Things I’ve Learned This Year in Community Management

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m typing on my laptop with my dog curled up next to me on the couch. I want to take this quiet moment to reflect on the things I’ve learned specifically as a community manager this year. I have experienced enormous changes in many of the key areas of my life in 2013: relationship, career, pets, moves. When I think about it, all I can do is sigh and be grateful for how far I’ve come.

I’ve learned about tons of helpful tactics and tools as well as tips for personal branding, work/life balance, health, and dealing with conflict. So here I am sharing those things, in true community fashion.

Personal branding:

  • Being reliable makes you an outlier. Most people are flakes. Don’t be one of them.
  • You need a personal brand. You need to make yourself marketable as a community manager/leader/organizer/exec regardless of your current job title. This year, I wrote a lot, blogged for others, began organizing new communities, and created my own philosophy of how communities should function for brands. This has been extremely valuable, not just for my own personal satisfaction, but also financially.
  • Community managers should earn more than they do. Full disclosure: in 2013, my yearly earnings have increased by 73%. How did I make that happen? Being unafraid: Unafraid to negotiate, unafraid to try new side projects, unafraid to ask for what I’m worth, unafraid to say no to people who don’t see my worth the same way I do.
  • Be unafraid to speak your mind. Your community will appreciate your authenticity. Those who like you will see you as even more of a badass. Those who do not like you can bite the big one. The better you are at what you do and the stronger your personal brand, the more you’ll find a few people who disagree. So listen to them, but ignore them if they’re just negative for no reason. It’s usually their fear that drives them.

The hard stuff we don’t like to talk about:

  • Disagreement is okay. Deal with it gracefully. Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong.
  • Step back from a situation that increases your heart rate. Whether is an angry email you’re responding to, a series of tweets that’s offensive about your product, a customer service crisis, or a fight with your significant other. Take a walk. Inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 5. Repeat until your heart rate decreases to normal.
  • It’s okay to let go of a community that no longer serves you. I know it’s hard. I’ve been through it, and I’ve said it before: the most beautiful thing about building strong communities is that you can walk away from them and they will continue to flourish. People will check in on you and it’s okay to check in on them. But when your work is done and your passion is no longer to be found, step away.
  • It’s okay to fall apart. As many people close to me know, I had a medical issue for 3 months this year that kept me from work. I couldn’t sustain what I was doing, and that’s okay. It’s okay to fall apart when everything around you falls apart. Do it as gracefully as possible. Or don’t, whatever. People are flawed and weak. Being vulnerable is what makes life worth living. It’s that scary feeling we get when we open ourselves up to others’ judgement and others’ love, and it’s almost always less scary than we imagine it to be.
  • Letting go is a process. We want it to be easy, and it isn’t. It takes time and patience. Forgive those who are trying to let go and forgive yourself if you’re still mourning the loss of something or someone.
  • It’s okay not to be in control. Enough said.
  • Don’t skimp on yourself. Sure, managing your community is important, but you can’t do a good job if you’re not happy with yourself. Take a break if you need one.
  • Don’t work for people who don’t understand how you work. I’ve been called an “intrapreneur” and a “hustler”. My new job understands this about me completely. It is a breath of fresh air, a taste of freedom I’ve never known before. I couldn’t be more grateful.
  • Say yes to people who have faith in you; say no to people who try to control you. 

And some practical, actionable advice for community managers:

  • Fail in tiny ways. Try things out, even if they seem improbable. Measure, analyze, repeat. You’ll never regret this.
  • Tweeting at strangers will take you places. I have gotten jobs, gigs, opportunities, meetings, a relationship, friends, and some of my now very best business connections from a single tweet.
  • Go to events. Go to meetups. Go to conferences. Just go.
  • Commuting significant distances (more than one hour per day) will slowly kill your soul. Find a way around it. If you’re a community manager who commutes, I’d love to hear from you. How on earth do you make it work?
  • People appreciate a human touch. As a community manager, do not be afraid to share your personality via social media. If you’re posting as your brand, create a brand voice and stick to it. Make it human and authentic to your mission.
  • Always ask what you can do for your community before you ever ever ever expect anything in return. Your boss should know this is the case as well.
  • Stories matter. Everyone loves to be part of a story. Make your community part of a larger narrative or mission. Blog about it. Get it out there in the press. Make YouTube videos. Tell stories in whatever way makes sense for you.

Happy 2014 everyone! If I can ever help with anything, don’t hesitate to reach out. Or reach out if you want to grab coffee, partner up on something, speak at an SF Community Manager event, have a drink with me, or all of the above.

What are some lessons you’ve learned as a community manager in 2013? Did any of these hit home for you? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts.

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3 responses to “Things I’ve Learned This Year in Community Management

  1. Pingback: Things I've Learned This Year in Community Management | Carrie … | Community Manager·

  2. I’m community manager at Engagor that started just 2 months ago, landing her first job in the exciting social media industry. I’m so happy to encounter such a great article on the skills of a community manager! I find it really useful. Personally, you pointed out some key focal points that I will definitely apply to my own work ethic. Wishing you all the best in your future professional life, keep up the good work! Looking forward to building some awesome conversations on the community manager topic!

    Greetings from Ghent, Belgium.

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