Dos and Don’ts of Managing an Already Built Community
The query “how to build a community” on any search engine shows a very large number of web pages. From guidelines to infographics, press articles, or even interviews with professionals. But if you type “how to scale a community”, you end up with much less relevant content.
In my mind, scaling a community you didn’t start is as difficult as building a community. You must learn everything about the community — its values, rituals, rules and roles — while implementing new processes to support its growth and continue to improve the member experience.
Therefore, the first weeks are both precious and critical because you have a time-limited objective that, properly used, can be worth several months or even years. Here are my dos and don’ts to help you in your first weeks of managing an already built community.
👂Active listening. At first, everything you read sounds like a hubbub. Take time to assimilate and digest the information you read. Just be there to receive the information without judgement or bias. In parallel, ask questions to your community members and be attentive to their answers. You will learn so much by being an active listener that you could stop reading here, but the following points will take you one step further.
🖋 Write and document. Do this for yourself, for the next person to take on this role, and ultimately for the community members. We know that a community is made of relationships and conversations that are not tangible but when possible try to document initiatives, events, and results. When I joined my first job as a Community Manager to scale an already built community, all I got at the outset was a one-page document (and half was social media accounts credentials). In my experience, lack of information or worse, withholding information, will impact your community more than you can imagine.
🙇♀️ Respect. You are in this role thanks to the professional work of someone else. You inherit the good and the less good of an already build community but try to stay neutral and benevolent. Of course, you don’t have to be hypocritical, always share your thoughts on what can be improved and how to do it. But remember to take a step back: you weren’t in the shoes of community builders. Decisions that may seem illogical today were probably the best ones to make back then.
🤫 Let people tell you what to think. One of my former team leaders joined the company while I was already working there. She had an introductory meeting where the heads of the main departments wanted to share their thoughts on every employee on my team. She interrupted them by saying “If you agree, I’ll meet everyone and spend time with each of them to have my own idea of who they really are.” Shape your own thought. Meet your members, make phone calls, and don’t let other people’s experiences define yours. It’s a task that takes time but far too important to ignore.
🪞Copy / paste your previous strategies. This is probably the reason why you can’t find so much relevant content on scaling communities. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. To give an example: the members of one of the past communities I managed loved to take part in photoshoots and to appear on branded photos and videos. The current community that I manage is made of a majority of members concerned by privacy and anonymity and thus not inclined to share personal content. Therefore, each strategy must be tailor-made. You will have learnings, tips and intuition, from your previous experiences but don’t expect to reuse strategies that worked perfectly in the past. They won’t work this time. But that what makes it fun, isn’t it?
🦜 Mimic others. If you’ve ever worked in a social media or customer service team, you know that there are specific rules for how to express yourself. Sometimes you must use templates to fit the company’s voice, or even use a false identity to interact with customers. Either way, by being a community manager, you have your own voice, and you must use it. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. You are here to scale a meaningful community and to gain trust, you have to show who you are. Personally, I know I tend to use too many emojis. But I am a visual person and adding emojis to my text message helps me structure my message better and communicate my emotions. Be authentic, show your personality and don’t be afraid to infuse something new.
I hope this post will help you to make the most of your first weeks in your new role of a Community Manager scaling a community. I think it is fair to say that scaling a community is a complex job and even if every experience is pretty unique, you are not alone. 🙌