New To Community Management? 15 Community Pros Share Their Best Tips For Brand New Community Managers

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I stumbled into community management purely by accident about 6 years ago. I didn’t go to college for community management or marketing or even public relations. (I was a journalism major if you were curious). In fact, when I was 21, I still thought I wanted to be a newspaper editor. Thankfully, I had enough foresight to realize that working 80 hours a week writing mainly obits and stories about City Commission meetings to “pay my dues” for 10 years might not be my thing. So, I joined a little site called Twitter back in 2008. I was pretty quick to dismiss it saying this is a the stupidest site ever. I mean, who really cares about what I ate for breakfast? Needless to say, my initial thinking was wrong. (Definitely not the first time and surely not the last). To this day, I openly admit Twitter changed everything for me. 

Most of my connections and community management advice in those early days started online on Twitter and then slowly branched offline. Back in 2009 and 2010, there was no weekly #cmgrhangouts, or CMX or SPRINT or CMXSummit. Heck, Jenn Pedde and Kelly Lux didn’t even start cmgrchat until late 2010, I think.

While people getting started in community management today have so many more awesome resources at their disposal, there is still so much more that can be learned by just being around other community managers. I recently chatted with more than a dozen community pros and asked them one question. The question: “What’s one tip that you would give to a brand new community manager?” Here’s their responses.

Ryan Paugh
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Invest in developing tangible skills beyond the softer skill sets that most community managers have by nature. A example of this might be something like managing WordPress websites or basic Photoshop design. These investments in yourself will give you more career stability and make you an indispensable community manager for your company.”[/box]

Jaime Morocco
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Network as much as you can with other community managers! The great thing about community is that it translates so easily through different companies and industries. You can easily apply community tactics that work well in one industry, into another. That being said, be as helpful to other community members as possible! People will remember you for helping them and be more willing to help you out when you need it.”[/box]

Sherrie Rohde 
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Find a mentor. Mentorship is not emphasized enough but it is so key when mastering any skill. Never assume that you don’t need a mentor and never feel weak for having one. Once you find a mentor, remember that mentorship is a two-way relationship and learn where you can contribute. I highly recommend reading Mastery by Robert Greene to better understand mentor-mentee relationships and how to make the most of one.”[/box]

Kate Kendall
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]Learn how to communicate what you’re doing and articulate the business value of your work to your clients and team members. Community building takes a lot of time – it can be more art, less science and hard to gather data to show its direct impact. The more you can highlight growth, retention, user happiness, decreased churn and so forth in a concise and assertive way – the more you will be heard and backed internally.”[/box]

Patrick O’Keefe 
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Understand who you exist to serve. Your job isn’t to make everyone happy. Your community is a specific group of people looking for a particular thing. That could be a wide net or a small one, but it’s still a net. If you chase after everyone, you’ll be left with no one.”[/box]

Nathaniel Padgett 
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Be patient. Community building is one part listening, one part content generation and two parts experimentation. You can’t expect everything you do to work overnight. Take the long view with your projects and stick to the plan you created, even if the initial results don’t turn out as you would have hoped. Move on when you need to, but don’t switch course prematurely.”[/box]

Wesley Faulkner 
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Focus more on analytics. That has always been the least emphasized part of the education, but it is the most important part for those who evaluate the effectiveness.”[/box]

Bas van Leeuwen
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Manage up! If you can’t show that you and your community are valuable; you won’t be.”[/box]

Sarah Nagel 
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Think big picture. Take into account the goals of the organization and connect what you’re doing each day to those. I think a lot of the quick tasks (eg: responding to customers, curating and posting content) that fall under the responsibility of the community manager can be very distracting from setting meaningful metrics that will help define the value of your job. Understanding and being able to explain to your boss how social media and building community lend to moving the organization forward is crucial to a successful career in this field.”[/box]

Sarah Hawk 
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Be prepared to make mistakes. Never be afraid to give things a go for fear of getting them wrong. Try new things and be ready to pivot if they don’t work out. Hold your breath and jump.”[/box]

Laura Gluhanich
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Listen! The most important thing to do is have ongoing conversations with active users and potential users in your community. They should drive and support any decisions you make regarding the direction of the community.”[/box]

Tim McDonald
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Anyone new to community management or taking on a community manager role should always take time to understand what the organization’s goals are up front. Start with the goals and build a strategy that will help meet those goals.”[/box]

Erica Moss 
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]“Listen and be a sponge. There are so many great resources out there like CMX Hub on Facebook, #cmgrchat on Twitter, the community managers channel on Slack, and the email newsletter We Support NYC — there is no shortage of content as well as people who are willing to share tips and best practices. Take advantage of their expertise, meet them for coffee & ask questions!”[/box]

Alison Groves
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”Take care of yourself. It’s *very* easy to feel like this is a 24/7 job, and to some degree, it is. We want to help our communities because we truly care about them, and sometimes that’s easy to get wrapped up in and we forget to take care of ourselves. Recruit your boss or another teammate to help you out just a bit, and get a plan in place for how to handle things when you take a vacation, need to take a sick day, etc. Even that peace of mind knowing someone has your back can take a huge mental load off your day to day life.”[/box]

Aurelien Poma
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]”While this may be obvious nowadays thanks to all the resources available, back in 2002 when I started it wasn’t necessary clear: Your primary role is about getting people talking to each other. You need to engage your community first, then the rest will come later regardless of what goal you are trying to achieve (Call Centre cost reduction, Ideas generation, Events attendance, Feedback, etc…) As a matter of fact your only goal in the early stage of a community should be to create engagement.”[/box]

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Jessica Malnik

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