So You've Decided to Be a Community Manager...

By Luke Zimmer posted Jan 22, 2016 02:37 PM



Let’s introduce ourselves to virtual strangers then tell them how to talk to each other.

We’ll assume for a moment that you’ve decided to become a community manager. The other option, of course, is that you’ve had community management unknowingly thrust upon you, but that’s not our problem today. Today, you’ve got all the skills of a successful community manager, and you’ve taken a job with a company, association, or some other organization that maintains an online discussion community. It’s an ideal, flourishing, universally renowned platform. Now what? 

Let’s talk about some of the steps you’ll take to ease yourself into the role. 

Learn the ropes.

This seems like an obvious first step. And it really should be obvious. Of course you’ll spend the first couple of weeks at your new job training on your community platform--if you don’t know it already--learning about integrations and customizations in the community, meeting your colleagues, supervisors, and so on. But this is just the beginning. 

Now is also the time to dive into the company and community culture--and don’t even ask why understanding your client or company culture is important. You need to understand how the community is utilized, its structure and tone, who can help you get things done, who your super users are, your key performance indicators, how the community is expected to grow and evolve, and how community fits into the overall organization strategy.

That sounds like a lot. And it is. I won’t fool you into believing that it’s as easy as two weeks of training. You’ll make mistakes in your new position. You’ll have technological malfunctions and messy integrations. You’ll have members and clients and maybe even colleagues who don’t understand your community or its value. You’ll have to work through these issues in due time, and a grasp on company and community culture will help you to leverage the personalities and talents of friends and fremeies alike.

Introduce yourself.

Again. Obvious. How are you going to manage a discussion community without letting people know you exist? You don’t have to do this the first day, but when you’re comfortable in your position and you’ve had time to settle into your new digs, write a nice discussion post to the community to say hi.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a personal’s ad, nor is it just a cover letter. You can let your hair down a bit now that you’ve scored the posish, but don’t let it down too much--yet. Let community members know what your job entails, how they can contact you, and that you look forward to working with them. 

Depending on the community culture--ahem--you can modify your intro with links to your work history on LinkedIn and other appropriate social content, photos, anecdotes, interesting facts, ad nauseam. Just be sure not to steal the show. Remember, the community isn’t about you, it’s about the community.

 Get your hands dirty.

Last and definitely not least: Get to work. Don’t wait for your members or clients to introduce themselves. Dig into their discussions, start making connections, listen for questions and help them find the answers. A good community manager doesn’t just share company announcements and remove discussion posts that violate the e-group rules. You’ve got the talents and the tools to connect the disconnected, answer the unanswered, and reorient the disoriented.

Now go on. You’ve spent too much time reading about how to be a community manager. Go take some chances, make mistakes, and get messy. Wishing you happy discussing and a merry community.

1 comment



Dec 15, 2020 03:42 PM

I've always seen good judgement referred to as more of a characteristic as a skill, but I think it's right to categorize it as a skill for community managers. Creating rules and procedures surrounding judgement calls can help us fortify this as a skill.

When the blog talked about the importance of " how the community is utilized, its structure and tone," and "how the community is expected to grow and evolve," I think another way to look at it is how to understand the connections among the community, the organization, and the community and organization's goals.

When introducing yourself to the community, it's important to do so after understanding "its structure and tone." It's important to fit into the existing context of the community and not "steal the show." This is only the start of a continual question community managers should ask themselves. How do you balance having passion for the brand and enabling the community with being an administrator and making judgement calls on community use?