Online Community Manager: The Leader Hat - dummies

Online Community Manager: The Leader Hat

By Deborah Ng

The best online community managers are leaders, not only in the sense of being able to handle a community discussion, but also in guiding community members. There’s a reason why a brand chooses to host an online community. Whether that reason is sales, web traffic, a word-of-mouth marketing campaign, or awareness of a cause, it’s up to a community manager to lead participants in the right direction.

Being a successful leader is kind of a delicate thing. No one wants to be preached or pitched to. People mostly want to come to an online community to let down their hair. Even if they know the reasons behind the community, members don’t want to be made to feel as though they have to buy something or donate to a cause.

Reach out to online community members

Part of leading a community is in generating interest in bringing people into your community, and you have to do so without getting out your bullhorn and making your quest for new members obvious. Community managers commonly search social networks looking for people who are having conversations having to do with their brands or subjects relating to their brands and reach out to them without looking like a spammer.

If your company sells lemonade and you notice on Twitter that someone is looking for some interesting beverages to serve at a barbecue, reach out with some recipes. This contact may inspire the other person not only to follow your brand’s Twitter account, but maybe even to buy your brand of lemonade to make those recipes.

Likewise, if someone on the same social network is complaining about a poor experience with your brand, don’t just ignore the complaint. Reach out to see how to make things right. Offer to call or e-mail the other person to help. The issue may not even be your department, but unhappy customers are always the community manager’s department.

Even if you can’t fix the situation, it’s up to you to introduce the unhappy person to the person who can help and then follow up to make sure it’s been done.

Offer guidance to members of your community

Online community managers offer guidance to both community members and the brands they represent. By gauging the wants and needs of the community, they’re putting their product and business development and marketing teams in a better position to give the people what they want. With a community manager’s guidance, the brand is truly able to put out a product people are asking for.

Community members look to the community manager for guidance as well. In addition to wanting to know the best ways to use the brand’s product or service, they see a community manager as someone who is wise and can steer them in the right direction, whatever direction that may be.

Answer your online community member questions

Though some questions from community members are difficult to answer, community managers do best not to avoid them. Don’t sweep anything under the rug or put off responding to e-mails. If you’re not set up to answer the question or if you’d rather not step on someone else’s toes, find the person who can and be sure to follow up until it’s resolved.

Unresponsive community managers don’t help the brand’s cause at all. Instead, they’re seen as being inaccessible and gain a reputation for not caring about their customers. Provide honest answers in a positive manner, even if you’re not giving very good news.

Ask for feedback from your community members

The reason many leaders fail is because they don’t respond well to feedback. Community managers know that the best way to improve or grow is to ask questions, request feedback, and respond to that feedback. By asking questions or using surveys to request feedback, community managers are able to pass on valuable information to the brand.