11 Step Guide to Online Community Management

User Engagement


Posted on July 14, 2023

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A community is a group of people who share the same interests, purposes, and pain points. An online community is a place where such people can interact with each other while being located in different corners of the world.

The key benefits of having an online community are:

  • Communication with the audience. They will be grateful if the company understands and solves their problems.
  • Creation of a demand for a product. If customers can receive proof that the product will solve the problem and satisfy their needs, then they will gladly pay for it.
  • Having brand advocates – that is regular users who will not only buy your product but also recommend it to friends.

Accordingly, online community management is about doing one’s best so that the members safely interact with each other, thus contributing to the growth of the community.

Online community management helps to resolve many issues. First, it increases brand loyalty. As a result, the number of customers and the volume of sales also grow. Secondly, it maintains reputation and increases brand awareness. Here’s what happens:

  • Loyal subscribers actively follow the brand’s new products and buy them.
  • The participants give feedback and publish reviews about the product.
  • The members recommend products or services to their friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.
  • The loyal users can become experts in the product and come up with interesting ideas for implementation.
  • The loyal users actively protect and support the brand, becoming its advocates.
  • The audience will be happy to produce content for you (user-generated content) just for the idea and the opportunity to see it published by their favorite brand. 

Successful online community management will allow a business to earn even more.

What does an online community manager do?

An online community manager (CM) is a person who knows the brand’s target audience well enough to unite it by communicating the mission and goals of the company. The main idea of community management is to create close ties between the participants and to form in them a sense of belonging to something great.

An active person who loves to communicate, knows how to find like-minded people, and gets along with them can become an online community manager. This work involves not only being “online”, but also “offline” – organizing meetings, conferences, concerts, and other events.

The key tasks of a CM involve:

  • Attracting new members to the online community and retaining the current ones.
  • Constant communication with users, replies to comments.
  • Solving conflict situations.
  • Drawing up a promotion strategy, content development.
  • Working with bloggers, influencers, and opinion leaders.
  • Organization of offline events.
  • Maintaining a positive image of the company in the media space
  • Collection and analysis of feedback.

One of the main requirements for this specialist are stress resistance and communication skills. All communication between the user and the brand will be conducted through the community manager.

It is important for a CM to receive feedback in the form of messages, comments, and reviews. They should engage users by motivating them to stay in the community and be active. A community is a kind of family that is united by common ideas, hobbies, or lifestyle.

Every day, a CM will have to:

  • React to unread posts, negative reviews, or comments that require a response.
  • Monitor brand mentions.
  • Develop a strategy for promoting the community and come up with new ideas.
  • Develop and approve a content plan.
  • Publish new posts.
  • Collect feedback from subscribers.
  • Make a list of opinion leaders, negotiate cooperation.
  • Monitor the execution of tasks by other team members.
  • Identify active users (brand advocates) and strengthen their loyalty in personal communication.
  • Answer questions from users.
  • Monitor the general mood of the audience and regulate it.
  • Create conditions for the members to communicate with each other and develop mutual support.
  • Share the company’s latest news with the audience.

So, a CM faces a difficult task. They have not only to speak on behalf of the brand but also to communicate with the target audience. And in order for this communication to be useful, they need to make friends with the audience.

How to become an online community manager?

A successful manager of an online community should have the following skills:

Hard skills

  • Social psychology. Any community obeys the laws of group dynamics. Knowledge of social psychology and group dynamics is necessary in order to understand what is happening in general.
  • Basic knowledge of personality psychology. To skillfully manage communication, it is useful to know the basics: accentuations according to Leonhard, archetypes according to Jung, roles according to Bern, etc.
  • Project management and project teams. Often in the community, several “projects” are being implemented simultaneously, with the key roles being played by volunteer participants.
  • Copywriting and editing. Often a CM writes a lot: announcements, messages, mailings, posts, and other content. They can delegate some of those tasks to copywriters, but they should still be competent in writing situational and urgent texts.

Soft skills

  • Emotional intelligence. Most community managers are strong empaths, and constant work with people leads to burnout. It is important to be able to recognize your own and others’ emotions, to be careful with yourself and other people.
  • Broad outlook. It greatly simplifies communication and helps to understand a wide variety of people. It is also very useful when generating content and ideas for events.
  • Intercultural communication skills. Most commercial and professional communities consist of people of different ages, nationalities, and confessions. Therefore, it is crucial for a CM to know how the rules of communication between people that have various cultural backgrounds.
  • Leadership. On the one hand, community manager and community leader are different roles. On the other hand, charisma and the ability to work with motivation will greatly simplify the work with individual groups and the community as a whole.
  • Sense of humor. A good specialist has a subtle sense of when and what kind of joke would be appropriate and skillfully uses it as a tool.
  • Stress tolerance. A CM is the first line of defense against serious negativity in the community and the mediator between the community and the organization.

11 Steps to Create a Winning Strategy for Managing an Online Community

The stable growth of members in the community is a key sign that it is being managed successfully. Here are some tips on how to achieve that.

Step #1: Set rules

Have clear and fair rules that cannot be misinterpreted. Write them up and publish them in an easy-to-find place as your official community guidelines before opening your communication channels. Write them as solid as possible. Vague wording will be used to find loopholes to justify unkind behavior. The last thing you want to do is to change your community guidelines after each incident. This will make you lose trust.

Step #2: Create authentic content

React to news, write interesting articles. Publish clear texts and make high-quality visuals. Don’t forget about UGS – user-generated content. Pictures, reviews, videos, etc. – you can use all of this for your own purposes. Encourage the participants to share their stories about their experience with your product. 

Additionally, make sure that your content sounds authentic and consistent through all communication channels that are available to you. It means that when new people come to your community for the first time, they should immediately recognize from the tone and voice that this community belongs exactly to your brand.

Step #3: Handle negative feedback and criticism

Respond to negative comments in a timely manner and competently solve any emerging problems. Show people the respect they deserve. Explain to them why their behavior is wrong, not why they are wrong as a person. Allow them to exit a discussion, or the community, without a feeling of bitterness. 

Talk to the community the way you want them to talk to you. The way you communicate as a community manager will automatically become the community norm.

If you receive negative feedback, use it to learn from your mistakes and make informed business decisions in the future.

Step #4: Interact with your audience

Run contests and marathons. Warm up the interest of subscribers and encourage them with various bonuses. Mention the members personally. Story reposts, mentions, and other connections with the audience have a positive effect on the brand’s reputation. Whenever possible, reply to private messages and comments. People love to get noticed.

Organize joint activities that bring people closer together. Conduct polls, ask users for opinions, discuss current news feeds, and communicate with subscribers as you would do with your friends. Host offline events, where possible. In such a way you can get even more reviews and brand mentions.

Step #5: Recognize your top members

Develop strong relationships with the top members of your online community. Encourage them in a direct message, give them a public shoutout, or connect them with each other to strengthen relationships between your top members. Set up a separate space for the top members of the community where they can easily interact with each other.

Step #6: Welcome new community members

Mention them by name, guide them to places where to find more information, or ask them a question to get them involved in a discussion. Don’t forget to introduce yourself. Share your name, your location, a fun fact, and explain your role and the instances when players should reach out to you personally. An easily accessible community manager will create an extra sense of exclusivity, which is a big motivator for newcomers to join and participate in your new community. 

Step #7: Ask for advice

If you need to find out if the participants liked your new product, do not hesitate to ask for help. Show that the opinion of each user is important to you. 

If you are not sure that you are conveying a message which your audience truly wants to hear, do not be afraid to ask them. You want your content to be interesting and relevant to your audience, and sometimes it means asking some tough questions and making some changes.

It is also important that you get back to your audience after you ask them for feedback. Otherwise, they’ll ask ‘Why do you want my opinion if you don’t care about it afterward?’  When making promises, keep them. If you can’t keep them, explain why. 

Step #8: Build trust

As a community manager, you basically act as a bridge, making sure that the communication flows freely between the brand and the community members. But the members cannot cross that bridge. They will heavily rely on you for information. 

Be open and transparent. Trust your community with information. Admit mistakes. Interact – don’t be a stranger popping in from time to time.

Step #9: Hire community members as volunteer moderators

Even small communities can have moderators, especially if your small community is super chatty or online around the clock. Have clear instructions for your moderators on what they can and can’t do and train them how to react in specific cases. Tell them to escalate things if they have the slightest doubt. 

Step #10: Have clear ways for community members to contact you

The bigger a community gets, the more likely you will have to prioritize who gets an immediate reply, a delayed reply, or no reply at all. Share a list of contact points for different topics with your community. You will probably notice that in many cases you can forward community members to your volunteer moderators or to your customer support team. 

Step #11: Track metrics

Your online community can help you not only with user engagement but also with brand marketing. Therefore, it is crucial that you set metrics which you can use to plan content for the community. Here are some key points to consider:

  • User engagement: How many people come to the community organically? In which discussions do they participate most? This may give you a hint about the future content.
  • New members: How many new members do you gain every month and how many do you lose? 
  • Traffic: If your online community is in your app or at the website, consider traffic to the community page. Where is the traffic coming from and is there growth over time?

The Bottom Line

An online community is a perfect way for a brand to unite people who are loyal to it and “grow” the brand advocates. Online community management helps to increase brand loyalty as well as maintain reputation and increase brand awareness. 

To create a winning strategy for managing an online community, you need to do the following:

  • Set clear community rules
  • Create authentic and consistent content
  • Be able to handle criticism and learn from mistakes
  • Interact with the audience
  • Recognize the top community members and welcome the new ones
  • Ask the participants for help
  • Build trust
  • Hire community members as moderators
  • Have clear ways for the participants to contact you
  • Track metrics

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