Let’s face the 2021 facts, #community management as an industry is BOOMING. Companies are coming out of the pandemic woodwork with ambitious goals to beta test communities with [in truth] light market research and even less understanding of the industry. Social media managers, product marketers, and even program managers are being foisted from their comfy positions to try out the community management hat in start ups and beyond, everywhere.
If you’re a community manager reading this, you know how much of an overwhelm the transition to this sort of role can be without much specified experience. Community management isn’t really something you go to uni for nor do you have a plethora of available MOOCs [mass open online courses] to hone your skills. With such a fresh-start-blank-slate esque industry, the opportunities are boundless yet also currently tend toward rampant burn out. A friend of mine who manages a coworking-space in Puerto Rico, just noted to me that his understanding of coworking-space community managers [CMs] typically last only a year in their role; I was astounded for about a full minute until I realized - burnout.
The world wide web is rife with blogs, articles, TEDx talks and so on, that are all telling you how to do this job, do it well and be as efficient as possible. I’m here to tell you how to slow down effectively with an eye toward the 2021 trends we’ve seen in the industry.
Behold, the six tips for a new community manager:
1. Events || Make an excellent partner to communities all over the joint. They allow for organic connection, feelings of belonging, and the much needed togetherness that many of us have sorely been missing these past two years. However, it is not necessary to jump on the bandwagon for the sake of saying your community has an event.
Curating a solid and unique event, especially if it’s virtual, is not only tedious, but also time consuming. If it’s not part of your larger company strategy to have this created, shelve the idea for now and sit down longer with your prioritization table. If you do gung-ho with an event, my suggestion is to start small [beta test or make it intimate] and expand it gradually. Your calendar will be grateful.
2. Requests for Demos || This will not be taken well
by all the startups that have or are in the process of creating community specific apps, platforms, and plug-ins. Community managers can receive upwards of ten product demo requests a week for up to a half hour video call each, and that’s on the conservative side. Particularly when a CM is new, they will try to do the most they can and this often includes saying lots of yes’s.
Every invitation to an inbox doesn’t have to be acted upon! They can be snoozed, shelved or simply and shockingly responded to with a thank you for thinking of us, but not at this time. If the company requesting your time doesn’t ping your gut like a HELL YEAH, consider snoozing or hitting them with a thanks but no thanks. Your time = life energy = precious; work toward using it more wisely.
3. Integrations & Automation || I am 100% a fan of automation and maximizing my output, while simultaneously minimizing the life energy needed to get there. I’m an ENFJ, so this is really shocking [sike]. It’s exceedingly easy to spend hours [oop] researching and testing integrations that can make your days and the community feel more seamless. The sheer amount of integrations available as well as the amount that are being made daily, just for us, is astounding.
I suggest slowing down here; keep this research on your weekly agenda, but maybe not spending hours daily. CMs want integrations and inevitably, they often do make everyone’s life easier because menial, repetitive and otherwise annoying tasks are automated. It often takes hours to days [or longer tbh] to even fully learn how to truly make any integration work with your existing tech stack [fancy term for all the platforms and such you use for your work] and unfortunately, many more integrations don’t quite fit for your needs than those that do. Cut your losses, allot an hour or two a week to research and test only. Stick to it.
4. Platforms || Look, if you’ve done your research, most likely the people want what you’re giving them. Chances to engage, be seen and heard, connect with like-mindeds, and possibly meet up eventually and create! But at this pandemimoment, keep in mind of where your audience already is. The amount of community specific apps and platforms is the wild wild west and I know you’re racing to the next demo for the chance to unveil your community on a spanking new platform.
Do your due diligence, yes, just keep in mind that people are overwhelmed with their digital lives [admittedly or not] and you have to ask yourself, will my audience download and use a new app? Migrations from one forum to another can be tumultuous, difficult, and possibly disheartening down the line, but I don’t think these hurdles make the move unworthy.
This is why I’m big on the beta testing idea; test the new app/platform before a full commit. Community takes patience and the space to grow, changes will happen and more often than not, you’d probably enjoy those changes. But all this is in the fun! TL;DR: be circumspect about having your audience try another new platform. Select a few to test and get their honest and precise feedback.
5. Micro is Lit || Unless you’re Salesforce, LinkedIn or InstantPot, you can start believing that smaller is better! There is worth in specialization and curating your niche will put you on the path of community success. The good ol C suite is often mistakenly enamored with growth, growth, growth, but I would argue that engagement, retention, opportunity creation, and chances to derive vital feedback are of higher import. In a blossoming world of inordinate communities, be different by having pride in your micro community! I’d say a micro community is under 500 members and if growth happens, that’s truly a gift, but I’d just ask you to reconsider the idea of having a growth metric in your first few strategy iterations.
6. Inclusion || It’s possible that this may be controversial, but I’m open to discussion. The obvious [I hope] is that not only does inclusion matter, but it really should’ve been a necessity since the dawn of humanity; alas here we are. There are myriad ways that inclusion and its tangents can be tackled, so my point here is to not delve into all those ways, but to implore you not to let it overtake everything else. The gist is, it’s an imperfect science and what you can do is work to connect and curate engagement stemming from empathy, have the desire to understand, be calm, and have the capacity to take accountability. I truly believe that by acting from these primary tenets, your members will not only appreciate your [social] work but may possibly emulate it. At the end of the day, the CM[s] set the tone of the community, both subtly or overtly, so just do the the best within what you know and if you’re unsure, there are too many places for you to dig deeper and either research or get into conversations that matter. Do it! You will make mistakes and I hope that you will be supported in your rise from those. If you find you aren't supported, find a better network at Community Club or even on twitter by following the tag #communitymanager.
Above all else, community management is actually quite fun. Aside from the usuals of any job that cause you to pull your hair out or repeat the same direction for the tenth time that day, you get to be in a field that is burgeoning and can be molded. You can be general and do all the things from creative marketing [making newsletters or learning Canva] to product [user research] to UX [maybe you’ll create your own dashboard] to nearly every department there is. And over time, you may tend toward some area and find yourself specializing in community operations or community moderation or community marketing. It’s wild and fun right now and I hope that those reading this get even a tiny jolt of either remembering that initial joy they had or anticipating the upcoming thrill with a new role!
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