Growth can be a predicament for any team in any organization. Too early, and you’re shouldering additional cost before it’s warranted. Too late, and you risk overwhelming your employees and dropping the ball on important projects, including delivering value and engaging your audience.
That’s especially true for online communities, where results are driven by content, conversations, and programs such as e-Learning, product feedback and development, and mentoring. In the beginning, one or two people may be able to manage all these projects, but they will likely become strapped for resources as demand grows. And if your team can’t keep up with member and program needs, then your community won’t be effective at generating results.
To ensure that your community management team has the time, resources, and skills they need to make your community successful, pay close attention to their tasks and results they’re getting. Changes in your team’s success and the community’s effectiveness will often indicate when you need to make an additional hire.
Ideally, you already have a team and not just a lone wolf community manager. If you don’t, that’s the first indicator that it’s time to grow. A full community management team might consist of:
Not all these people will work in your community full-time. They’ll contribute where needed, creating a strong skillset with which you can engage members.
Many communities, however, don’t have this level of organization-wide participation. They begin with a community manager and a few employees who add content periodically or answer questions. Online communities managed by these smaller teams will outgrow their management much faster.
Here are five indications that your online community has outgrown its management team and it’s time to make an additional hire.
If your community manager is working around the clock and still can’t meet the needs of the community, it’s time to seek help. Letting your community manager burn out means running the risk of losing your community’s single most vital participant, which could lower member engagement.
If you notice that your community manager is struggling to complete all their tasks, then add to your team as soon as possible.
As engagement grows, management will likely want to see more detailed or result-oriented community reports. Basic report generation is easy in most online community software, but reporting systems are usually capable of much more than what they’re used for. Some platforms even offer integrations with third-party data analysis and business intelligence tools to help you connect engagement to results like satisfaction, retention and revenue.
If company executives are asking for more analysis—such as how your community is impacting revenue—it might be time to add an analyst to your team. An analyst can use the data found in your community to shed light on how engagement trends correlate to changes in revenue and drive ROI.
Logins typically plateau for two reasons.
If you’re getting a static line or the number of logins is down, then your community has a problem. Review your metrics to find the source of the problem and find ways to fix it. Sometimes rolling out a new feature or creating more content can encourage new members to engage and get people logging in more often.
Unfortunately, additional content, new features, and other member engagement and acquisition strategies take time and effort, so they can be hard to achieve do with your current team. Consider additional hires or support for building and maintaining new initiatives.
If your community manager is bogged down in one task, such as creating content, then you’re missing engagement opportunities. Different people engage in different ways, so when your online community manager only has time to create social videos but not answer forum posts, then your forum fans are left out.
You need a team that has time to cover all your community’s engagement opportunities. Ask your manager how they spend the day. If it seems like all their time is spent on one or two things, they may need some additional help to give your members the attention they deserve.
If your online community is not growing in members at the same rate as your customer or member base, you may need extra help pointing your audience toward the community. That takes marketing, customer relationship expertise and strategy skills.
Your current community manager probably already has experience in all these areas, but he may not be able to engage the whole community and devote time to new member acquisition campaigns. If your manager expresses frustration in this area, it’s time to get some help.
If you recognize that it’s time to grow your community management team, but hiring additional staff is not an option, consider outsourcing. Outsourcing is an economical way to get more experts involved in your community and grow your team without adding in-house staff.
Professional community management services can often be found through your online community software provider. Many have teams of management staff that are already experts in member engagement and intimately familiar with your platform. Since they don’t need additional training, they can quickly and cost-effectively get to work, adding value to your community immediately.
You only get one or two impressions before members decide your community is not worth their time. You need to engage them from the beginning, consistently providing value so they know your community is worth their time.
The key to effectively engaging your members is to have a full team with the skills to keep the community functioning smoothly, so build out your community management team as soon as you notice these signs. Hiring the right staff at the right time to handle content, reporting, engagement, and design will result in a more dynamic and performance-driven community that members enjoy.