How to Get Started in a New Community Manager Role

Starting a new community manager job can be energizing. But what happens when you start a new job, and you’re replacing a community manager who’s very well liked?

A few years ago I found myself searching for employment in the Bay Area. I submitted countless applications and sent numerous emails and LinkedIn introduction requests, in hopes of finding a great fit for my skills and interests.

The rejection was real and the job search began to knock my confidence and dampen my enthusiasm. But in the midst of my search I found a great company seeking a new community manager. The company had an inspiring mission and a compelling concept, but I’d never actually managed a community in the professional setting.

Sure, I was a Resident Assistant in college, so I knew a thing or two about creating a sense of community. I also created a successful personal development blog for women, for which I managed the online community. But this was different and I was a pretty nervous.

Despite my apprehensions, I interviewed for the job and got the offer! The tricky part is, I found out that I was replacing an energetic, seasoned professional, with years of experience and loyal fans in both the company and the community I’d be managing.

So how do you gain momentum and build genuine connections when replacing a beloved community manager? Here are five tips to help you hit the ground running in this predicament.

5 Strategies to Help You Thrive As a New Community Manager

1. Stay curious. 

If you’re lucky enough to have the former community manager train you, pay attention to how they interact with others and observe their unique qualities. What makes folks like them? Are they genuine? Do they remember people’s names? Do they add value and go above and beyond? Make a mental note of these attributes and use them as a reference for yourself.

You don’t have to totally adopt their style but it’d be wise to understand how they’ve built these authentic connections. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Inquire about the previous community manager’s journey at the company, along with their strategy for establishing the bonds they’ve built with the community and your new colleagues. To thrive in your new role, it’s in your best interest to build a positive rapport with the person you’re replacing.

2. Clear your schedule and start networking.

During the first few weeks in your new role, it’s imperative that you are visible, approachable, and coachable! Feel free to ask your predecessor to introduce you to key community members along with the colleagues you’ll be working with closely. I’d recommend meeting with each colleague one-on-one and, if possible, scheduling a quick 15-minute phone call with a few community champions.

Meeting with folks one-on-one is a great way to learn more about them individually while showcasing your unique experiences and your desire to learn from them. Take a genuine interest in each person and the insight they bring to the team. When syncing with the community champions, consider asking some of the following questions:

    • What made you join the community and take an active role?
    • How would you describe the community culture?
    • What has my predecessor done that has worked well?
    • What would you like to see change in the community?
    • What has not worked well in the past?

I used this strategy in my last community manager role, and it worked wonders. I still keep in touch with some of my community champions! Instead of competing with the previous community manager, I complemented her efforts and established my unique brand of community management, which my team grew to love and appreciate.

3. Be like the three wise monkeys.

The three wise monkeys, who see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.

Chances are, as you stay curious, ask questions, and begin networking, you might hear some gossip. Whatever you do, do not engage. It’s easier said than done, but be like the three wise monkeys and speak no evil, see no evil, and hear no evil. You already have quite the feat trying to balance the expectations of others, starting a new community manager role, and establishing yourself as a team member. Stay clear of drama and anything that could taint your reputation.

4. Get a quick win.

When you have a chance to take ownership of a new assignment or project, don’t hesitate! Take this opportunity to showcase your skills and add value to your team. Volunteer as much as you’re able to and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. Your ability to take the initiative and produce quality results is sure to make you stand out as a star player on the team.

5. Gradually make suggestions.

New team members are great assets to the company. Not only are they lucky to have your talent and expertise, but you also have a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective that’ll enable you to quickly identify opportunities for growth and operational bottlenecks.

Make a note of all the suggestions you’d like to highlight and gradually share them over time. While your insights are valuable, you don’t want to become that person always boasting about what you used to do at your old company, or worse, threatening the systems and processes that your new colleagues built before you joined the team. Timing is everything.

There’s no doubt you’re qualified for your new community manager role; they hired you for a reason! The thing is, you’re in an interesting space, as you’re replacing someone that has probably left some hard-core loyalists behind.

While you’ll never become a carbon copy of your predecessor (we wouldn’t want that anyway), you may have a subtle uphill battle to fight as you make a name for yourself and demonstrate your abilities.

I’ll leave you with a quote shared by Teddy Roosevelt: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” People can smell insincerity from a mile away. If you approach your new community manager position with authenticity, an open mind, and enthusiasm, I truly believe you’ll be successful!

So, how do you plan to thrive in your new role?

Terri Lomax

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