Managing communities isn’t easy. In fact, it takes a lot of stamina, willpower, and determination – not to mention, dedication! – to ensure that everything is running like clockwork 24/7. For many of today’s community managers, especially those leading the communities of the world’s biggest brands, each day can be a new adventure filled with twists, turns, and unexpected surprises.
So we thought we’d reach out to some of our star community managers to get the inside scoop on what it takes to succeed in this fun, but ever-changing environment. Here’s what they had to say.
Love What You Do
It’s hard to manage a community without passion. You’ve got to “love your company, love your customers, and love your team,” says Jenn Chen ( @jchen ) , Community Manager at Intuit Demandforce, “These will be the people who can make or break your day.” Those words couldn’t be any truer. As a community manager, you’re the liaison between your brand and the customers who love, follow, and support that brand. You’re just as much an advocate for your brand as you are an advocate for your customers. In many ways, community managers are the most direct link between brands and customers, essentially acting as the “hub” for content and conversation that can build brand loyalty and earn trust. So it goes without saying you’ve got to approach what you do from a place of love and pride – anything less will show.
Don’t Lose Sight of the “Big Picture”
To be successful, you’ve really got to think big. Everything you do should ladder up to broader business goals. “Run it like you would run your own business,” advises Darren Choo ( @darren ), Social CRM Manager at StarHub. Although it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day operations of managing your community – because, let’s face it, there’s never a dull moment – you need to constantly remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. Your community doesn’t operate in a vacuum, neither should how you manage it. Every action matters. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself (again and again): How is my community making a positive impact on the business? Managing a community isn’t just about your daily tasks. It’s about leveraging the community to help your business achieve its goals. How your community impacts those goals may be big or small – in many ways, the impact you can make is entirely up to you – but, either way, the work you do should never be seen or done in a vacuum. By aligning your your actions to broader business goals and proving the success associated with helping to achieve those goals, you will not only be more effective (and empowered) in what you do, but also, and more importantly, it will give you a solid foundation to grow your program over time.
Get Everyone On Board
Many people with an organization, especially the senior most stakeholders, are still unclear as to how a community can be core to business success. “Make sure you can measure your efforts to prove you’re constantly adding value,” says Stephen Fell ( @Fellsteruk ), Senior Online and Engagement Manager at TalkTalk. Investing in building a community, creating content that engages the community, and activating that community to serve as an extension of your brand’s customer support services is still not exactly a no-brainer for many companies. In fact, as a community manager, you constantly have to build a solid business case and rally your stakeholders around the benefits that a strong (and growing) community can bring to the business as a whole. You need the support of the people around you – from product to marketing to legal to engineering – to succeed. So be sure to take time to get everyone on the same page. It will definitely pay off in the long run.
Listen, Respond, Engage
Being a community manager takes a lot of love, but it also requires an unyielding sense of authenticity. Communities are sensitive to anything short of being 100% genuine. “Make it personal,” advises Wendy Schippers ( @Wendy_S ), Community Manager at Hewlett Packard, “Get to know your members…and be the glue that ties them together.” Your role is to create a dialogue with your customers, not simply push out content and information to them. You’ve got to tune in to what they’re saying, respond to their thoughts and concerns with empathy, and speak to them as though they are your peers and colleagues. Timothy Hanslow ( @Tim_h ), Social Care Manager at Vodafone Australia reiterates that you’ve got to “be humble, always.” There’s no place for ego in community management. Your role is to support your community every step of the way.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
As technology evolves, your community must evolve, too. “Stay on top of the latest platforms, features, industry trends, and best practices,” advises Claudius Henrichs ( @Claudius ) , Community Manager at Skype. “You need to constantly improve your community so that it does not ever fall behind.” It’s important to keep an ear turned towards what’s happening in the world around you. Technology is changing at a frenetic pace these days. It’s your responsibility to seize, embrace, and take advantage of every opportunity to make your community better. In doing so, you’ll keep the experience fresh for your customers, help them stay engaged, and position your brand as a perennial trend-setter.
What other pro tips do you have to share?
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Hi @Claudius thanks for pointing this out! I've flagged this internally regarding a core change and we'll work on getting this updated on the community. I'll let you know as soon as I have more information.
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Hi @nickabbott thanks for your interest and welcome to our community!
I can see we've received your request and it has been assigned. I've reached out internally and someone should be following up with you soon.
Please don't hesitate to let us know if there's anything else we can assist with.
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“Celebrate even the smallest joys and wins.”
Stephen Fell, Senior Online Engagement and Content Manager – TalkTalk
With any brand, customer satisfaction is key. When it comes to the telecommunications industry, the bar gets raised even higher – as customers expect nothing but stellar service, 24/7. And when something goes a bit askew, they aren’t afraid to go directly to the source to troubleshoot. That’s where Stephen Fell (@Fellsteruk) , TalkTalk’s fearless online engagement and content manager, comes into the picture. Listen to what he has to say about his experience at TalkTalk in the video below and then continue on to get a few valuable words of advice that every community manager should always live by.
What is the most common trait you see among your community members?
Our community is emotional – not because they are, by nature, a dramatic assortment of customers, but rather because they’ve likely come to one of our social channels as a last resort to get a problem resolved. Who would blame them? If your television service goes out or your wifi connection has dropped – and you are telephone averse, as many of us are these days – the first instinct is to vent via social, in hopes that there’s someone on the other side who can help. But the community members I love most are our Super Users and advocates – their willingness and desire to help others in the community never ceases to amaze me. What’s resulted from this interaction is a community of friends, a community of sharers, a community that’s got each other’s back. Now that’s real engagement!
Every job has its obstacles. In your role, what obstacle have you had to overcome?
I think almost everyone who works in social would agree that the biggest obstacle we all face is budget. Even in the most social-savvy companies, convincing senior stakeholders to invest in tools like peer-to-peer social service platforms always seems to be an uphill battle. But with a little persistence – and a lot of perseverance – anything is doable. In fact, it took me about two years of working with Lithium before I was given the budget to make the move. What I’ve learned is this: it’s critically important to demonstrate how an investment in community helps deliver on broader business goals as well as what ROI looks like in that scenario. Once you’ve created a solid business case, budget soon becomes an afterthought.
What would you say are your top 3 tips for managing a successful community?
I could say a lot here, but here’s what immediately comes to mind:
Be Open and Honest: Never promise something you can’t deliver. Being open and honest with others is equally as important as being open and honest with yourself. You’ve got to set realistic expectations and strive to over-deliver whenever you possibly can. Otherwise, you’ll just set yourself up for failure.
Celebrate Success: It’s easy to get bogged down with day-to-day tasks. We’re all overloaded with work – and that growing to-do list isn’t going to get smaller anytime soon. But one thing I know to be true is that each day is filled with successes. Some big, some small. So take the time to celebrate. It’s a nice way to break up all the fire drills you’re likely dealing with everyday.
Love Metrics: Stay focused on business objectives and constantly strive to measure and prove the ways in which your efforts are delivering long-term value. It’s important to know what success looks like from your vantage point – and to be able to show, at a moment’s notice, how your work has led to successful results. And even if you don’t hit your goal every time, don’t worry. You learn from both the hits and the misses. Even more reason why metrics will become your best friend (if they aren’t already by now).
STEPHEN’S LITHIUM “STREET CRED”
What makes Stephen a Lithium Rockstar? Here are some pretty stand out stats from his participation in the Lithium Community over the past year.
WHO IS STEPHEN FELL?
Stephen is the Senior Online Engagement and Content Manager over at UK-based TalkTalk. He leads the social engagement team, responsible for supporting and growing the company’s active, vibrant, and vocal community. He also collaborates on the development of content across both the B2C and B2B sides of TalkTalk’s business. He is a Lithium Certified Community Manager, an Honored Contributor in our community and a Rockstar in the Lithium Stars program. He could talk forever about anything Nissan, Nikon, Apple, and Lithium. Stephen’s journey into community management was recently featured via Community Manager Appreciation Day.
TalkTalk Telecom Group provides pay television, telecommunications, internet access, and mobile network services to businesses and consumers in the United Kingdom. TalkTalk has been a Lithium customer since 2013.
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“Listen to your community. Involve them.”
Claudius Henrichs, Community Manager – Skype
A major global brand like Skype is bound to have an incredibly diverse and global community – which likely comes along with its own unique rewards and challenges. Definitely not a task for the faint of heart. That’s why Skype’s global-minded and ever-so-talented community manager, Claudius Henrichs (@Claudius), is the perfect guy for the job. Check out what makes his job unique in the video below, then scroll down to read his tips and tricks for being a successful community manager.
If you could describe your job in one word, what would it be?
One word, eh? I could really describe my job in so many ways. But if I could only choose one word, I’d go with “versatile.” My job changes every day – in fact, I don’t even know what I could consider a typical day, to be honest. I oftentimes find myself juggling different topics affecting the community, jumping from project to project (quickly), dealing with a variety of team members across all of Skype, and, of course, it goes without saying, solving lots of problems. That last part is probably the biggest reason why I consider “versatile” to be the best descriptor for my job – because I’m constantly being challenged to come up with unique solutions for issues affecting my community and my team.
What are the biggest innovations you’ve seen in social over the past year?
There are actually two things that immediately come to mind. First, the increase in peer-to-peer support tools has dramatically shaped the world of social customer service. We’re seeing a growing trend around customers leaning on their peers to get immediate support for unanswered questions or to troubleshoot any issues that come their way (vs. waiting in long queues on the telephone or online to speak with a support representative). This is really changing the ways in which many brands are approaching customer service, leveraging the know-how of the community to significantly reduce the time it takes for customer queries to be resolved. So that’s the first trend. The second, I’m noticing, is a desire among consumers to have shared profiles across communities and channels. People want simplicity. They don’t want one profile here and another entirely separate profile over there in another social channel. This is really a call-to-action to all social brands to step it up and collaborate on ways to truly put the customer (experience) first. As an industry, we’ve only scratched the surface on this front. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming years.
What would you say are your top 3 tips for managing a successful community?
Based on my experience at Skype, this is what I would say are my top three tips:
Rally Internal Stakeholders: The saying goes, “No man’s an island.” Couldn’t be any truer in the world of community management. The internal stakeholders around you are just as important to you as the communities you manage. It’s so important to have everyone aligned to ensure there are never any surprises. Get the right teams involved early on and make sure they know when you need them as well as what you need from them. It’s the only way you can successfully create a solid, scalable program.
Stay Updated on Industry Trends: You’re never to old (or too young) to stop learning. Technology is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. New tools, platforms, and creative solutions are emerging every day. It’s absolutely critical to stay up-to-date on what’s happening so that your communities are always ahead of the curve.
Listen to Your Community: By listening to what your community is saying, you will be better equipped at both identifying trends and coming up with blanket solutions to address those trends. And there’s a good chance that data will be there to back up those assumptions as well. In the end, this will help you be more effective at your job because it will force you to stay focused on achieving your “big picture” goals vs. getting sucked into all the minutiae.
CLAUDIUS’ LITHIUM “STREET CRED”
What makes Claudius a Lithium Rockstar? Here are some pretty stand out stats from his participation in the Lithium Community:
WHO IS CLAUDIUS HENRICHS?
Claudius is a global-minded, solutions-driven Community Manager at Skype, serving the various (and vibrant) needs of Skype’s incredibly diverse community, all from his hub in Tallinn, Estonia (where he calls home). He is a Lithium Certified Community Manager, Honored Contributor in our community, and a Rockstar in the Lithium Stars program. Claudius is also a participant in the Developer Network, and his team won "Best Community Customization,” taking home the gold in the first LiNC Hackathon in 2014.
Skype is for doing things together, whenever you’re apart. Skype’s text, voice and video make it simple to share experiences with the people that matter to you, wherever they are. Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Luxembourg, Skype is a division of Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT).
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