community management

Lessons from an accidental community manager

I’m not great at social media. I’m pretty terrible at it. I’m terrible at the parts where I have to promote myself and create marketing jargon. (I feel like) I tend to come across as a used car salesperson.

But social media is also about connecting, networking, and fostering relationships. This is where building a community can be useful. A few different Analytics for Marketers members what it takes to be a community manager so I figured it was time to put my thoughts together.

Here is what I’ve learned so far – hopefully, some of this helps you if you’re new to community management or just want a different perspective.

Lesson 1: Have an intention – and stick with it.

This might be where a lot of communities go wrong. If you’re building a community with the sole intention to sell your stuff, say that upfront. Before you start building anything, start with some basic questions:

Why does your brand need a community?
What will you get out of it?
What will community members get out of it?

That last question is the most important one. If you can’t give people a reason to show up, they won’t. Make sure you have a clear intention and that you’re transparent about it.

Lesson 2: Set expectations.

Just like knowing your intention, define what is and is not allowed. Create some guidelines and be willing to enforce them. In the 4+ years that we’ve been running Analytics for Marketers, I’ve only had to remove one member for violating our guidelines. When a new member joins we give them a set of rules so that no one can say, “I didn’t know”. Removing someone isn’t fun – but if you’re not living up to your own expectations you can’t expect members to do the same.

Lesson 3: Active listening

Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. If someone posts something in your community, unless it is addressed specifically to you, take a moment to pause. Breathe. You don’t have to jump all over the poster with a response. Let the rest of the community chime in before you stomp all over it.

Lesson 4: Be authentic to your brand

My personal brand is me. So naturally so is the brand persona of Trust Insights. Well, it’s half me, half Chris, with a dash of John. What that means is that I speak and react in the community the same way I do in real life. I’m sarcastic. I’m hilarious (I swear, it’s true). I can admit when I’m wrong and I’m not afraid to tell people what I don’t know. When you start posting on behalf of your company (or yourself) decide who you want to be. What are you known for? What is your voice? Does the culture need to be buttoned up or can it be more casual? There is no right answer except the ones that work for you.

Lesson 5: Not every post will hit the mark

This is still tough for me some days. Since the majority of our posts get some kind of engagement it’s hard when a post doesn’t. But it’s ok. As your community grows, what they respond to will change. If you find that you’re getting less and less engagement over time, you may want to revisit your intention and the kinds of content you’re posting. When in doubt, ask people what they want and give it to them.

Lesson 6: You’re not alone

This might be one of the best things about having a community. You’re not the only one there. You can ask for help and support. You can ask for guest moderators and user-generated content. You can ask questions you don’t know the answers to.

Lesson 7: Know where your audience wants to spend their time.

If you create a community on Slack but your members want to be over on Discord you have a mismatch and you’ll have a hard time growing. When we originally started Analytics for Marketers it was a Facebook group. A couple of months in we realized that Slack made much more sense for the kinds of people we wanted to be able to connect with. We recently talked with the community about moving to Discord and learned that, at least for us, that’s not something we need to consider any time soon.

Keep in mind that there are lots of great community managers out there who focus solely on this function. These are the lessons that I have personally learned through trial and error. I hope you find one or more of my lessons helpful!

Are you running a community and have your own lessons you’ve learned? Come tell me about it in our Free Slack Group, Analytics for Marketers


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