When I first became the community manager at Brazen Careerist, I was less than enthused. Nobody could tell me exactly what the title meant, exactly what the job was, and so I had no idea where to start.
Five months later, the work has become the reason I get up in the morning. And the reason I keep working late at night. I also feel confident explaining what I can do for a startup in one word—bridge.
When companies, especially startups, get caught up in the hustle of post-funding mayhem, a sturdy bridge is what will keep you aligned with your loyal, pre-funding customers. And those loyal customers are important when you’re community building. It’s a messy and erratic job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
And while some companies think that community managers are pointless, there’s enough buzz about the position to make a few tips for success worth reading about.
Last week at SummerMash Austin, Dan Healy, our new sales guy, got a first-hand look at why being up on social media is so important. People don’t just wear nametags with their name on them anymore. They sport their Twitter I.D. as well.
While Twitter may be the hottest new thing among social media elite, young and old, the rest are just as important to know and understand if you want to be a great online community manager. Equip yourself on a variety of fronts and you’ll optimize how connected you and your community can be.
So LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace are just as important … okay, not MySpace.
Spending an hour of your day at a coffee shop with one person may be a waste of time for some people, but community managers need to learn to embrace it. I’ve gained some of my most valuable connections this way.
As a community manager, it’s your job to learn to embrace the individual because there’s not just one kind of customer in most online communities. Spend time with 1-2 people individually every week and you’ll see what I mean.
Some of your most valuable community members can easily go unnoticed if you let them keep quiet. Statistically speaking, about 25% of your community is going to be naturally introverted and slower to join the conversation, even virtually. It takes a little push to get some people engaged, but then they can’t stop engaging.
It’s your job to identify these members and find a way to get them more involved. Offer them help, or just encourage them from the sidelines. Don’t be pushy, but don’t be afraid to push either. There’s a difference, and it’s likely different for different people, too.
While you’re busy “embracing the individual,” start embracing their goals too. Find out what they’re looking to get out of branding themselves online, and use that information to help them achieve it.
Goals can range from starting a successful business to just expressing themselves as individuals. However lofty their goals may be, there’s always something you can do to help them out.
It’s quite likely that there will be members of your community without a clear goal or direction in mind, but with obvious potential for something bigger. And it’s your job to figure out what that something is.
Recognizing potential is almost natural if you’re accustomed to seeing the best in people right away. And if you have lots of A-team players in your life, you can probably identify high potential even in the youngest members of your community. Regardless it takes a little work, but the rewards can be unexpectedly huge.
Maybe you both have a dog, or maybe you share similar alma maters, or maybe you just both enjoy watching some hit T.V. show.
Whatever the case, it’s your job to find these commonalities. They’re a golden opportunity to connect on a personal level. And it shows people that you don’t see them as just another member of the community.
The problem with working in a business environment is that we all tend to act a little synthetic from time to time. But the one thing your community doesn’t need is more corporate jargon. Show them your authentic, softer side instead.
Whether it’s for a personal or professional purpose, communities are supposed to be fun, first. And community leaders are responsible for setting the tone so that goal is met for everyone.
You’re the spokesperson for your community. You’re responsible for speaking up to the business side of your company on their behalf, even if you end up feeling like the lone wolf, or just the boy crying wolf.
Don’t be afraid to bang heads and stir things up. At the end of the day, it’s what you’re being paid to do. And being the lone wolf is kind of cool anyway.
Tonight we’re hosting our first, fully-sponsored Brazen Careerist event in Washington D.C. and we’re all extremely excited. Having the opportunity to meet a room full of people that you’ve been working with online for months gives me goose bumps.
Community managers should make an offline community presence one of their top priorities. And don’t be afraid to think big either. Think Mashable big. The less you limit yourself, the more you’ll realize is possible as your community matures.
I should have made this #1, because if you can’t believe that what you’re doing makes a difference in people’s lives, you shouldn’t be doing it.
Traditionally, how we’re valued in the workplace stems from quantifiable results. But a community manager’s results aren’t always quantifiable, and that’s frustrating.
Keep your self-esteem high by reminding yourself that there would be a lot more problems if you weren’t around. You help people with problems that can’t be anticipated always, or even predicted, and it makes a difference.
My best days are when I receive genuine thanks from a person in my community regarding something I did that they thought I didn’t have to. And even though I knew I did have to, it means a lot knowing that it made a difference.