Learnings From Two Years as a Community Manager: Just Ask

If it wasn’t extremely obvious from the majority of my writing, I’m obsessed with learning. When I started out my career as a community manager, I didn’t even know what that meant. Two years later, I’m still not quite sure there is a single definition, but I certainly have learned a lot about what it means to build community, run social media strategies, and bring value to the crowded web with a group of brilliant content curators who I’ve been lucky enough to meet through the journey.

In the coming weeks leading up to my two-year anniversary as a community manager at Scoop.it, I’m going to be sharing the many learnings I’ve discovered in the last 24 months and hopefully inspiring some of you to give them a shot.

#CMGR learning 1: Just Ask.

About a year into working with the Scoop.it community, I realized that there was a large group of people who felt the same way that we do about content curation and sharing ideas that matter – they want the rest of the world to realize how much curation can help your business, your online influence, and your brain.

Chances are, if you’re working on building a community around a product or service that has strong values, a large majority of your users, customers, or consumers share these values. Traditionally, I was under the impression that community managers, marketers, and business people in general were supposed to use specific methods and “tricks” to garner the attention of these people and encourage them to perform certain behaviors that would help the growth of the community and ultimately the business. Form relationships through emotional content. Do something for them that will make them “want” to do something for you in return. Post at certain times. Leverage popular topics to get more engagement.

While these are all extremely effective strategies that I practice every day as well, what I’ve learned in this area might not be traditional (at all). I’ve found that the most effective way to build real relationships and make things happen is to just ask. After all, we’re all in this together – myself, my colleagues, and the Scoop.it community. We’re all after one goal: for curation and our company to succeed.

Ask some community members to join an advocacy group, share your content, or host events in their cities. Lay out specific guidelines for the community so members know what to expect, what’s expected of them, and how they will benefit (in fact, ask them how they’d like to benefit). This leads me to the second lesson:

#CMGR lesson 2: We’re all humans.

As community managers, we hear this a lot. “We’re all humans! Let’s act like them!” Ultimately, though, we’re still always trying to guess how our communities and audiences will react to things. Why? Guess and check is a great strategy for math. It’s also a great strategy for business (and completely necessary!), but why not have a little less guessing and a little more checking? As community managers, we’re lucky enough to be working with real humans – not machines, not algorithms – who know how they will react to certain things. If we ask, we can save lots of time figuring out what will happen and spend more time evaluating results and expanding on the things that work.

To piggyback off of the “just ask” lesson, no authority, respect, or validity will be lost if you simply ask your audience what they want. It might be frowned upon by some, because we’re supposed to be “experts – we can figure anything out!” A large majority of the Scoop.it community is made up of other digital marketing experts, community managers, and people trying to understand their own customers. I understand their goals, they understand and relate to mine.

This is likely the case with many communities; remove the company and we’re just a bunch of people trying to figure out how to succeed. Keeping that in mind, I have learned to be completely okay with asking members of the Scoop.it community what they would think if I did this, or how I could help them succeed. I’ve even asked them what I should post on social media or what they thought I could do to get more Scoopiteers involved! Yes, I am a professional. Yes, I have chosen the community manager career path. But that doesn’t make me an expert, or even want to be an expert – I still need to continuously learn and chances are so do you.

Since I’ve begun being completely transparent about goals and asking the Scoop.it community to work with me to achieve them, the number of Scoop.it evangelists has nearly doubled.

There’s still some guessing, strategizing, and “figure-out-ing” to be done, but remembering the human nature of this job, swallowing my pride, and learning to just ask has helped me develop more scalable and sustainable strategies; more than any guess & check had in the past.

I couldn’t finish off the first #cmgr learnings post without thanking the entire Scoop.it community for being the reason I’m able to learn these things and share them [so you should thank them too :) ].

About Ally Greer

Ally is Scoop.it's Director of Content & Community. She loves to geek out over anything social, Internet, or tech related. When she isn't working, you'll probably find her running the streets of San Francisco. Follow Ally on Twitter @allygreer.
  • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com/ Cendrine Marrouat

    Great article, Ally!

    I recently wrote a post on feedback and why we should never shy away from it. This one really makes sense in that context.