Guest blogger Nicole Yates is the Director of Membership and Registration at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Launched NSBE's first community in May 2015, Nicole offers up some great advice for new community managers.
My community implementation started out as “Nicole’s project” or “Nicole’s baby.” Since I was the one who fought for the platform in the first place, it became generally understood that I would be the one to get it up and running. With the help of my spectacular external project team, I completed the community setup (preliminary site design, data validation, security parameters) without involving a single other person from my office.
After talking with others outside my organization, I realized that a lot of new community managers were in the same situation as me. However, one of the most important pieces of advice I received was to get other staff members involved. Because I had already done so much of the work, I hesitated to relinquish some of that control, but it did become obvious that promoting and maintaining our communities would not be a one-person job.
As my first step to expanding my project team, I prepared a short presentation on the communities for our biweekly staff meeting. I showed them the tool, explained the (obvious) benefit to our members, and highlighted ways it would make our jobs easier. Once people saw the value, they got excited! I then recruited members from our marketing, IT, and membership departments to help spread the word.
My project team came up with some excellent ideas that I could never have implemented on my own. We created a promotional video for MyNSBE (our branded community site name) and generated lots of buzz around the platform by showing this teaser at our annual convention. We also used the convention to recruit beta testers (I ended up having about 100 people commit). Our webmaster placed a 10-day countdown on our homepage, and our launch went off without a hitch! Since May 1, 2015, we’ve had over 800 content contributions and we’re hoping to grow that number significantly during our upcoming fiscal year.
Here are a few pieces of advice I have from this experience:
- Just because you CAN do this on your own, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Creating a diverse internal project team will not only alleviate a lot of your own stress but will also open your project up to new possibilities.
- Get your members excited. Videos, social media plugs and announcements at your major events are all great ways to generate buzz around your community.
- Be deliberate about reaching out to people who can serve as champions. Gathering a pool of individuals to step in when there’s a lull in the discussions will help propel the community in the early stages of launch. It’s those influential, vocal members of your organization—you know who they are! Make them feel special by emphasizing the importance of their roles in your launch. (I had a webinar with them before the launch to give them an exclusive preview of the site and explain their duties.)
- Get your staff involved. I assigned each person in our office of 30 a day to moderate the community within the first two weeks of launch. Although I didn’t really expect everyone to follow through, that feeling of responsibility caused everyone to frequently check out the discussions and even jump in on some. Our Executive Director is now one of the most active members on the site!
I hope you new CMs will find this post helpful. Please feel free to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for any questions or comments you may have—I am ALWAYS happy to share.