Can you have a community without a community manager? Communities don’t just happen -- they’re built and nurtured over time, so having a dedicated community manager is ideal. But sometimes it’s just not realistic -- there isn’t the money or executives don’t realize how important community managers are for ensuring ROI. If that’s the case -- what do you do?
Don’t be deterred if you can’t hire a community manager (yet). If your growing organization is excited and ready for a community, you can create a thriving ecosystem without one -- if you have a good plan in place.
What does that plan look like? Here’s an overview of how you and your organization can make it work:
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the whole organization to grow a community. Even if you do have a community manager, executive and staff buy-in is important for its success. If there isn’t one dedicated person always there to champion the cause, everyone needs to stand up for community and care about success.
How do you get everyone on board? It will probably take different approaches depending on whose support you need. For executives, showing them the community’s monetary value and potential will go a long way. Communities often make good business sense, whether the point is to retain members or to cut support costs. To win them over, focus on the business side of community and the power of creating happy, loyal members.
This approach could also be effective for getting your organization’s staff on board. They might be worried about the change -- how will this affect their jobs? Will it be a burden or compete with their departmental goals?
Lay everything out for the staff slated to be involved, and be honest about how a community will change and enhance the organization. True, they may play a part in the community and, depending on how you divvy up tasks, it may take up some of their time. But overall it will be a benefit to them and the organization.
How can your organization keep up with all of the practical tasks of running a community? Who will moderate discussions, update images and ensure things run smoothly?
A community manager’s job is multifaceted and there are many moving parts. This makes the job fast-moving and unique for an individual, but also makes splitting up tasks between departments a possibility.
The Community Roundtable created a skills framework to help you decide what goes where. According to this framework, all of a community manager’s skills/tasks break down into five categories:
Distribute tasks based on these five areas. If your organization is large enough to have departments, there may be clear delineations for who does what. But if you have a small team of people and no clear departments, look at their strengths and interests -- that could be the best way to spread out tasks. For example, delegate content to a marketing person and engagement skills to someone client facing. Strategic and business skills, like creating value and calculating ROI, could go to a person who does finance.
Just because the tasks are split between departments doesn’t mean people should work independently; it’s important each part of the community isn’t siloed between people. If staff regularly communicates, there’s great potential to streamline processes and be very efficient. Plus, there’s a big added value to having many people involved: the more people directly involved in your growing organization, the more people will truly understand the value of community.
Not every organization has a community manager, but most have a social media presence. Although social media and communities are very different, you can leverage the power of social media to support your community.
How does social media help? Harness the social following you already have to hook members -- current and future -- and draw them into your community.
Most organizations have LinkedIn groups that act as communities. This is an excellent place to start. But if you really want to get the full benefits of online communities, it’s important to have a stronger, more robust platform. You’ll have more control, better dashboards for tracking metrics and tools like automation rules to boost member engagement.
That doesn’t mean your LinkedIn efforts were pointless. Your LinkedIn group was an important place to experiment with community. If you need to bolster conversation on your new platform, you can even move active participants from your LinkedIn group to your community -- they’re already active community members, so they’ll be strong people to have on your dedicated community platform.
During the day-to-day, there are many smaller tasks that add up, creating more value in your community. Schedule preemptive tweets with Hootsuite or Buffer to remind people (in a friendly way) to check out your community and stay engaged. Even if your community is private, promote certain discussions or events, like an “Ask Me Anything” with an expert. Or experiment with a service like Zapier, which can tweet every time a new discussion starts. Why promote activity within the community if it’s members only? Because you’ll instill FOMO (fear of missing out) -- people who aren’t members will realize they’re missing out on key conversations and protected information. That could be the final push they need to join.
It’s definitely possible to have a robust community without a community manager. But just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy or you can’t use an extra hand or helpful tools. Streamlining platforms could save you a lot of time, especially if your organization doesn’t have a ton of resources to begin with. Before you even launch a community, do your due diligence about platforms so you end up with the best fit for your organization and team.
When choosing your platform, look for one combining both your website and your community. Why have two different sites, with different quirks, when you can have one? By combining two platforms into one, you’ll streamline your processes; rather than learning two platforms, you only have to learn one.
Another time-saving, streamlining feature to look for in a platform are automation rules. Not only do automation rules take the tedium out of many day-to-day tasks and emails, but they can help you reach the right people at the right time -- further pushing engagement and increasing value. One of the best parts of automation rules is you can build them to fit your specific needs, whether it’s targeting new members, encouraging them to upload a profile picture, or bringing in once active members who are now silent.
As your community grows, increasing in value and ROI, there may come a point when you can either afford a community manager or truly need one person dedicated to the cause. But until then, with the right plan in place, the right people on board and the best platform for your organization, you can build a successful community without a community manager.