So, you need to hire an online community manager. That’s a tall order, no matter what your industry or company size. If you have never hired a community manager (also known as a CM) before, it can feel overwhelming.
Our world is no stranger to crisis, both natural and man-made. During times of crisis, our communities require special attention, strong leadership, and mutual support. As a community manager, it is not your job to do all of the things for your community, but rather to step back and allow members space for mutual aid. In a global crisis like the one currently occurring around the coronavirus pandemic, we all need support, including you.
“How do we get our members to participate?”
Countless organizational leaders have asked this question, pondering perhaps what combination of magic, behavioral economics, and persuasive techniques will convince people to become active community members. This is, of course, coercion; this is not community building.
A better question to ask is: “Under what conditions will our community be valuable enough to people that they want to participate in it?”
As Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, asserts: “If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.” Hoffman’s advice has become the gospel of the startup world.
Can community builders follow this same advice? The answer is yes, to an extent. You should not wait until your online community is “perfect” to announce its existence. “Perfect community” is a paradox. Just like launching a startup, you will want to invite in small groups of people to validate your community’s purpose and programs before a big splashy public launch. Yes, you need to launch your brand community with some uncertainty and do it anyway. Yes, you will learn a lot and iterate as you go.
How would you feel if you’d been a member for a community for years, but then started to suddenly feel disconnected from that community? In countless communities, it’s the most senior members who often feel the least sense of community.
So the question that community managers should be asking is, why is that?
Do you have a specific strategy for acknowledging your community members? If not, it may be time to think about how you want to demonstrate your gratitude.