Why Community Managers Should Leverage The 80:20 Principle


A fellow community manager and friend, Carrie, wrote a great post not too long about community manager self care. In this post, she includes a bunch of tips for how to fend off burnout.

This list is excellent and includes several suggestions including regular exercising, taking at least 30 minutes of “me-time” every day, taking a break when you are feeling stuck, and journaling.

I couldn’t help but think how one thing was missing from this list. That’s delegation and automation. This is admittedly a skill that I have historically sucked at. It’s only in the last year or so that I have really started to embrace it. It’s made the biggest difference in how many hours I work, my fulfillment in the work that I’m doing and my sanity.  As someone who routinely used to clock 60+ hours a week in my first couple years as a community manager, working smarter and figuring out how to automate and delegate some tasks has been the answer to fend off burnout and get better results. Sure, there are still a few weeks that I burn the midnight oil and work 60+ hours, it’s now very much the minority and reserved only for tight project deadlines or events.

One of the first things people think of when it comes to delegating is learning to say “NO” to all the projects that aren’t HELL YEAHS! However, this isn’t always possible, as there will be tasks and projects that you should work on or need to do that may not excite you 100%. For example, you probably can’t tell your boss that you are going to stop running weekly or monthly reports just so you can free up an extra hour and because you hate doing them.  That’s probably not going to lead to a favorable outcome. There are going to be some tasks that you have to do that aren’t going to excite you, but are still critical to being successful as a community manager. You simply cannot be a great community manager if you are not tracking the results of the initiatives that you are working on. For the love of all things holy, please make those results in your reports tie back to revenue numbers (i.e. is your initiative bringing in more sales? Or cutting costs and/or improving retention?)

I digress a bit. Saying no to some extra projects is a good first step. That’s probably not going to be enough. That’s where it pays to get smarter about delegating and automating all the work that you can. It’s probably a lot more than you originally thought you could automate. If there is one thing I’m learning is that you can pretty much automate or delegate anything that doesn’t require directly managing relationships or interacting with community members.

If you really want to get good at knowing when and what to delegate, spend time with a friend or mentor who is an entrepreneur or small business owner. By default, they have to be master delegators. Even if you think you are superman or superwoman (news flash, you aren’t), you simply cannot do it all. The best entrepreneurs know how to manage their time, energy and resources on the 20% of strategies and tasks that net 80% or more of the results. This is commonly known as Pareto’s Law or the 80:20 Principle.

As community managers, I think this is something that most of us can do A LOT better. It’s easy to think you should do all the things and be everything to everybody. So, we take on that extra task for our coworker? Or, agreed to do that one more report? Or, put together that new presentation? Or, write 3 blog posts each week when one post from us and two from within our community would net the same or greater results.

If you are a type A classic overachiever- like myself – it can sometimes feel like delegation and automation are dirty little shortcuts.  Like you are cutting corners on the wrong things or maybe sacrificing “great” for “just good enough.”  The reality is that you may be sacrificing 100% for 70% on some tasks, but those are likely the tasks that are more basic or tied to the small wins. It’s 100% necessary to sacrifice great for “average” on some tasks if you are want to free up valuable time to focus on strategies that net big community wins. Big community wins are the things that can help you scale your community team, give you a bigger budget to work with and potentially lead to a raise or promotion. Small wins lead to coasting in your role, not growing as much as you could be and essentially doing the same thing day in and day out.

I think even some really great community managers get stuck in the small community wins sandbox. Here’s some signs that you are stuck in the small wins pool.

  • You are doing the same exact tasks that you were doing six months ago .The community industry is changing so flipping fast, that if you are doing the same things you have been doing for 6+ months. There’s a really good chance you are getting left behind or thinking too small.
  • You haven’t had even a modest raise in the last 12 months.
  • You haven’t been promoted in the last 12-18 months.
  • If you have been doing community for more than 2 years and you still spending more than 50-75% of your total workweek on pure tactics, such as writing tweets, finding stock images, replying to comments, etc.
  • All of your core community metrics are either growing in the single-digits or have flat-lined for an extended period of time.
  • You feel like you can’t go on vacation for a few days without the community going to shit.

The good news is if you are stuck thinking too small, this is something you can change if you put in the effort to make the changes.

In order to make those changes, the first thing you need to do is figure out exactly where you are spending your time each day. It’s probably not exactly what you thought.  Then, you can begin to identify repeatable tasks that can be automated (more ideal) or delegated.  While this will vary greatly depending on the stage and type of community, here’s some sample tasks that can be automated.  

It’s about freeing up some of the day-to-day tasks that you have been doing for months at a time without needing more budget from your boss or adding more people to your team. In turn, this will free up your time to THINK BIGGER and more strategically on initiatives that can have much BIGGER WINS.

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Jessica Malnik

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