To be a good community manager, you must also be a problem solver, a conversation starter, and an organizational whiz. The ability to pick up on subtle differences in communication can mean the difference between your brand being in on the joke and being the butt of it.
Once I began to refine my skills as a community manager, they began to eke their way into my personal life. Suddenly, I became the go-to problem solver in my group of friends and my grocery list began being magically subdivided by food group. Life became a little more efficient.
But the one skill I became most proud of was my supreme listening abilities. Years of community management have helped me better understand the dance of conversation – and that’s meant more fulfilling engagement with friends, colleagues, and customers. Let’s break down how to become a better listener through your role as a community manager:
1. Be Present and Authentic
Picture this: It’s Monday morning after a long weekend. You’re standing by the water cooler listening to a colleague talk about some home improvement project they started over the weekend (Who knew there were so many ways to use pallet boards!?).
As they talk, your eyes start to glaze over. Your typical probing questions are replaced with “uh-huh” or “neat.” You start to drift away from the conversation.
We’ve all been there – but that doesn’t make it right! People want to be acknowledged and a conversation requires two (or more) participants. As a community manager, it’s imperative that you show interest in what users have to say. You need to participate in user-driven conversations.
That way, when it’s your turn to talk about a new promotion or contest, community members want to listen. Authentic engagement leads to stronger relationships.
Come Back to the Conversation
If a user has a question or problem that requires a bit of finesse, you’ll earn major bonus points by checking in on them a few days later. This will show that you genuinely care about their issue, and are doing everything you can to fix the problem.
The same goes for everyday conversations. If a friend or colleague shares good news with you, don’t let the conversation die there. Show that you were listening by returning to the conversation the next time you see that person.
Find the Nuances
Have you ever had an unruly customer who blasts your brand’s community for, seemingly, no reason at all? This is a situation I’ve encountered on a few occasions, and its taught me that people don’t always outright say what they want.
If a community member is complaining about their newest purchase, it could just be frustration from the learning curve that’s causing their outburst. By listening for nuanced language, you can find the source of their problem and provide a solution.
Try this tactic in your personal life too. Pose probing questions, offer a sympathetic ear, and don’t go on the defence.
Ask for Clarity
Do you remember that old comedy routine by Abbott and Costello called "Who's on First?" The baseball-themed skit features a first baseman named “Who,” which causes general confusion when the question “Who’s on first” is posed.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a circular conversation. If you’re having trouble understanding the needs of a community member, don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. Try posing a different stream of questions that will help you understand their initial inquiry.
This tactic works well in real life too. Simplify the topic, break it down, and look for ways to clarify the conversation.
Providing Value Builds Relationships
People love when you go the extra mile. Whether at home or at work, you can add value to any conversation by listening and reacting.
Give out freebies to community members that actively participate. Develop strategies to streamline customer response times. Answer questions and follow-up with users later.
In other words: show them that you’re listening.