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6 Hidden Skills Behind Successful Community Managers

June 13, 2021

Communities come in all shapes and sizes, local, global, online, and in person.  A thriving community is an intricate ecosystem that centers around a specific cause or interest. We believe that the highest functioning communities succeed because of engaged, committed community managers.  Being a great community manager means being responsible for setting the tone and voice in your community while reflecting the values that drive its members.

How can you tell if you have encountered a successful community? It’s easy! There’s a lot of activity and forward motion, people are sharing ideas, there are long discussion threads and thought-provoking conversations, and people keep coming back. The question is how you, as a community manager, can create and maintain a successful community?

Whether you lead a customer-focused community,  a volunteer-driven one, a group that shares knowledge, or a workplace community - wiv.club supports them all. We work with a lot of successful community managers on a day-to-day basis and have recognized six key skills they all have in common.

1. Strategy – getting from A to B

"If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” – Alice in Wonderland.

Just like in the biggest corporations in the world, we believe strong communities need to be led by vision and strategy.   A strategy is, in essence, just a detailed plan of action to achieve an overall aim.  A well-functioning community manager should choose 3-5 goals, pair them with implementation timelines and plan them out into a clear and actionable roadmap.  After all, there is a huge difference between planning to grow your community by 30% in 6 months or by 50% in a year.  With a clear picture to move towards, you can stay aware of your community’s priorities. For example, if your community’s goal is to share knowledge and raise awareness, a solid strategy will help you decide what kind of information to share first, in what forums, and at what frequency. A good strategy will also help you stay updated on your progress and keep you motivated to act, inspire and motivate your members.

2. Predicting trends – recognizing which way the wind is blowing

What’s hot this season? What are your community circles talking about? What are the latest trends in your industry or sector?

Being a community manager means keeping your finger on the pulse of your community. Recognizing changes like the emergence of online events, remote working, substituting paper for plastic, and celebrating different holidays from around the world can build the diversity and inclusivity of your community.  

Trends usually start with fringe groups and young people.  Our tip is: look for new trends everywhere. The latest trends can be found on social media, in publications by major research companies, or revealed by celebrities and futurists such as David Passig. To put it simply, stay curious, be immersed in your sector, and keep up to date with what's happening with community managers all over the world.

3. Creativity – using originality to maximize engagement

When it comes to communities - creativity is the art of solving problems in a different way and being open to trying new things.  A great way of leveraging creativity to enhance community engagement is through inventive experiences and memorable events.

Take a classic idea – such as a street party – and give a voice to your cause and goals!  We heard of a fantastic community event through our grapevine – all the way in far-away Australia!   A small community dedicated to ocean sustainability organized a street party in a local neighborhood near the beach. After throwing a buzz-worthy street party complete with food, music, and dancing, the community members encouraged locals to head down to the beach for a community clean-up. The results were spectacular! Not only did the community throw an unforgettable party but gave the stage to their goals and aims – banding together to clean up the oceans and raise awareness of an important issue. This simple idea ignited enthusiasm in the local community to get involved and make a long-term difference.

Another method of encouraging creative thinking is to take inspiration from the areas farthest from your world of content. Do you manage a community of Bankers? Try to think what activities would be offered by a community of Medical Clowns, for instance.

4. Influencing and leading – setting community direction

We believe that a great way of setting community direction is going back to the roots.  Connect back to the start and remember why your community formed in the first place. Share stories about yourself, your personal experience, and what initially drew you to the community. Understanding the reasons that originally drew your community together provides a strong vision for leadership. A community vision is critical because it gives you a mental picture of what you want for your community and what you are working towards.   When things go wrong, you’re your job as a leader to recognize opportunities to champion growth and find ways to bring people back together.  The way to do it is with a shared goal and a clear sense of purpose. Remind members why they first joined the community and unify people to work together to realize a common dream.

Community-Manager-skills

5. Listening and communicating – hearing the unspoken

Being able to pick up subtle communication clues and remaining tuned into the challenges at each level in your community is hard. People are often comfortable discussing areas they are happy about – but not always the things that are creating a negative experience and affecting wellbeing. Our tip – speak with members at all levels and cross-sections of the community – from newbies to veterans and everyone in between. While there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction, digital tools – such as wiv.club’s community monitoring tool – can help you add some numbers to your community insights. In these ways, you can keep a finger on your community’s pulse and evolve and grow with its members.   Here are a few bonus ideas: periodically appoint a community member to be “manager for a day”, utilize member satisfaction surveys, or feature “community member of the week” to create interest and encourage connections.

6. Relationship building - forming meaningful connections

At the end of the day, we believe that everything starts and ends with relationships! The key to growing a successful community is encouraging strong, active relationships. Some ideas we have collected from successful community managers include organizing one-on-one coffee meetings between members, asking members to contribute their knowledge with monthly lectures on various topics, or scheduling creative networking events. The more connections within a community, the more resilient it will be. Our tip is: put in the time and effort to nurture strong networks between your members. As they say – community starts with you.  

There you have it! Our top 6 hidden skills for being an amazing community manager. Check out some of our other articles for industry news, tips, and new ideas on how to engage and strengthen your community.

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