Sharing knowledge, brainstorming ideas, conducting discussions, organising events. More and more companies recognise the value of online communities. But managing these communities is a discipline on its own, and it's one that's often underestimated! Companies are looking for community managers, but they do not really know what type of person is best for the job. Have you recently launched an online community or are you planning to do so? Do you know which skills, competences, knowledge and experience your community manager needs to have? No? Then we'll happily help you with your search!
What is an online community?
Let's start from the beginning: what is an online community? An online community is a (often closed) website where a group of people can communicate and interact with each other. This group usually has a common interest or purpose. Often you have to be a member of the community to, for example, create groups and topics, post comments, and organise events. Online communities exist on many different platforms from closed groups on well-known social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn to independent platforms such as Jive and Open Social. Companies often have different reasons for starting an online community, including:
- Connecting employees, customers, volunteers and / or other parties involved;
- Learning from each other to improve products and services;
- Innovating with input from customers;
- Sharing information and providing support;
- Stimulating collaboration for different projects.
There is one person that plays an important role in all these different scenarios And that's the community manager. But who is this person?
Who is the community manager?
The community manager is simply the one who manages the community. The manager role is available in various forms since the role can be classified differently for each community with different tasks and responsibilities. However, there are often a few important corresponding tasks.
But what are the core tasks that this person must fulfil? According to our experience, there are (definitely) five. These five core tasks are important for most communities.
5 important community manager tasks
We will define five essential core tasks of a community manager. These are not the only core tasks that are important, and perhaps there are subdivisions within these core tasks, but we will focus on these five for convenience.
1. Determine goals and strategy
Creating an community active is only possible when the base is right. So, you have chosen a suitable platform (if that's the case) to set up your community. A platform that helps, among other things, to improve internal communication, share knowledge and documents, and organise events. Then a clear goal for the community must be established. What do we want to achieve as an organisation with the deployment of the community? The goal can be determined if you know who the users are / will be and what drives them. They are the 'key' to achieving your goal. From there on, you can develop a plan for how the community will be se achieve the goal.
2. Analyse, report and evaluate
You have to continuously analyse the community and pick up the signals that influence the achievement of the goals you set. You can analyse these signals and record them in periodic reports. It is also important to discuss and evaluate these reports so that you can determine whether the community is developing well towards the goal. If this is not the case, the evaluations provide insight into which adjustments need to be made.
3. Internal advice
During evaluations about the community, a community managers needs to advise about the next steps to take. How are we going to achieve our goal? What do we need to achieve it? Who plays a role? This advice can be operational, but it can also be tactical or strategic. You ensure that the organisation understands and supports you.
4. Coaching users
Interaction and active user involvement is important for a community and, therefore, also for a community manager. That is why engagement must be stimulated and encouraged. You must coach and guide the users as they interact with each other. They have to be 'brought up' from the first moment and to see and understand the value of the community. And to continue contributing, of course!
5. Creating and moderating content
As a community manager, you ensure that there is interaction with content within the community. A frequently used tool is the content calendar, which is used to create and structure content posted in the community. In addition, users also continuously post messages or respond to messages from others. The community manager moderates these messages from time to time and jumps in when deemed necessary. The community manager also keeps the community 'clean' by, among other things, archiving groups and discussions when they are out of date and no longer relevant.
It's a big job to successfully carry out these five core tasks as a community manager. But what features does a community manager need to ensure that these core tasks are properly fulfilled? We asked a number of experts!
The six indispensable qualities according to experts
We, as Open Social community builders, asked our own community manager and other community managers and trainers to answer this question. Below you will find the most important, indispensable qualities according to these experts.
1. Listen, listen and listen again
'Listening is very important in a community. By listening, so by reading the messages and comments in the community, you identify what is going on among the users.' These are the wise words from Evelien Schut, the community consultant at Open Social.
'As a community manager you have to know exactly what is going on in the community. Managing a community is more than just a one-off strategy and implementing it. You have to constantly gauge the effect of your actions, what works or does not work? Do you need to refine? Should you possibly involve other people from the organization or from the community? In short, keep monitoring and adjusting.'
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2. A feel for the right tactics
Despite the fact that a community manager is often a centipede, it is an important characteristic: being able to distinguish essential issues from side issues and focusing on the right tactics for your community', Evelien Schut explains further about the indispensable characteristics.
'To run a community well, you can often use dozens of tactics. Think, for example, of the onboarding of new members, a monthly update to the members, and promoting the most active members. But which tactics will bring you the most? And especially, which is best in relation to your available resources and budget that can be spent. You can better perform a number of tactics that will bring the most value, than dozens of tactics that only provide some value. So, all of this is actually connected with the drafting of your community strategy: limit yourself to the tactics that will contribute the most to the goals of the community. This can be different for every community.'
3. Be an example to stimulate motivation
Using simple questions will not always work to stimulate engagement, your members have to be motivated by the good example you give them, and finally do it on their own accord', says Evelien Schut as the last of her three indispensable qualities.
'A community manager must be good at building relationships. To detect your influencers, you first have to become one yourself. Be active and be loved by your community members. Once you've created a certain level of trust, you can slowly try to work with your members to get things done in the community."
4. Behave like a bartender
'A community manager must be able to behave like a bartender. Or better said: a bartender +, "says Bram Koster. Bram has 20 years of experience in online communication and communities, and has been a community manager at Marketingfacts.nl for over six years.
Bram further explains this characteristic: "Just like in a pub, people who come into a community must feel at home there. A good bartender welcomes you and of course helps you with your drink. But he / she also makes sure you have a nice chat. This, at first, is with the bartender, especially if you come more often and you are known. But the bartender also links you to the other guests, for example on the basis of a shared interest or knowledge. And if a guest doesn't behave well with another guest, the bartender is not afraid to call it out or even send that guest out. In short: the bartender is the keeper of the guests and of the good atmosphere.'
'All that has to be done by a community manager. And what about that plus? Well, if you look at it from a business perspective, the conversations lead by the bartender is a means to achieve a goal: a higher bar turnover. For a community manager, the conversation is the goal in itself. And that conversation must also be accomplished without alcohol induced-bravery ;)'
So a good community manager makes people feel at home, knows enough about the people or the subject to initiate and guide a conversation, and dares to speak to people if they do not adhere house rules.
5. Connecting with community members
'Ideally, the background and experience of community manager is the same as the target group or members .That way you have a direct connection with the members from the start,' according to Maartje Weijers, the Brand Manager at Boomerang Agency.'
A good community manager is always able to put his / her opinion in words. And to translate the values of the community back into the interaction with and between the members. You can do that best if you really understand who your members are. A background that aligns with your target group is actually indispensable.'
6. The project-oriented pivot in the technical web
'You are not only a community manager, but also a technical project manager,' states Bianca van Essen, project manager at GoalGorilla.
'It's clear: you have to have all round skills as a community manager. And project manger skills are very useful to have! You do not only need them when connecting departments and employees, organising consultations, setting up offline events, and drawing up community guidelines. Technical insight is also very useful. Your members are, as it were, your customers and you want them to find their way through the platform by means of a logical route. You do that by means of, for example, menus, taxonomies, landing pages, and groups. This gives structure to the platform.'
'You, therefore, need technical insight when setting up the platform and understanding the visibility and configuration settings of your platform. But as a community manager you also identify new development opportunities. You see the need of your community the fastest. That is why you are also a good discussion partner for the development team or the IT department. '
These are certainly not all indispensable qualities! Do you know other good qualities of a successful community manager? Then share it with us in the comments below. We help communities grow and prosper. We also thank the community experts for their contribution.