It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or intimidated when stepping into a new community manager role. Every person, no matter how confident and accomplished they seem, can feel nervous as they discover a fresh set of responsibilities and goals.
Before we get started, you should take a moment to congratulate yourself on embarking on an exciting challenge! You were hired for this role because you stood out as the perfect fit for your new team. Your unique blend of ideas, background, and personality led this organization to invite you to join their team.
Now, while there is no hard and fast formula for getting started, here are four strategies to help you transition smoothly into your new community manager role:
Step 1: Listen and Observe
The most important thing you can do during your first week is to listen and observe. Now that you’re on the inside, spend time with each member of your team getting a more clear understanding of how the organization operates and where your role fits into the larger structure. Try to meet with members across your organization to get a sense of the organization’s strengths, pain points and hierarchy, as well as the company culture.
Here are some questions to ask of your new teammates/co-conspirators:
- What is your favorite part of your job?
- What is your favorite thing about our existing community?
- What things worked well in the past for our community?
- What ideas flopped or were less successful and why?
- What ideas do you have for increasing engagement and creating a positive community?
The members of your new team will appreciate that you considered their opinions and the history of the community. Once you have a solid understanding of your company and your goals, you will be better equipped to propose a plan of action for your first few months.
Step 2: Read and Download Podcasts and Other Specific Resources
Community managers are notoriously helpful and vocal people. There are tons of resources available, including this terrific CMX list of 48 resources for new community managers. If you are feeling a bit lost on where to start, dig into online resources and don’t be afraid to ask the CMX Community for help. Maybe even share that it’s your first week in your new job there!
Reading through forums, existing articles and case studies will help you come up with new ideas and strategies for your community. It’s likely your new job has a few unique challenges that you’ve never encountered before, so it’s time to find out what those are and read/listen up!
If books are your thing, here is a list of the top recommendations from the CMX Community!
Step 3: Find Mentors
Seek out a few mentors in your community that you can learn from face to face. As you are stepping into a new community manager role, the easiest place to start is within the CMX community. Consider CMX Summit for an energizing event where you can meet hundreds of professionals at once.
There are also apps that will connect you with others in your field, such as Shapr, a completely free app for professional networking (Full disclosure: I work for them). On Shapr, you can quickly set up a few interests such as #community or #socialmedia to start matching with nearby relevant professionals who are open to meeting up for coffee. These conversations will help to guide and inspire you as you learn about what has worked for others in your field.
Make sure you end each conversation by asking how you can be helpful. Can you provide an intro to someone in your network, suggest a venue for an event or pass along a tool that would be useful for your new contact? Get in the habit of giving when you network!
Step 4: Ask Your Community
At the end of the day, the most important people you have to delight are your community members. Take the time to learn from your existing community what they love about your organization or service and where there are opportunities for growth.
Here are some ways to ask your community for feedback:
- Create a survey. Use a free or inexpensive tool such as Survey Monkey to poll your members. You can incentive the survey by offering a gift card to Amazon or Starbucks for at least one respondent.
- Ask your members to coffee. Spend time learning why people joined your community and how you can better serve their goals.
- Hit up happy hour. If your members already get together, attend these events regularly and focus on getting to know your community.
- Host a dinner for your Superfans. If you can identify a group of super active members, host these folks for dinner while sharing a bit of what’s in the works. Get early feedback from the people most likely to participate in what you’re planning!
- Use social media. Use Facebook or a newsletter to ask members questions, such as what social event they’d love to attend or what features they wish existed.
- Read reviews. Depending on the community you represent, there are likely already formal reviews of your service. Read Yelp, type your company name into Twitter, and chat with the person responsible for your support channels. Look for patterns in these reviews, such as requests that are often made and smart suggestions that may be useful.
Keep in mind that the community industry is still evolving, and that there is no one perfect formula for managing a community. Your new role as the community manager will be to test out different ideas until you discover what works for your group’s needs and goals. Stay flexible and positive, find mentors within your industry, listen to your community, and have fun!