I've worked directly with a large variety of online community professionals. Throughout those experiences, I have discovered something that may sound obvious, but is critical to get out in the open:
The correlation between a community's success and the people who drive its strategic direction is undeniably present. (tweet this)
Unfortunately, the community management field too often is viewed upon as expendable, making budgetary allocations highly constricted or non-existent. For this reason, when the opportunity is present to grow (or establish) the community department within your organization, the choice is often based on whether or not an individual can simply "do the job." I'm here to tell you that finding an online community manager that can simply do the job is not enough for your organization.
What the online community field needs (and what your organization should be seeking) is more advocates - extraordinary community professionals who tirelessly do whatever it takes to illustrate their value within the organization. Settling for the individual you can get at the most attractive price point is an immense mistake and will reflect in the overall return you get from your investment.
Over the years, I have been able to pinpoint distinct characteristics that separate average community managers from true community builders. Here are the four qualities you should look for when investing in new talent for your online community.
Too many online community managers react to what is happening in communities. Community managers who work in this perpetually reactive state are always waiting to be told what to do; they don't actively build online communities.
Organizations need community professionals who add a voice to the business strategy. These individuals always know their next move. They've researched the data, pinpointed the biggest growth opportunities and understand exactly what they need to do and how they are going to do it. They create complete and thorough project plans and know who the best resource in the company is for every type of question.
Most importantly, proactive community professionals ask for a seat at the table - no matter what their pay grade is. They find every opportunity they can to get their challenges, successes and ideas in front of the executive team. They earn company buy-in by fighting for it, rather than idly hoping for it.
Proactive community managers don't wait for things to happen; they make it happen.
In online communities, the sum of the little things can add up to a big difference. Maintaining goals for weekly member outreach, delivering community newsletters at a regular frequency and creating new content consistently are all examples of tasks community builders can't afford to skip on their to-do list. Acting with a sense of urgency means keeping a schedule and committing to it.
The difference in ordinary community managers is that they tend to focus on one initiative at a time. They might be able to successfully get each task at hand accomplished satisfactorily, but to be truly impactful community managers need to be comfortable multi-tasking.
The following are all extremely pertinent areas in which community professionals need to be constantly mindful:
Extraordinary community managers know they have many balls they need to have in the air at once and are masterful jugglers. For advanced community builders, this means tracking key performance indicators, forecasting potentially negative changes and reacting with hard-hitting strategies before a downturn can impact community goals.
It means recruiting volunteers, creating community champions, getting executives involved and creating aggressive strategic roadmaps to make the biggest impact on community growth possible. Strengths that aid in this feat include:
In order to effectively build online communities, detecting and counteracting negative trends lines, as well as understanding and acting upon the community's quantitative strengths, is critical. However these efforts need to be planned, consistent and â€“ most of all â€“ timely. Sense of urgency is a behavioral trait extraordinary community managers inherently possess.
Great community builders are intrapreneurs â€“ individuals who behave as entrepreneurs, despite owning zero stake in the organizations they support. They just act like they do.
Why? Extraordinary online community builders deeply care about the community and brand they support. They believe they can make a significant impact on the organization's future and be a force for positive change.
Rather than just showing up to work for a paycheck, extraordinary community builders show up for a purpose. (tweet this)
Why? Because these types of individuals understand, better than anyone in the organization, that when it comes to the community, they are one of the most central factors of its success or demise.
Either you have it or you don't. Passion is an innate characteristic that can't be trained. If you can find any individual with the passion for building communities, hire them. The rest will follow naturally.
However, don't mistake passion for a brand as passion for community. There's a distinct difference. Individuals can be emphatic about a product, service or idea; but that doesn't make them an ideal community builder.
It doesn't make them excited to wake up every morning ready to build relationships with 20 other brand fans, hear their desires or understand their needs. It doesn't make them eager to dive into numbers and analyze what makes a community a living, evolving entity. Identify the difference.
Truly passionate online community professionals are extraordinary because they will do whatever it takes to achieve success. They understand that one loss does not mean they have truly lost. Rather, missteps are a way of learning what CAN be done to reach objectives more efficiently.
They are in a constant state of testing to uncover more effective ways to keep people engaged. In fact, community professionals that see opportunities to fail as a positive are those that tend to be the most emphatic about discovering best practices, evolving the community strategy and pushing the possibilities of what "success" via online communities can truly mean for an organization.
These result-oriented individuals aren't inclined to follow the confines of the traditional 9 to 5 workday. Instead, they put in their time based on the demographics of their audience to understand when they can make the most impact. When planning important projects, rolling out big updates or supporting offline events, the best community builders understand that putting in extra hours is sometimes a necessity, not an option.
When investing in a community team, you aren't merely filling a vacancy; you are creating an opportunity to evolve your organization's business strategy. The right community professionals aren't merely marketers or customer service reps, product managers or copywriters, nor social media junkies (let's set that stereotype aside). They are all of those things and more.
Take the time to invest in talent that possesses the characteristics of a great online community builder. The outcome will be worth it.