A Day in the Life of a Community Manager
The life of a community manager tends to have some fairly similar tasks, whether paid or volunteer. Community Management can be a piece of Social Media Marketing and Management, but it doesn’t, strictly, have to be.
A Community Manager’s time mainly divides up into three different modes:
- Nurturing and
The discussing piece involves creating new discussions and shepherding them along. Users will not return, day after day, without new content. While the users are, ultimately, responsible for the content in a community, the Community Manager should create new content as well. This is not always topics as it can also encompass changes to the site’s blog (if any) and Facebook fan page (if it exists).
The discussing piece evolves as the community evolves. In a tiny community of fewer than one thousand users, the Community Manager’s content may turn out to be the only new content for weeks! As such, it can loom very, very large, but can also have a much stronger ameliorative effect if the other content being created is overly snarky.
As the community grows, the Community Manager’s contributions should proportionately diminish but there should still be some involvement. Otherwise the Community Manager can be seen as hanging back a bit too much. It is a Community, and that means that the users want to know the Manager(s). An easy and relatively safe way to do this is by creating discussions.
On Topic/Off Topic
And the discussions need not always stay on topic! Lively discussions can be almost spun from whole cloth if the Manager can get the people talking. An automotive community might thrill to talking about cooking. A cooking community might engage in an animated discussion about the Olympics. And a sports community could very well bring its passion to a topic like politics.
In particular, if the community is single-subject-based (e. g. about, say, Coca-Cola), going off-topic should probably at least peripherally relate to the overall subject. Hence Coke can branch out into cooking and, from there, perhaps into family relationships. Or into health and fitness. But a push to discussing politics may not fly unless the discussion is based on a major recent news item or if there is precedent for it.
Finally, if a member is ill, or has passed on, getting married or having a child, an off-topic discussion can spring naturally and effortlessly. This happens regardless of the community’s main subject matter. Corporate management may not absolutely love off-topic discussions but they keep a community together, and keep it viable.
The nurturing piece relates to the discussing aspect. However, it tends to encompass responding to and supporting good discussions on the site. If the Community Manager should identify certain superstar users who are good at making topics who the community likes.
And then nurture them to promote those persons’ discussions over more inferior ones. Use nurturing power to encourage newbies and members who might be on the cusp of becoming superstar users if they only had a little more self-confidence, and a track record of support and positive reinforcement.
The Life of a Community Manager and Relationships
Nurturing can also take the shape of developing relationships with members. The Community Manager doesn’t have to be friends with everyone, even if the site is very small. However, they should get to know the users. Private messages (if available), writing on a wall (if possible) or otherwise somewhat intimately communicating with the membership can accomplish this.
Furthermore, the Community Manager can use private messages, etc. as a means for heading off potential problems at the pass. Headstrong members might be perfectly wonderful if/when they write on topics not related to their overarching passion. The Community Manager can encourage those members to participate in those other discussions and also to reach out to other community members. Friendship can help to minimize flaming.
And that leads into the disciplining part, which is often the first thing that people think of when they think of community management. That includes things like pulling spam. It also includes giving users timeouts or even outright suspending them when their actives contravene a site’s Terms of Service. And it also includes shunning and ignoring. These can be extremely powerful. The Community Manager can help to mobilize other users.
But Do It Right
An email or private message campaign is almost always a very poor idea. Rather, the Manager must lead by example. Don’t take the bait when challenged, unless it’s absolutely necessary (rare). It’s the Community Manager’s call when to take it, particularly if personal insults fly. Often the best tactics include: (a) get offline and cool off and (b) ask another Community Manager or Moderator to determine if it warrants disciplinary action. And then enforce that if it is.
One thing a Manager should never forget: there is far more to the community than just the people posting. There is often a far larger audience of lurkers, both registered and unregistered. They are watching events unfold but rarely comment. By leading by example, the Community Manager can influence not only active posters but also the community at large.
Customer Service is Key for a Community Manager, Even if the Forums are Free and There are no Real ‘Customers’
During a typical day, new members register. And members lose their passwords, start and respond to topics. Furthermore, they answer older topics, and people engage in private communications (if permitted on the site). Members may disagree on something and they may do so vehemently. The site may get spam.
The Community Manager should mainly become involved as a content creator if content creation lags or goes too far off subject. He or she should discipline difficult members if necessary. However, generally, a Community Manager‘s main task, both daily and over the life of the community, should be to carefully nurture and shape relationships.