Welcome to a five part series about Community Management. In the coming weeks we will be sharing some of the fundamentals of community management.
The most important part of community management is you, the community manager. How will you interact with your community? The community manager position is relatively new but should be taken very seriously. A community manager is on the front lines and has to wear many hats ( PR, support, moderation, crisis management, etc.) and also be savvy about different online tools.
Then there is the whole aspect of community interaction. How should you, as a community manager, interact with your community? How will you present yourself? The best philosophy, or way to approach the role of community management is to be yourself. People can read through the phoniness or creepiness of a corporate voice.
The importance of 'authenticity' cannot be overstated. Even though your end goal might be to increase sales or customer satisfaction, it will be an uphill battle getting people to join you in building an active community if your persona is that of cold corporate drone. People are smart and will not want to spend time on a community run by robots.
Find a voice that lets you be yourself while still representing your employer's brand. A good community manager can interact with people in a way that is empathetic and personable while always being consistent with the brand's objectives, culture, and policies.
One of the first things you will want to do as a community manager is to spend time on your profile. While it might seem like a small thing, your profile sends an important message to the community. Choose a username that is either your real name, a nickname or something playful. It's weird to talk to Acme Inc or make a close connection with Admin #4.
In conjunction with a real name, choose an avatar that shows your personality. No one wants to interact with a company logo. Make it a clear photo, or something that showcases your personality. Obviously, in a business community, a headshot might be more appropriate than a shot of Mickey Mouse. The choice of avatar is the visual representation behind your words, so choose wisely, and in keeping with the kind of community you hope to have or build.
When it comes to non-community forum profiles (like on social media), if you decide (or are required) to use a corporate logo as an avatar, make sure people can tell who the person is behind that logo. You need to make it obvious that it's people interacting with people. So while you avatar pic might be a logo, sign your posts with a name and link to a page that has community manager profiles or bios.
Once you have an authentic profile, you will want to ensure your "community voice" is real. Keep the marketing speak or corporate words out of your posts. You want to ask questions, be curious and listen. Most importantly, you want to ensure that the content you share provides value. Sure sometimes you need to share information for your company, but you can also post a funny photo or maybe even an insight or two (that you are allowed to share). Who doesn't want to feel like they are getting the inside scoop or being asked for ideas about how to make something better?
Finally, engage with others in a real way. Try to reply to people when they mention you. Introduce members to others who may have common interests. Think of it like a big cocktail party and you are the host. You will want to make sure everyone is having a good time with a cold drink and something good to eat. You cannot just sit in the corner and listen to your MP3 player. Your job is to keep things moving but you will eventually want it to get it self-sustaining, so helping people make connections will increase stickiness.
Remember, a community is full of members who are real people, with other places to be. You want to be real and make it enjoyable. So be honest, be yourself and build a two-way dialogue that is real with your community.
So in conclusion, begin by being authentic, so you are starting on the right foot. Do you have other tips on being authentic? Share them in the comments. Don't forget to check back for our next tip: How to on-board new members.