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Back in November, we hosted Mike Silberg as our third “How to build a community” speaker series guest. We invited him because he literally eats, sleeps and breathes community. He’s worked in various community-building roles, at companies such as Redbull and WeWork, and most recently, he founded the IS-CL Network. To him community was never a profession - it was more of a mindset. This “pure” vision of connecting with others is what makes him so good at what he does.
The event itself centered around how community managers can tap into existing community ecosystems to strengthen their own. Especially in the digital age, there are available resources all around us. It’s important to know how to take advantage of them. Here are a few tips.
Most people tend to be more focused on learning how to be leaders and influence others, rather than how to be a good member of an existing community. To be an effective leader, you have to first be an effective team player.
As a community manager, you shouldn’t constantly be feeling like you’re Sisyphus rolling the boulder uphill. You should be making it easier for others to do what they love. If you spread the word about your community organically, invite people to events, target the right folks, you come to understand that you, as the organizer, see the best results when you behave how a good member of your community should.
All communities have certain rules for how members should behave. These rules vary in complexity and restrictiveness depending on the group; however, a good member follows community guidelines out of respect for others. In virtual communities, this could take the form of not outwardly promoting products or only doing certain things on certain days.
The main goal shouldn’t be to overpower other members of the community, rather it should be to empower yourself and use that power to lift others up. The community manager should have designed the community guidelines with this objective in mind.
I think we all learn this in kindergarten, but we often forget that it extends to adulthood, too. Giving someone something that they need brings you closer to them and establishes trust. This is important to keep in mind whether you’re a new member of a community or a community manager.
Keep an eye out for moments where you can offer to help. “You are reaching for something like marketing on steroids,” Mike said, where helping the group is greater than helping individuals one by one. Marketing is like fossil fuel. With a few liters of gas, you can ride your car for x miles. But this is not what you should be aiming for. You are looking for a nuclear explosion of energy: community energy, in a sense that it feeds and grows from inside. This comes from the relationships and activity constantly bubbling within the community. If your community has the right energy, you only need to create conversation around it.
The job of a community manager is never over. Even if it exceeds your expectations, and the community takes on a life of its own, the work required to keep it up and running never really stops. As in life, in community management, without the proper care, everything fades. But there are ways to prevent this.
Once the community is strong as a whole, a next step could be to break it down into layers or subcommunities. Let’s look at the example of Facebook. Facebook is like a cosmos: the bigger community consists of billions of people. Then, there are little communities: the groups and pages. Every community’s needs are different; however, for really massive communities, the more layers you have, the greater the chances of your members being satisfied.
Layers can be as simple as events, topics of interest, or whatever makes sense to your community medium. The ultimate goal is that your group meets people’s needs.
Sara knows some things about marketing, has 3 cats, loves to go for hikes and organize things by color!
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