Hold your horses, community manager!

by Martin Reed on 17 August 2011 in Snippets

One of the most important traits of a good community manager is patience. You need to be patient with members, you need to be patient when encouraging relationship building and you need to be patient waiting for conversations to develop.

Unfortunately, patience is rarely seen on the list of desirable skills for a community manager (normally because employers want quick results). Consequently, I come across a large number of online communities where the community manager is effectively running the show.

As a community manager, you shouldn’t be at the top of the ‘Top Posters’ list. You shouldn’t be the one starting all the conversations. You shouldn’t be the first (or only) responder to every conversation. A good community manager is more involved ‘behind the scenes’ – they’ll alert members to relevant discussions and encourage members to get involved instead.

If you’re the loudest voice in your online community, vow to make a change (yes, you can do this even if your community is small). Instead of responding immediately to new discussions, reach out to other members and invite them to respond instead. If you think of a good idea for a new discussion topic, nominate another member to share their thoughts on the subject and get the conversation started.

Don’t be the loudest voice in your online community. Work hard to make sure you don’t become your community’s most important member. Patience and being able to wait are powerful (and rare) skills.

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Beata A. August 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Thanks for this little reminder: *alert members to relevant discussions and encourage members to get involved instead*

That means, “Send a personal message!”, which I think is something that community managers (myself included) often forget. :) We’re so busy thinking up posts and discussions for the forum at large that we forget to check in with the individuals who are contributing.

Ana Lewis August 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I need to file this one at the FRONT of my head. I always have this concept in my head that I have to be the life of the party – keep it rolling along. When it’s a lot more freeing and more community-oriented to let others lead and take the reins when they feel the urge. Thank you again. Love and appreciate your tips.

Lace Llanora August 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Hi Martin,

I enjoyed reading this post. Yesterday, one of our community members shared a YouTube video about leadership and I think it’s one we community managers can learn about.

Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ

It’s not about us, it’s about them :)


Denise Grier August 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

Great points. It reminds me of what a boss of mine said one time and it applies here,”If you are doing your job well you needn’t spend time supervising, your people will supervise themselves.”

Paul August 24, 2011 at 11:39 am

Which community platform do you recommend? I have been wanting to start an online community for the last 6 months but can’t see through all the smoke out there. I’m considering buying the Pack. Any help or point to a specific post is greatly appreciated.

Martin Reed - Community Manager September 1, 2011 at 11:39 am

Depends on the goals you have in mind and what type of community you want to build. For the full ‘social networking’ experience and to keep away from the technical aspect, you might want to take a look at Ning.

Mel Lifshitz August 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Yeah. Being a community manager, you should not become the center of attraction in your group. It would be difficult if you’ll become the most important member because you won’t get the sympathy and alliance of all the members. It’s better to go neutral.

Barry Wheeler August 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm

You’re so right. The more you sit back and allow conversations to develop, the more natural they will be.

There is something to be said for allowing people to be themselves rather than directing them in their conversations.

Jeff August 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

This sounds very interesting but I am wondering how this is different from building something like a fanpage where like minded people gather as a community? How can this help us, would we create a new forum as a new outlet and manage that instead of or as well as a fanpage?

Martin Reed - Community Manager September 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

If your fanpage is meeting your community building goals, I see little point in expanding it into a new forum.

Jeff September 29, 2011 at 8:18 am

That’s good, just focusing on one outlet is time consuming enough :)

Colt Newman September 8, 2011 at 8:28 am

I’m playing this browser game (no namecalling) and their public beta started 9 months ago. They already burnt 2 community managers and now community manager #3 is making an attempt. It really is a tough job. The two previous community managers weren’t honest and just like announcers of the marketing. The crowd didn’t like that. I’m sure marketing learnt the lesson, this third community manager honestly speaks out when there is trouble.

Justin September 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I have been reading articles lately that advise community managers and moderators to respond to their guests and to also facilitate more interaction between members of the community. It seems this is a widespread issue with community managers monopolizing the conversation. I like blogging because it allows me to be exposed to my visitors’ perspectives. Every once in a while…I learn something. :)

Alease Michelle September 19, 2011 at 5:18 am

I agree. The conversations between the community become so much more interesting, new ideas spur and other topics arise. Thanks for the reminder.

Terry Smith September 22, 2011 at 10:49 am

Being the main focal point is difficult at best. I have tried and failed to manage a group of wid minded free thinkers, it is not easy. Thanks for the downloads and information i can use for future endeavors.

Eric Ellis September 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I think a good portion of your personality can still come across online. In other words be the type of person that people like and listen to. I don’t think you need to be invisible, just not overbearing.

Agung Dugaswara September 23, 2011 at 1:43 am

One of my problems when I run an online community for my company in Indonesia is a low respond from the member, so I always become the person who starts the discussions or in another word I always become the loudest man in there.
After reading this article I try to reach out the other members and invite them to respond, but still it has no good at all. Should I be more patience? Or do you have another suggestion? Or maybe in some place (ex. Indonesia) online community is still not familiar.
But thanks for the information.

Martin Reed - Community Manager October 5, 2011 at 3:16 pm

This is typical in newer communities. Putting one or two members in charge of creating new content may get the ball rolling. Additionally, make sure members who create new content always receive a response.

Fabian Lock October 13, 2011 at 12:47 am

Which community platform do you recommend? I have been wanting to start an online community for the last 6 months but can’t see through all the smoke out there
Help me please
thanks for this post

Martin Reed - Community Manager October 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

There are lots of different platforms that serve different needs – it really depends on the type of community you’re looking to build, and what kind of functionality you’re after.

Tommy T May 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Similar to what I posted on your most recent article, I agree wholeheartedly, this is where I went terribly wrong. I was the loudest, most visible presence on the forums. People relied on me to get discussions going, to get banter going. Once I had posted a reply to a topic, suddenly there’d be a dozen replies from members within 5 minutes, but had I not replied first – it could have been hours before anyone else posted.

I’ll definitely be taking a different approach in my new project.

Of course I don’t condone alter ego’s (*cough*), but I will add that any community manager who is struggling to encourage their members to post and reply on their own accord without the cue from their leader – create a ‘new user’ yourself, post half a dozen times a day. Post new topics, reply to topics other members have posted. Just don’t let your community catch you ;)

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