Are you leading an online community? Maybe it’s through social media or through your own website.
Here’s the thing: whether you realize it or not, you are leading an online community.
Let’s be honest, managing an online community is tough. How do you keep up with all of the changes? From how to engage folks to what’s the best time of day to post, it’s a crazy role that changes, literally, daily.
There’s two ways to go wrong in thinking about community management:
1) Be the person who overthinks it.
2) Be the person who trivializes it.
I think there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle where we can truly engage our people and create fans who truly connect, share, and help folks. Managing a community well doesn’t just happen without intention. If only you had a list of things to focus on?
The easiest way to do this is through a survey. Create a survey. Keep it simple. Make it between one to three questions. Ask things like “what do you need most from this community?” or “what’s the biggest problem you’re facing?”
One digital community I worked with shifted their event survey from asking about opinions on various pieces of the event to asking people how it helped them achieve their goals and what pain points attendees had. People naturally want to talk about their problems. My client also had greater success printing the survey out on paper and collecting responses in person. In this case, it meant a lot of paper. But, they increased survey feedback from 200 replies to over 10,000 replies.
The simplest way to know your data is through analytics. For example, do you know what pages visitors are clicking on your website? Study your page views to see what folks are looking at. Once you know the top-performing pages and you understand the content on those pages, guess what? Write more about those topics.
Do you clearly state what value you offer your community? Here’s a great test: Can your community state clearly what they get from being part of your community? They can if you’ve clearly stated it. If you haven't already done this, create a list of how followers might benefit from being part of your community. I saw one group post on their event site a section called "Here's what you get". Isn't that what people are asking? Make it clear. Just tell people what they’re getting.
Have you ever been in a relationship where expectations are not clearly stated from the start? If you have, then you know, it becomes a horrible relationship pretty quick. Take a moment to write out what your community should expect from you and what you can expect from them. Yes, it’s okay to state what you expect from them as well. You might mention things like contribution and being helpful to the rest of the community, as one example.
You don’t have to do all of this on your own. Create a team approach by asking others to help you moderate your community, answer questions, and help take the load off of your shoulders. You might find your team members through this who contribute the most and help others in your community. I loved watching as one community engaged specific experts in each of their core content areas and trained them up as the moderators of each of those areas. This took a lot of stress off the main team and allowed for additional expert voices in the community to engage.
Often, we might just wait to see what people are going to do in our community before we engage much. Don’t do this. Take the lead and encourage content, shoulder tap subject matter experts you know, engage in content yourself, and help make connections with others in your community. This will be helpful to your followers.
My guess is, you already have certain people in your community who you can shoulder tap to help engage others. Start by making a list of who can help you intentionally engage. Then, take your list of folks and consider what they are best at—or what they’re most passionate about. Ask them to help you with a specific content topic.
This is so important. It matters much less what your post frequency is. But, whatever frequency you decide, it’s important you stay consistent. Look for a rhythm that fits you. Whether you post daily, once per week, twice a month, let your analytics speak to you as you go.
Content isn’t worth much if it isn’t useful. You live and breath this because you realize how to monetize a blog. Make sure you have tapped in to your community for what they are interested in and what questions they have. Once you have that information, it’s time to talk about those topics. One community has an annual gathering of some of their key experts, partners, and advocates to help them design their content strategy. That group sits down for an entire day of brainstorming and planning. After that meeting, they walk out with an entire year of action plans.
Sadly, there’s always a follower or two in any community who end up being malicious. Don’t sweat it. Consider your community and make sure you are intentional about addressing these types of followers. It’s your role to take care of any negative situation. There are times when you need to remove followers from your group. When that happens, see it as a teaching opportunity. Your true followers will thank you and be encouraged to engage even more because they will feel comfortable knowing you have their backs.
These are the ten (10) tried and true ideas I’ve found helpful to think through related to community management tips for authors and leaders. What would you add?
You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community which thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.
About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.