Since the rise of social media and online communities, more and more companies have started focusing on the practice of community management. A quick search on Google reveals there are at least 779,000,000 articles about this topic. For many brands, community managers are integral in maintaining their reputation, engaging customers and minimizing risks.
Community management can take various forms, but at its core, the practice is about nurturing relationships with a group of people so they'll continue to engage with you and be willing to share their insights.
Managing a community is a huge topic - so huge, in fact, that we have a dedicated section about it on Vision Critical University. And while best practices about this subject are abundant, I find that some tactics are not used as often as they should be.
Whether you're managing a social media community or a private insight community of customers, consider the following underrated DOs:
Do: Customize your approach
Every community has its own vibe. As every community is unique, the same fix often doesn't apply even to the same problem.
Best practices provide guidelines to follow, but they are generic. That's why community managers need to tailor their approach.
The need to take a personalized approach is demonstrated when recruiting people for your community. During this phase, it's not enough to leverage your company's existing email database. Great community managers would also investigate other recruitment sources and ensure the organization isn't too reliant on one source. (Some examples of these sources include the company website, social media, refer-a-friend campaigns and other out-of-the-box options such as promoting the community at trade shows.) Recruiting people from various sources helps the brand tap into a wider audience. If emails are the only source available, a community manager should find out how the email addresses were collected and then manage the business' expectations accordingly. A proactive community manager will also help their client access other lists within their organization - for instance, identifying untapped sections of the registration processes on the company website.
As the recruitment example shows, community managers need to customize their tactics depending on the business, the community and its specific challenges.
Do: Let your community feel valued and heard
Managing a community is as much about feeding back information as much as it is about asking for input. People in your community will feel a lot more valued if they know the organization is using their input to make informed decisions.
When providing feedback to people, you don't always have to reveal something big or confidential. Sometimes it's sufficient to provide a statistic or two from your recent survey. One tactic that works well is including a topical question in your study and sharing stats or responses from that question. Videos, newsletters, surveys, and portals are other popular ways of informing the community.
Do: Listen more than you talk
Listen thoroughly to cultivate your community. Maintaining two-way conversations is key to getting people to stick around. If you have a community on social media, you need to leverage analytics and monitor mentions to understand how people view your brand. If you have an insight community, comments at the end of your surveys or people's interaction on forums are ways to validate what the analytics are telling you.
Do: Engage key stakeholders in the business
Community managers have the responsibility of feeding back information to the business. You'll have a better luck getting key decision makers to see the value of the community if you understand the needs of the business. With a better idea of what the business is aiming for, community managers can better leverage the insights of the community.
Engaging stakeholders also implies identifying ways other people in the organization can leverage the community. Which challenges can consumer insights help solve in your organization? Reach out to the various groups in your business and collaborate on how they might benefit from the community.
Finally, community management involves reporting back information to key decision makers in your business to make sure the community's voice is heard. Consumer insights from your community can only make a difference if the organization uses them to make better-informed decisions.
Contrary to popular belief, community management is a specialized skill that requires interpersonal and strategic business skills. To grow and nurture your community, don't forget to tweak your approach based on what the business and your community needs.
What do you think are the biggest DOs and DON'Ts of managing a community? Please let us know in the comments.