New Year’s resolutions for online community managers

by Martin Reed on 5 January 2010 in Articles

new year resolutions for community managers

Goodbye 2009, welcome 2010. It’s a New Year – a time to refocus, and potentially a good time for a fresh start. Allow me to propose some New Year’s resolutions for those that manage online communities:

Resolution #1 – Be more active in your community

Members love (and need) to see their community manager actively involved in the community. Don’t drop in solely to intervene or take punitive action against members. Be a genuine member of the community; get involved in discussions, share information about yourself. You need to be known in your community, and you can’t expect others to be involved if you don’t take the lead.

Resolution #2 – Reach out to community members every day

Aim to personally thank at least one individual member every day. This doesn’t need to be done publicly. Send them a private message thanking them for their recent contribution. Make it personal – you don’t want to send generic ‘thank you’ messages – they’re worthless. Be genuine; if a member has contributed something great, be sure to let them know.

Resolution #3 – Build more relationships

This will come naturally if you’re actively involved in the community. However, you shouldn’t just be looking inside your community to build relationships. Look outside the walled garden – people that you would love to have as members are out there and probably don’t know you exist. Reach out and build new relationships – some of them may join your community and be a huge asset. Even if they don’t, you’re still creating value – for yourself (knowledge) and them (awareness).

Resolution #4 – Be more generous

A good community manager is already more than generous with their time. I am still to meet the (skilled) community manager who thinks the job can be done well when they are only ‘on duty’ from 9am to 5pm. However, what I am referring to in this resolution is something more than just being generous with your time. It’s about giving, sharing and relinquishing control.

If your community has a blog, don’t refuse to link to an outside source because you consider them to be a competitor. Don’t delete links related to a discussion that members post (unless they’re obviously spam) even if they link to your competitors. Give your members more control and influence. The stronger a community is and the more trust you place in your members, the less of a threat your competitors become.

Resolution #5 – Continue to learn

There are no absolute experts when it comes to building online communities. I have 10 years of experience, but I’m still learning every day. I read the blogs of other community managers and I read their twitter streams. I learn from people that comment on this blog. Every week my existing ideas are challenged. Sometimes I agree with the arguments put forward and change my way of thinking. Other times I don’t. However, I am always willing to listen and learn.

Never think that you know all there is to know about online community management. There is always more. There are always other ways of thinking. Every community is different. Every individual is different. That’s what makes this line of work fascinating and exciting.

Bonus resolution #6 – Make it easier

Even if you think you already focus on the previous five resolutions, here is one you can always target. Make your online community easier to use. There’s always room for improvement here.

Work out what features aren’t being used and get rid of them. Find bottlenecks in your website and fix them. Go back to basics – anything that isn’t essential should go. Too many features and too much functionality can be a distraction. If you aren’t able to remove features, make sure you absolutely force yourself to justify any new ones.

Good luck, and here’s to a successful 2010!

Share this community building advice


Similar Posts

Previous post:

Next post:


Kai January 6, 2010 at 12:55 am

I think community managers can do something as simple as just dropping by to say hello!

I think #2 is very important because most people write generic messages. I remember making a huge contribution that made a big difference, and all I got was a “thanks”.

Nicole Price January 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

I stopped making new year resolutions many years ago, but these would be what I would make if I became a community manager. It would be nice to be treated this way!

Leila January 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Great advice, like usual. I like this site and Ive just recommended it on “AERCO”, the Spanish Association for Community Managers:

One of my resolutions, or goals for this year, is to get to contact someone who works for LinkedIn and can offer some personalized attention, maybe a reunion. I cant remember the number of times Ive tried to contact a “human being” who may answer emails from LinkedIn users, instead of the very impersonal process of sending a form, getting a reference number, waiting for an answer, getting no answer or completely useless machine-like answer. Ive tried to contact someone both in the name of the organization I work as a Community Manager for and in my own name, but Im still waiting. Any advice on this?

One of the rules we always mention for communities to work is the importance of listening to users and giving personalized attention. LinkedIn does all the opposite.

Thanks again, it feels great to be part of a growing community!

Mr Woc January 15, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Hi there

Some good thoughts that and great minds must think alike as I was just thinking about my communitys and how they needed livening up, I have even been thinking about how easy my sites are to use.

I plan to make some positive changes to all my sites in the coming months !

I would like to wish everyone a happy new year too !


Tommi Heinonen January 15, 2010 at 9:16 pm

CMs should be more accessible to the ordinary browsers like me. And by being around makes the community more active.

Nicole Price January 16, 2010 at 9:08 am

Leila, contacting a human being in these times of digitalized communications, is a pipe dream. I can not access anyone to attend to my banking problems or my mobile phone’s billing, leave alone any community’s human face. Linked in is a particularly difficult one!

Jen January 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Completely agree with point 1. I know this will sound bad (especially to those struggling to build new communities) but after several years of success it is very easy to fall into the trap of resting on your laurels. There are a couple upstart communities that have stolen a chunk of market share (I take full responsibility). Time to get back to work!

William Olsen January 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Very good thoughts and suggestions there. I think the important one is learning. Never ever stop learning. What ever the focus of your Online Community is, you need to keep researching, reading and learning.

Andrew January 22, 2010 at 2:23 am

Great post you have here! I think community managers should be a friend to everyone, great or small. To be approachable and to always be available, always there to lend a helping hand or even a shoulder to cry on.

Tom January 22, 2010 at 11:15 am

I’ve made a few resolutions for this year. I’ve promised to listen to my users more, to design the site with the users in mind – and not with revenue or search engines in mind. I’ve promised to get back to basics when it comes to dealing with users. I’ve promised myself to behave more like the community leader. These are promises I intend to keep.

The brand new FC is up and runnin. Within 2 days I’ve already got 200 genuine users signup to the new site. They’re loving it. The forums are buzzing already, people are happy we’ve got ChatBlazer back and rid of Parachat. Personally I liked Parachat, but my regulars never took to it.

I’ve promised to trust my users more, give them more communal responsibility. ChatBlazer has a fantastic new feature, if X amount of users ‘vote’ to kick someone, they get auto-kicked.

So if someone is causing trouble, instead of full grown adults having to run off and find a babysitter, instead, they can come together as a community and deal with it themselves by right clicking on their name and clicking “vote to kick”, and then ignore.

So my main resolution is to bring users together more with a feeling of community. A closer community means less fights and of course, a stronger community.

Nicole Price February 5, 2010 at 11:03 am

Tom, after my recent experience, I came back here to read your comment and have forwarded a link to the manager of a forum with which I am in dispute. I hope that he understands the ‘vote to kick’ and put in something similar!

Dave B February 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm

One nice touch is if you know key members birthdays. I short note on or right before their birthday is remembered by the member.

Kyle April 23, 2010 at 9:42 am

That’s a very good inspirational list you got there. In the past I hosted a few internet forums and the fell flat, If I would have implemented the things you said, and made myself follow the guidelines above, who knows how the forums may have taken off!