The ultimate guide to community management

Humans are social beings. We have an intrinsic need to meet peers, learn from experts, and challenge our viewpoints with different perspectives. That’s what makes online communities so powerful because they tap into our desire for connection in trusted spaces away from the noise of social media.  But before you build those connections, you need […]

The ultimate guide to community management

Humans are social beings. We have an intrinsic need to meet peers, learn from experts, and challenge our viewpoints with different perspectives. That’s what makes online communities so powerful because they tap into our desire for connection in trusted spaces away from the noise of social media

But before you build those connections, you need to grow your community. Community management is a major part of this because it’s what happens after someone joins your community that helps them decide whether to stay or go. Effective community management requires patience, consistency, and the understanding and acceptance that mistakes will happen along the way. To help you out, we’ve created The Definitive Guide to Community Management, which covers the major things you need to know as you embark on your online community management plans.

Why is community management so important?

First things first: why should you care about community management? Because your community offers a host of benefits over and beyond other communication channels, it’s worth investing time and resources in managing it effectively. A GlobalWebIndex report found that community members prefer using online communities over other communication channels like social media because they get more meaningful conversations (36% higher), feel more appreciated (21% higher), and develop a sense of belonging (18% higher).

Find out why community engagement is important.

The importance of a community manager

Having a dedicated community manager (or team, for larger communities) enables you to consistently post to the community, answer questions, take part in discussions, and generally make it an interesting place for members to visit. That has a knock-on effect on your retention, trust, brand loyalty, profitability, and more. 

The role of a community manager evolves as a community matures. In the early stages, a lot more of their time and energy will be spent on the mission, values, audience and goals, pre-launch, and then encouraging members to interact with the community immediately post-launch. In the medium-term (months after your community launches), your community manager will refine the community strategy and content to better meet your members’ needs. They will also work on sparking discussions and encouraging user-generated content. Eventually, this pays off as your community matures into a more self-sufficient place where members actively contribute to discussions and post content.

Aligning community actions to your business

Another critical job for your community manager will be aligning your community to what the business needs. This is done initially by making sure your community goals match up to the business ones. Your manager will also set out next actions for members based on these goals and the kind of community you’re trying to cultivate. So, in an event-driven community your members will be encouraged to sign up to events, whereas a product-focused one will involve more beta-testing and market research opportunities. 

Start with your community strategy

Great community management stems from a well-thought-out community strategy. It provides all stakeholders will a strong foundation to build your community on — setting out your missions and goals, audience preferences, and then looking at your launch strategy, content and niche, and community platform.

Exclusive content creates stickiness

It’s worth mentioning that not all content is equal in the eyes of the community. People won’t engage with content that isn’t valuable. It must make their lives and work easier, keep them up-to-date with the latest trends and news, or give them an edge over competitors in their industry. Therefore, your content must go beyond simply selling what you do repeatedly.

Again, this is where your community manager will prove invaluable in discovering what topics and speakers/experts most resonate with your audience. Taking the time to create high-quality content that is exclusive to your community, will keep your members coming back for more. Content doesn’t just refer to written pieces either — experiment with multimedia formats like video or graphics (65% of the population are visual learners).

Some other formats that could suit your community are:

  • Webinars and expert panels.
  • Live streaming.
  • Recordings.
  • TV studio filming.
  • Community roundtables.

Always have a mind for innovation — what new content and topics can you offer your community that will set it apart and grab attention? Varying what’s on offer, from events to articles, will encourage people to check your community more regularly. 

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) 

KPIs represent data that you can track in order to measure the success of your community. They should align with your community’s goals as well as business objectives. A good set of KPIs (around four to ten) will indicate whether your community is on track to deliver on expectations and goals or whether you need to change your tactics. Therefore, you should aim to check them monthly, or at least quarterly. 

Understanding ROI

Communicating the success of your community to stakeholders is as important as building and managing it in the first place. That’s where the return on investment (ROI) comes in. This enables you to gain buy-in for future plans.

As you launch and build your community, be mindful of the ROI it is generating at each stage. In simple terms, ROI looks at the cost of your investment versus the returns that you are getting. It’s important to note that when your community first launches, you might not see returns for several weeks or months as it ramps up. Therefore, set expectations among stakeholders early on about this.

Final takeaways

As you can see, online communities require a great deal of maintenance. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your community. As long as you have a plan to consistently engage with your members, encourage interaction, and understand if your community is hitting your targets, you’re on the right path. 

It’ll be more than worth it in the long run. A well-managed online community will provide endless opportunities to boost your brand, foster deep connections with your customers and prospects, inform your strategies, and connect with influential thought leaders. By putting the groundwork in now, your organization will benefit for years to come.

To learn more about building a community strategy, challenges to anticipate, and the role of a community manager, download The Definitive Guide to Community Management.