How to be a great community manager in five easy steps

This latest post comes the one and only Sarah Blue. She is in charge of community outreach at Cambrian House.

Everyone is familiar with Kathy Sierra’s analogy that a good community manager is akin to a party host. Beyond that, here are some practical tips from personal experience on what it takes to get the job done right.

1. Before you start, there are two important questions to answer. First, who is the audience? Second, what is the end goal for the community? Clearly defining both from the start enables you to walk that (sometimes) delicate line between what the community wants and what’s best for the company. Your job isn’t just about listening. You’ll need to listen, interpret and prioritize what you are hearing and without reminding yourself of the end goal, the right move often seems counter-intuitive.

2. Love your stats. Metrics, analytics, demographics, psychographics…take every piece of information you can about the website, the community and the people in it, then manipulate it every way you can think of. If you don’t love what you learn from all of that information, you’re in the wrong business. Not sure where to start? Check out Watching Websites a book written by Sean Power and Alistair Croll.

3. There is no difference between your local community and your online community. Look around your neighbourhood – it takes all kinds of people, doing all kinds of things, at all hours – to make it work. An online community is no different. You’ll need to respect all of the different personality types when interacting with the community. Note: Respect your personality type as well – the internet never sleeps, but you’ll need to. Decide what hours and what level of interaction you are comfortable with, being a community manager means committing countless hours to work, but let’s not get ridiculous 🙂

4. Know your role. Steve Guengerich, SVP from nGenera, summarized the role of community manager well: “One part collaboration guide: a subject matter expert, whose job it is to pose the provocative questions, manage the discussion, identify content to generate ideas and summarize interim community findings. One part community coordinator: a task-based editor, whose role is to make sure that community questions/problems are triaged, conventions are followed, updated content is posted, links are kept current, etc.”

5. Finally, you are not the star, the community members are. Being a community manager is a supporting role. If you want to excel at it, ask how you can help – and mean it. Don’t promote your book. Get media attention for interesting community members, not you. Be a good friend.

Want to know more? Check out Sean Moffitt’s recent post on the 15 essential roles of a community manager.