Are you thinking about building your own online community? Perhaps you want to get paid to manage an existing one. If you’re new to the role of online community management, read on – I’ll outline what you can expect.
Regardless of whether you’re building an online community from scratch or managing an existing one, be prepared for a lot of hard work. Don’t expect to write a forum post every now and then, delete the odd post and ban the odd member. There’s far more to it than that. In fact, much of your work won’t even be visible – you’ll spend most of your time behind the scenes.
Being an online community manager isn’t a 9 to 5 job. The internet doesn’t conform to the normal working week. You’ll have members log into your community at all hours. You’ll have people asking for help at all hours. There will be conflict at all hours.
You can’t be online all the time, but you will need to be flexible. If you want to work a regular schedule, being an online community manager isn’t for you. You’ll need to check into your community on a regular basis throughout the day (and often at night, too).
You’ll spend a lot of time encouraging, cajoling and persuading. Sometimes your pleas will work, other times they won’t. This can be frustrating – why won’t people listen to you? Why do members ignore your community guidelines? Why do some members enjoy nothing but conflict?
A good community manager will never show their frustration. They’ll always remain calm, cool and collected. You need to be human, but you need to remain professional.
It doesn’t matter whether your online community is targeted towards those aged 18 or 80 – you’ll come across your fair share of childish and immature behavior. You’ll likely be surprised at just how childish grown men and women can be – but this is part of the job.
You need to expect tantrums and bad behavior and you need to know how to deal with it, before it happens.
Tantrums tend to happen when members disagree with other members, or when you’re forced to intervene. You also need to be prepared for the abuse members will aim directly at you.
You should always encourage the community to deal with any conflict themselves. However, sometimes you’ll need to use your admin privileges to delete member content or even member accounts. When you need to do this, don’t expect that to be the end of the problem.
You need a thick skin if you want to be an online community manager on a long term basis.
Spam plagues almost all online communities. Some are better than others at dealing with it. Be prepared for spam, and remove it as fast as you can. Visitors will not join an online community that’s overrun with spam. Members will not want to stick around in a community full of spam.
You’ll need to put in place as many safeguards as possible to prevent automated spam. Make it easy for members to report spam and delete it quickly. Over time you’ll notice patterns – the email addresses spammers like to use, common IP addresses and links they like to post. Over time you’ll get better at preventing spam, but it will never stop.
If you manage a successful online community, prepare to be envied. Others will want a piece of your success – sometimes through devious means.
You’ll need to monitor your competition closely. You can be sure they’re watching you. Expect representatives from other sites to join your community and try to poach your members. Expect other online communities to paint your community in a negative light.
Don’t see competition as a threat – see it as an opportunity. Make sure your community is better than your competition, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Few people will understand what you do for a living. Some don’t respect the role of an online community manager – primarily due to ignorance. This will change over time, but for now you’ll be doing a lot of explaining. Not only will you be continuously explaining your role, you’ll also be fighting for your community within the organization you work for.
As an online community manager, you’ll never stop learning. You’ll learn about your members, you’ll learn about what works in your community, how your members respond to your suggestions and why they joined (and remain a member of) your community.
The role of a community manager is always changing. If you want to keep up, you’ll need to be learning all the time.
You’ll need to take risks every now and again if you want to succeed. You can’t just copy what other community managers are doing (although you should definitely be learning from them). You need to try new things for yourself, and that involves taking risks. Sometimes these risks will pay off, sometimes you’ll fail miserably. You never know unless you try – so make sure you try new things and take risks every now and again.
I’m not talking about financial reward (although you can earn yourself a pretty penny if you’re talented). Being a community manager can be the most rewarding job imaginable. People have married and had children after initially chatting at Just Chat. A community once managed by Angela Connor saw its members group together to raise $600 and prevent another member being evicted from their apartment.
When people come together, amazing things can happen. Being the manager of a community that does amazing things is an amazing feeling.
Being an online community manager will expose you to a number of emotions – good and bad. You’ll have days when you love every member of your online community as though they were family. There will be other days when you’ll want to pack it all in.
Being a community manager is an amazing opportunity. You get to connect with (and learn from) others you would probably never have met before. You get to introduce people to others, and you get the opportunity to change people’s lives. Be prepared for an emotional ride.