Photo Credit: vaXzine via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: vaXzine via Compfight cc

I’m sure you’ve heard how important it is to build a personal brand for yourself. Maybe you’re in the process of discovering what that is, and maybe you’re already there as a seasoned professional. But as a community manager, we all know it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day shuffle of addressing others’ needs. That’s a good way to be, and selflessness can get you pretty far if it is authentic. But your community needs a leader, and you need to figure out who that leader may be regardless of what community you currently nurture. That makes you a badass long after the community starts to self-service.

Why does a Community Manager Need a Personal Brand?

I imagine you don’t see yourself running just one community for the rest of your life. What on earth would be the fun in that? The skills you’re building as a community manager will make you an amazing manager at many levels, an effective communicator to all types of people, and a go-to person when it comes time to synchronize customer feedback and monitor engagement. That is insanely powerful.

Since you are in the position to exercise unbelievable amounts of influence on both sides of the fence, it’s also insanely important that you approach your communities with a consistent tone, voice, and attitude that are in sync with you as a person as well as with the brand you’re representing.  In all communication, authenticity is key. People see right through you trying to be something you are not. So that is exactly why you need to work out your personal brand. If you don’t, your company won’t believe in you, and your customers will see you as a gatekeeper rather than a helping hand.

Also, guess what? The community is not always right. Sometimes your community is full of assholes (I know a few by username on one of the communities I manage—their names are unnecessary) and you want those people to be quiet while you encourage those that are actively contributing in a positive way. You’ll need to figure out how to incentivize those people to participate and engage, and you’ll need to do that in your own way. Be funny, be creative, be witty, be you.

What are 5 Things You Can Do This Week to Build Your Brand?

  1. Start by doing good work. As a recent Fast Company article argues, your personal brand is your day-to-day work and attitude. Feeling burned out? Find inspiration, motivation, and rejuvenation. Get some sleep. Get out of your regular zone and see things differently. Or just go on Pinterest and look at pretty things.
  2. Write a blog post. Yes, we know you blog for work. Do it for play. Find the voice that you’d want to use if no one was watching you and figure out how you can tailor that to the goals of your community. Is your voice droll? Is it bubbly? Is it full of ebonics? Should it not be so full of ebonics? …It probably shouldn’t be.
  3. Clean up each and every one of your social media profiles. This seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s likely that your Google+ and your Twitter profiles are not where they could be or are not even synced up. Give one clear message about yourself to the world. Don’t hide behind protected accounts. If there are parts of you you’d like to keep private, don’t put them on the effing Internet. I’ve seen quite a few people who work in social media with dreadful LinkedIn or Google+ pages. Don’t let this be you.
  4. Reach out on Twitter. If there is someone whose personal voice you admire or whose community you find disarmingly beautiful and cohesive, reach out to them. Community managers are a friendly bunch. Say hi. Tell them they’re your heroes.
  5. Write a guest blog post. I know, I know. You already wrote a blog post this week. But this is for someone else, so stop being so selfish. Figure out how you can share your voice with a larger community. Plus, you’re being awesome by filling out someone’s content calendar. Go you. Word to the wise: tweet or message the blog editor first. This will give you a leg up if they get a lot of unsolicited submissions.

Community Managers with Badass Personal Brands

Here are three community managers who stand out to me as having particularly strong personal brands. This list is in no way exhaustive. These are just a few of the people I’ve had the pleasure to come across in-person or online over the last few months who really walk the talk. I’d love to meet more community managers like them.

Emily Castor (@emilycastor): Emily spoke at an SF Community Managers Meetup I went to back in April, and you can tell she loves what she does as soon as she starts speaking. Just take a look at Lyft and you don’t have to second-guess that her mission of scaling personal, deep connection are alive and thriving there.

Tim McDonald (@tamcdonald): Tim runs the community over at Huffington Post Live. He talks a lot about listening with no agenda, about helping others before yourself, and about connecting on deeper levels. With his community manager UNconference, he puts all these pieces together. His latest foray into helping others selflessly? The #NoKidHungry campaign. Check that out here.

Evan Hamilton (@evanhamilton): Evan blogs. He blogs a lot, and he writes really good blogs. Remember how I suggested writing two blogs this week? Yeah, Evan does that. His UserCentered blog is a go-to for community managers, both those that use UserVoice and those that wish they used UserVoice. A prime example of how far blogging will get you… I mean, he does other things too… 🙂 He also organizes regional community conferences for UserVoice and happens to answer some pretty awesome questions on Quora from a community/customer service perspective.


Have any other tips or community managers to recommend? Share them here or tweet me @carriemejones!

3 thoughts on “Build Your Personal Brand as a Community Manager

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