Community Management life, where no money was on the line.
Attitude is everything as a Community Manager - it is soooo important to "Be Nice." If Dalton (Patrick Swayze from Roadhouse) were a Community Manager:
A Community Manager’s job is to build relationships, listen to and help community members, and steer discussions; all while staying positive. It is important to set standards and be firm, but be nice. Make your positive attitude contagious.
“Nobody ever wins a fight”
It can feel good to get the best of a troll, but there will always be another. Never get caught up in the anger of someone who only seeks to throw bombs or attack others – delete the post, block the troll, and move on. Community members look to you to set the tone: if you are rude and attack others, they will too.
“I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal”
Never let a troll get the best of you by invading your head. No matter the community, members will have opinions about the way do do a job or solve a problem: as the Community Manager, it is your responsibility to see that conversations stay on track and remain professional. You brand or company is not a damsel in distress that needs to be saved; allowing objective disagreement builds credibility. Stay on topic and NEVER let a discussion become an argument.
“People who really want to have a good time won’t come to slaughterhouse”
No matter your community: business / hobby, internal / external – members join to learn from one another, to share best practices, and help each other solve problems. No one wants to read personal rants or get attacked for their opinions: a bad environment will not only hinder discussion, it WILL destroy your membership.
First off, LOVE the Roadhouse reference.
This brings up another thing for me - a few key things a great community manager needs:
1) Great communication - the ability to literally 'manage' a discussion, encourage open dialogue, establish empathy. I was a CM for a mobile phone company, I knew nothing about mobile phones and for years had to ask my support team how to properly switch my SIM, but I could connect with and engage with the audience in a meaningful way - even if I didn't have their skills.
2) Critical Thinking - Also really key for me is the ability to manage a situation in a way that requires analysis and outcome assessment. As a CM, you cannot just bend to every ask - internal or external, you need to think carefully and plan ahead, to truly manage what's happening and ensure decisions attribute to success.