A well-known African proverb states that, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Yet, if you want to know where to go, you need a leader who knows the direction of travel. That’s exactly the role of a community manager and in this piece, you’re going to discover why they are vital to successful online communities and how to succeed as one.
Community management is a relatively new field and it’s often unfamiliar to organizations that are just starting out on their online community journey. However, community management skills have been around for longer than people think. After all, we have become used to having marketing managers and social media managers in our organisations. As the value of communities is increasingly recognized, the community manager will become a key player in thriving marketing teams.
This future is not far off, with 64% of people stating that they are visiting online community sites more often than they did a few years ago and almost half (46%) saying digital communities have grown in importance to them. The Covid-19 pandemic, with its lockdowns and social isolation, have led people to value and seek more digital connections. As a result, more brands are looking at online communities as a way to build high-value, scalable networks of expertise.
Why is community management important?
The reality is that the role of Community Management is a very unique skill set. It has a deep understanding of the stages of growth that an online community goes through, and what is needed at those stages to ensure long term success.
- Why would you invest a significant amount of your budget in a class-leading technology and not invest in the right people to make it a success?
- Do you really want to hope someone else can try and make it work around their main role?
- Would you adopt the same approach to any of your more traditional departments and hope for the best?
Community Management in the early stages of building a community can be a time-intensive process to ensure the right early adopters are encouraged into a new community to find value, help you grow and want to come back.
Time and time again we see the correlation between organisations who invest in community management and see success. Those who don’t really struggle to unlock the potential of the opportunity.
What is a community manager?
To truly unlock the potential of a digital community, you need someone who is accountable for its performance and growth and dedicated to building it over time. That’s where a community manager comes in, as a trained specialist who builds, grows, and manages a brand’s online community.
Social media manager vs. community manager
A community manager is very different to a social media manager. A social media manager’s main priority is managing social networks for a brand, reaching new audiences and raising brand awareness. Their main success metrics will likely focus on reach and traffic driven to social channels.
Community management is what happens after someone discovers a brand and it involves sharing expertise and fostering a social connection that encourages prospects to convert and build lasting customer loyalty. Therefore, it requires a very different skillset to a social media manager and isn’t an activity that can be ‘just picked up’ by any team member.
What typically happens when the community management role is given to someone with an existing role, is that at first things look successful. Promoting the community attracts new members through the front door and onto the new community platform. However, without full-time support and tailored communication from a community manager (more on this later), retention will always be an issue. The community won’t grow long term.
What does a community manager do?
The daily work of a community manager evolves depending on the stage that the online community is in, although it consistently involves engaging with customers and other members, researching new strategies and tools to help the community grow, and delving into data to understand community performance. A community manager will also act as the voice, tone, and moderator of the brand behind the community — to build brand presence, trust, and loyalty.
In the early stages of a community, a lot of a manager’s time will be spent ensuring the right early adopters are attracted to the new community and that they find value from their first interactions. Community managers will also come up with tactics to encourage early adopters to invite high-calibre peers to the community and to consistently return and engage with it. They will ensure that the brand identity, content, and themes of the community reflect the community’s goals as well as the business goals and marketing strategy.
The next stage is in developing the community into a fully formed, well-positioned offering that has regular exclusive content, inspirational discussions, and engaged members. Part of this means engaging regularly with members, sparking discussions, and responding to questions in a timely manner, all tasks on the community manager’s to-do list.
Eventually, the community manager role becomes more strategic, with them maintaining a higher-level, longer-term picture around the value that the community brings to the brand. They will use analytics to understand community data and feedback in depth and use these insights to shape the community strategy, marketing and sales strategy, content, product and more. Trained community managers will be able to guide their organizations on the best success metrics to use to measure performance and meet goals.
Top skills for community managers
Community managers have a very unique skill set that spans marketing, product knowledge, customer service, data analysis, brand, and so on. Communication skills are a must. Great community managers are able to communicate with their audiences through many different mediums and talk to people in a way that makes them comfortable. Naturally, trustworthiness and reliability are vital. Community members, especially prospects and customers, need to believe what the manager is saying. Flexibility is useful, to adapt as the community changes. Experienced community managers will understand the different stages of growth that an online community will go through and how to adapt tactics to ensure long term success.
How to be a great community manager
Great community managers go above and beyond in facilitating connections, expert discussions, and unique value. They help their communities stand out by defining a purpose for the community that doesn’t simply plug products. They create trusted spaces where peers connect and work towards common goals and interests.
Finally, they invest in the right technology, like expert-driven community platforms, to deliver a seamless community experience. They spend time understanding the different community platforms on offer and assessing their features against their community’s needs and goals.
How can Zapnito help?
We recognize that finding and recruiting a good community manager might be a daunting prospect.
- What is really needed and where would that person be found?
- Where would training and development be found to help upskill?
- How do we develop a community manager onboarding roadmap?
- Where does a community manager sit in our hierarchy?
- These (and many others!) are perfectly normal questions around the jump from wanting a community manager to having that person on the team and working effectively.
- As part of our expertise with community management, Zapnito can help walk you through and answer any questions you have. We will give you the right pointers and develop a simple but effective plan of action to recruit this role.
Many of our team have been community managers at some point, and our extensive network of experts, advisors and cohorts have a wealth of knowledge and experience in this sector.
It may be that you simply have a few thoughts and questions you have which you can take back to the team or senior stakeholders; great! Let’s chat and help you build a credible and viable business case or just have an informal conversation to get you started.
Just getting started
With the right community manager on-board, your path to building a successful community is much smoother. But the work has just begun. Next, you need to work with your community manager to define your community type, identify your target audience, create your community, and spread the word.
Ready to see what Zapnito can do for your business? Book your discovery call and see how we can help you to engage, retain and grow your community.