It’s not uncommon for us to hear community leaders complain about the workload and time requirements of running their community.
Whether their community has 100 or 10,000 members, every leader wants their people to feel heard and supported. If you’re a new or smaller community, this may seem like a simple enough job to tackle alone. But when your business starts gaining momentum and memberships start increasing, managing your community is bound to get a little more challenging. Managing a community of 100 people is significantly different than managing one of 10,000. It’s time to get help!
Many community leaders feel like they’re required to be in their community 24/7 to provide maximum value.
This causes many of them to feel pressured to spend as much time as possible in there, responding to comments, fueling engagement and trying to actively prop up the entire operation on their own. Unfortunately, taking on all this weight on your own can lead to burnout and resentment.
A community doesn’t have to be a monarchy – and it probably shouldn’t be!
A healthy community isn’t dependent on the effort of any single person. In fact, your member experience can become that much richer when you enlist the help of others.
In this chapter, we’ll discuss strategies to help you make community engagement a team effort within your business or organization.
We see many businesses where the community is single-handedly managed by either the business owner, the customer service department, or a dedicated community manager.
The rest of the business’ employees have their own separate purpose and roles, and rarely deviate outside of their established routine.
But here’s the thing – by keeping your tech experts, designers, customer service team and management staff outside of your community, you’re missing out on a valuable and untapped resource. Your employees can provide extra value by engaging with your community from unique angles that you may not come up with on your own.
What kind of roles you establish for other people involved in the operation of your community may vary depending on your specific business needs. However, they will generally fit into one of three
Generally, this is a more technical role. An administrator is in charge of maintaining the technical, back-end aspects of the community such as website maintenance, backups and user access, etc.
- Web administrator
- Systems specialist
- Technical support
Those who take on moderating roles are responsible for content production and publication, customer service, and rule enforcement. Their job is typically focused around encouraging engagement proactively and ensuring that the community adheres to its establish guidelines.
- Member moderator
- Customer care
- Community manager
We’re huge on team effort, and firmly believe that getting your whole crew involved enriches your community experience. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in the value of a good community manager! There are definite advantages to having someone dedicated to watching and responding to the needs of your community. They help regularly groom it into a unique and valuable resource, while remaining a constant presence that your members will become familiar and comfortable with. Another benefit is that one dedicated person that is involved daily will often be able to spot community opportunities that others might miss. A community manager can also help guide how the rest of your team gets involved with the community, and act as a sounding board if any doubts or questions arise.
At the same time, we believe it’s important for your business to strike a balance. It’s dangerous for your community to become dependent on a single person – even if that person is you!
3. Knowledge Provider
Guest experts who regularly contribute specialized information and conversation in your community, but are not involved in moderating it. They can be members of your team, business connections or industry experts.
- Guest contributor
- Industry expert
- Strategic partner
A note for solopreneurs
This section is written primarily for businesses that have a dedicated team. However, if you’re working solo, there is still some valuable content in this chapter that could prove beneficial as your community grows and evolves. If you learn these things now, you can establish a solid framework for when you do have a team!If you’re currently a one-person operation, consider recruiting the help of industry peers, business partners or guest stars. No one expects you to have the answer to every question under the sun, and bringing in guest stars from your industry can help fill any gaps in the content you provide your members. These extras give your members a boost of value that will help your community feel well-rounded and enhance your members’ experience overall.
Getting your team involved benefits your community and your business in multiple ways. It helps your team stay in-tune with their audience, leading to improved work performance. It can help them identify job-specific needs faster than you or your community manager could, since they have the expertise to spot key issues that you or a community manager may miss. It also allows them to feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, and not just a cog in your business’ machine. Finally, it provides them with the chance to see the fruit of their labor through the eyes of the members enjoying it.
4 Tactics to Encourage Team Involvement
1. Give your team specific community assignments.
These could include:
- Challenge them to identify someone in the community struggling with a specific problem that their expertise could help solve.
- Have them pose a question to the community that is relevant to their role on your team.
- Ask them to find one member in the community deserving of praise, and lavish it on them.
- Put them in charge of welcoming new community members for a week.
- Get them to contribute their expertise as appropriate in the form of tutorials, interviews, demos, Q&A sessions, etc.
- Have them reach out to members who aren’t engaging as much as you’d like.
2. Set aside a specific time every week for each team member to mingle in your community.
Put it in your team’s calendar/scheduling/task management tool! Once you’ve decided on a handful of specific tasks for your team (see above), put your team on a rotating schedule so that they’re not doing the same thing every week. Make sure that these tasks are spread out over the week so that someone from your team is always contributing. Scheduling time specifically into their workload helps ensure your team doesn’t feel like they’re forgoing their primary jobs for community time, or taking on an extra burden.
3. Have your employees recap their contribution, or something that they’ve learned from the community during your team meetings.
4. Reward team engagement! Set up a program where you regularly reward the team member with the most valuable or commented on community contribution.
Another bonus of getting your team involved: your community loves it! It’s always interesting to see the inner workings of a business. When your employees are truly inspiring and connecting with your community, your members will come to naturally admire you and your team members.
Before you set your employees, guest stars or community moderators loose in your community, it’s important to set up some guidelines for them to follow. They are representatives of your business inside the community.
Setting some clear boundaries for what is/isn’t appropriate will help keep your community values streamlined and ensures that all your employees are on the same page. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- What kind of responsibilities are required of your contributors/moderators/team members?
- How much time per day/week/month are they required to spend actively contributing/moderating?
Contribution and Conduct Requirements
- How many posts are your team members and/or contributors expected to publish every week/month?
- Are they up to speed with your code of conduct?
Managing conflict depends on the kind of behaviour, posts, topics and language you allow in your community. As your community grows, it’s important to establish a code of conduct for how everyone inside of your community is expected to behave, and keep it easily accessible for all of your members. Dealing with a member conflict is often a case-by-case procedure, but all of your moderators should have a good grasp on how to move forward sensitively when handling escalations.
When establishing guidelines, give your contributors some general rules to follow:
- Be respectful. Always foster a positive, diverse community. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say face to face.
- Be constructive. Even when you need to be critical, remain positive and supportive.
- Stay on topic. Avoid divisive subjects like politics, religion, or crime (unless they are relevant to your business).
- Don’t take the bait! Don’t allow someone else to intentionally provoke anger.
- Be yourself. It’s okay (and in many communities, encouraged!) to inject a little personality if it’s reflective of the community’s values..
- When in doubt, ask your community leader.
Smaller communities will be able to keep their guidelines short, sweet and simple. However, the more detail you provide in your community outline (especially as you grow), the better your moderating team will be at operating on their own. Larger communities will likely require a much more detailed guideline -- as your memberships increase, so will your likelihood of being confronted by unique challenges.