8 Common Community Management Mistakes To Avoid
This is a post from the Standing on Giants archive by Carla Arend.
Since I know myself as a Community Manager, and from research on past decades of the profession, I see many discussions about our roles and how easy it is to mix our professional and personal lives into one big thing. Some companies and colleagues even brag that they are always connected and available – don’t get me wrong, I am (was) just like that. I believe it happens because most of us are really passionate about people and hence, about the subjects of the communities in which we work.
In this list of advice I don’t want to dictate orders, but express my personal opinion on how I believe we can sustain a long and happy career in Community Management avoiding compromise our personal successes.
The Common Community Management Mistakes
Mistake #1 Taking It Personally
The first one is basically common sense. We know that, as Community Managers, we must avoid taking any community attack as personal. Most of us (hopefully) love and believe in the brands we work for and we really want all the members to love it too, but we can’t just assume it. There will be disagreements, there will be haters, there will be a moment when we just want to reply to a thread using words kept in the most hidden place of our brains; words that we wouldn’t say in front of our grandmas. There will be all of that and we must stay strong, professional and respectful towards our communities. My tip is, as soon as we realise that we’re taking it personally, we step back. I’d suggest we go for a walk around the corner, speak with somebody, have a cup of tea, read something different or, if the case is too complicated, sleep on it. Nothing good will come from an angry reply and it will only damage reputations.
Mistake #2 Being Always Available
In my opinion, this mistake is the most tricky. As much as we love our jobs, our community members must know that we are humans with a life and set working hours. If we are not consistent in our working hours and don’t follow an expected schedule, our community will expect us to be there at any time, any day. Of course, there are exceptions. A crisis can rise on a Saturday at 10 pm and we might be requested to put in some out of scheduled hours, or our community organised an event for Sunday afternoon and we want to join, or sometimes we just can’t help ourselves and want to check-in to see how our dearest community is doing. In the last case, I would say, we should, by all means, read it all if we wish, but avoid interfering if it can wait until the next working day. Doing that will help us set limits with our communities and also with our managers/clients and, believe me, will help us to have a proper rest and do a better job the day after.
Mistake #3 Being Inconsistent
A community is a project and is not our family group in WhatsApp where we can send a fun meme and mute it for 8 hours. As a community manager we have to be consistent in our participation, not only related to the new content creation, but also in how we dealt with situations. More than being consistent with a set of guidelines our communities might have, we should make sure we respect a certain Community Management routine. I’m not saying we should have an unbreakable hourly schedule, but find a way to make sure that all tasks are covered and no expectation is left behind. Try to set expectation on your private and public participation and, most importantly, behave consistently towards members activities.
Mistake #4 Bad-mouthing Community Members
Badmouthing, in general, is a very bad habit and, for me, is hard to fully trust somebody that bad mouths other people. It gets even worse when we see Community Managers bad-mouthing community members. Of course, we are all human and we all have a case of one specific Community member who was the definition of silliness in our careers, a case we use in interviews to explain how we dealt with, etc. But guys, between us, as a community manager one of the worse silly mistakes we can make is to gossip between community members or bring private community issues into our group of families and friends. We’re better than that. Our role is to keep the place as healthy as we can and not turn it into a soap opera. If there is something that a specific member is doing that we disagree with, and if this is not ok with the Community rules, we should trigger proper action. However, if the member just doesn’t fit with your personal requirements of acquaintances, the best thing we can do is respect as we wish to be respected.
Mistake #5 Lacking Attention
Once the community is set, up and successfully running, we can tend to relax a little bit. We already have a couple of super users helping us to make sure everything is ok so on we start focusing on different tasks and ended up relaxing even more with our most important task: attention to members and engagement. As the community matures, the bond between super users and community managers tend to get stronger, but we must keep giving attention to details, we must keep following individual members of the community interests and we must keep building strong and new relationships.
Mistake # 6 Allow Overselling
It’s ok to share our community brand products and services, it’s one of the reasons some companies have a community, isn’t it? But is not ok if we do that all the time. When we try using our communities as a sales point and start using marketing strategies to do so (marketing friends, please don’t judge me), we are changing our roles and our community won’t like it. Members of a community-based in a forum are not there exclusively because they want to buy product A or B, they are there to share opinions on a much wider view. Be honest with the other teams (normally marketing and sales fellows) if they are trying to inject too many sales content in the community, you have all the knowledge to judge what your community is ready to take and you can sure defend what is best for it.
Mistake # 7 Dictating Orders
A community normally has a set of guidelines and is part of our job as community managers to make sure that the guidelines are been followed by our members. However, it is not our job to be naming and shaming publicly every-single-mistake that every-single-member commits. If we do it the community can literally sink into the boredom and freedom less zone. Also, it can be tempting to feel powerful because we have the ability to touch the community configuration. If you’re like that, just stop. Our ability to do it as a Community Manager is not an ability is our job and, when the company decides to change something in the forum structure, one of the best things to do is be honest with the community and consult members opinions and views before you act. Keeping a nice and open communication with members makes a huge difference when going through changes.
Mistake # 8 Assuming Results
I know this mistake is popular among community managers but is one that we all should really avoid. Avoid assuming how many posts a day your community will have in 3 months time when your director asks it if you don’t have a proper KPI plan. Avoid assuming the reply rate of your community when a colleague asks during the team meeting if you haven’t checked the report. Avoid guessing how many minutes your active users are spending online when the bounce rate analytics person asks! It can be overwhelming for some of us when the monthly report date arrives, but it is so important to dig into the data and turn our amazing results into charts and tables that can be easily digested by senior management. I would say it is a huge mistake do not keep track of the community growth and then analyse the numerical impact that infrastructure changes can have into the community performance.
I hope that these 8 points listed above help you reflect on your daily journey and evaluate some behaviours and think about them. We’re all human and can make mistakes. The beauty of committing mistakes is that we can really learn from them and improve our community management careers each time.
I believe this list could be even bigger, do you have any ideas to share and help to build a long list of mistakes you believe a community manager must avoid? Please share so we can build together a summary in order to sustain a long and happy career in Community Management.