How to: An Easy Guide to Online Community Management

A Community Manager is someone who takes responsibility for somewhere where people interact online. They often work for a company, trying to aggregate members of certain communities into their community of followers. All Journalists nowadays need to be community managers if we’re going to successfully foster a community of blog readers.

This Infographic is a fun explanation of what a Community Manager does:

The Pinata

The problem with giving out sweets is that they’ve got to be the sweets your community want. With a bit of research that’s fairly straight-forward. After all, when starting the community, we got to know them, fostered growth and understand who they are.

But are the sweets going to encourage members to be active – or will they just take?

I’m a Community Manager of Local Story Swap. I came up with the idea from finding aspiring journalists online. It’s already an active community and one common reason they come online is to find stories. Most aspiring journalists start in local media, so stories need to be very local. Local Story Swap allows people to share stories they can’t use in their locality, and use ones other users post that are in their area. The twitter page has 250 followers and 136 people viewed the site on its first day.

However, the problem I’m having is encouraging the community to post their stories. I know the community has stories, and I know that they need stories, but the competitive edge means users are reluctant to give them away to others. I’ve set up a Hall of Fame so the first posters will be forever immortalised in the site’s history, but it hasn’t worked.

The carrot hasn’t worked and I’m reluctant to try the stick….any ideas on a more creative pinata? Something like bubblegum, that will actually stick them to the site! Please leave your comments below if you’ve experienced similar problems or have any ideas!

Responding to Community Analysis

My analysis found that the community I’d fostered wanted to hear stories, but didn’t want to give them. My next step was to encourage people to talk. I created an area where aspiring journalists could just talk, announcing their presence on the site. The idea is that if they’re friends, they’ll be more inclined to help each other. That might not work, but it’s had a better success rate that my previous efforts! The next step is to approach communities that want to tell their stories and enable them to meet the community of Journalists who’ve now started interacting on the site.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

Don’t assume users will grow organically –make a community

The individuals are out there, but it takes effort to bring them together. Sometimes it just takes a few people conversing to give others’ the confidence to join the conversation.

Use personal relationships to ask people to become members

I asked people I was already in conversation with to help me out by starting the conversation. The people I asked were already aspiring Journalists, so I targeted people I thought would have a genuine interest in posting on the site, but knowing me already and being asked by me personally meant they were more willing to do something for me.

Build personal relationships with members

Managing this community doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Accept that you know no more than each member of your community. Be human. Thank them for their advice and opinions. A good community manager won’t need to force this, because we’re passionate about the people in our community.

Foster a core group of ambassadors

When Nick Lockey told me this is how Flickr started, the penny dropped! The more I’ve put it into practice, the more I’ve realized how crucial it is. I wish I’d done it sooner! The first members will set the tone for everyone else. Start by asking people you already know in that community to do something specific. For me, this was asking them to post something about themselves and what area they were looking for stories in. You could ask them to

  • do a poll
  • give advice or
  • give their opinion.

It must specific though! People are more inclined to do something they can do in a few minutes.

So the lesson I learnt:

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A conversation can grow organically, but a good community manager starts the conversation – even if it’s manufactured.

Have you learnt from a community you’re managing? Have you got any ideas on how I can find a community of people who have stories to tell, and how to join them with my community of Journalists? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments box below.

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