Community managers have a demanding job description and are a vital part of their online community engagement engine. But some have steeper mountains to climb than others.
An association just beginning their online community journey and making up for lost ground is obviously facing an incline unlike that of a well-established, active digital brand. Setting numbers and KPIs aside, the most important change community managers must bring about is a transformation in member attitude. A transformation that will evoke conversations, engagement and actions. Inspire yourself to use these 6 initiatives to enliven member attitudes and encourage positive change.
1. Share your passions with them
Be clear up front that this community does not exist for the benefit of your or the association solely. Prove to them that you aren't here to sell or push a one-way agenda, but to interact with them. You can do this by being open about your passions and how they directly relate to the association and community purpose. Members taking part in the community don't care that you have the background or skill set to be a community manager. They care about having common ground with you and knowing how your mutual passions can help them learn and do things more meaningfully.
2. Set a tone of enthusiasm and respect
As most of us know, there is a right way and a wrong way to communicate enthusiasm online. We're not telling you to be overly saccharine or peppy, but having a candid, enthusiastic attitude can go a long way to set a positive, active tone. The internet often has a negative reputation of being a place to rant and rave anonymously. You can build a refuge from that glare by establishing an enthusiastic and respectful tone from the get-go. Balance this out by also communicating that you welcome debate and discussion of touchy, controversial subjects. People also need to know that they can come to the community with odd and odd or specific problems in the hopes of being able to have healthy discussions and learning about new perspectives.
3. Get genuinely personal
It may be your job to represent the association, but it's also your job to be yourself. Being open and sharing personal anecdotes and opinions is important in establishing trust and empathy within the community. You shouldn't sound like a talking head spewing administrative agendas, but a real person that makes others feel comfortable to speak candidly. This should always be your goal - high level, relevant discussions spoken in honest and comfortable terms. A tone of personal communication lowers the pressure on members who may feel they need to perform at an over-serious, professional level, and makes them more likely to participate on a regular basis. Showing your personal side also shows humility proves your loyalty to the community members. A loyalty that will likely (or hopefully) be reciprocated.
4. Prove your dedication when waters get rough
Your job doesn't end at the threshold of positive outcomes and cotton candy engagement. You also need to be there to handle awkward situations, open criticisms and community conflicts. While these instances may be hard to fathom if you're starting from Square 1, remember that when dealing with people, regardless of environment or platform, there will be conflicting ideas and hurdles. Show that you can be authoritative when handling a PR crisis, resolving a dispute between users, or monitoring inappropriate activities, whether that means online abuse, scams, or platform malfunctions. Being solid when things get rough shows that you and the association are invested for the long-haul and interested in your community's well being.
5. Encourage open-mindedness
Focusing solely on one industry or one cause is no way to develop an eclectic variety of people and interests. You need to color the community with insight form multiple perspectives. Never hesitate to pepper in content from supplemental or totally unrelated sources if you think it will resonate with the community audience. By encouraging more open-minded attitudes, community members will be more receptive to each other and to new ideas and initiatives in the future.
6. Back it up with in-person engagement
Reinforcing your online activities in-person is a huge boost to you and your association's reputation. You need to be more than just an avatar on their screen. You should aim to shake hand and talk face-to-face with community members whenever reasonably possible. Of course your main charge is online engagement - but isn't the ultimate goal of that to be a conductor of change and innovation in the real world? Get out and meet the people you share these passions and interests with. It will spark more change and get people much more excited than any webinar or comment thread ever could.