For five months now, I’ve been working in a community platform. When a non-technical person asks me what that is, I say it’s Community Management; but for an industry insider — it’s more of community entrepreneurship. A non-technical mindset is quite controversial in this domain; but it’s been amazing to see witness changes in volatile emotional intelligence, engagement principles, and relationship-building skills. Here are some things I experienced in the domain, purely from the perspective of mindsets.
Mishandling failure can cause painful memories, logjams in analysis or provoke bad management techniques. Using failure as a learning though is a superpower. It was Walt Disney’s ‘Meet the Robinsons’ that said it best – “If I gave up every time I failed, I would have never invented the meatball cannon” meaning “from failing you learn. From success…not so much!” As a new venture or community, owning your failures is vital.
Learning to adapt
Like parenting, the Community you nurture, won’t be the Community you end up with. One of the most interesting examples of this is a forum that relies on people having issues with a service to generate content and member engagement. After a time, as the service improve, members’ problems are proactively solved and new features are added, people stop coming to the forum for that original purpose. Without keeping an eye on the changing environment, a Community Manager might find that a Community needs to evolve to continue, and then slowly watch its forums decline. Accept this. No matter how small, your goal is continuous improvement. Failure or success is just a part of it. Learning is the key.
Value addition is greatly lost due to misplaced attempts at packaging projects into bigger items that are seemingly not needed. For instance, you need to add functionalities to your community to ease member’s lives. But somehow, you end up adding so many new features that actually complicates the product and obsoletes the original feel. It doesn’t work and adds no value. The thinking behind this is sound — people don’t tend to like change. At least abruptly. Value addition must therefore be done slowly. Lest it’s the same Coca Cola Vanilla story yet again.
Working proactively with the development team
You might have an internal person who looks after your website, a third party, or a full-fledged dev team. But the best way to get the community’s feeling is by listening to cross-departmental chit-chats. If you are not familiar, let’s say with only the analytics team or a design or coding team, you can’t expect to be on top as a community manager. Having daily stand-ups is a must here. They give you the ability to frequently represent your Community where it’s important – across varied departments.
Empower and Enrich your community
As a Community Manager, it’s not your responsibility to tell the team members if they are doing something right or wrong — you are merely a facilitator. Your responsibility is to enrich the framework and culture which allows community members to fail or succeed fast and be introspective – learning and growing for themselves.
Harvard professors studied diaries from over 10,000 workdays and found that the happiest and most productive moments were those marked by a sense of progress. By empowering your team to succeed or fail for themselves, you give them the freedom to develop professionally. That’s all you need to do.
Don’t Exhaust Everyone
Failing fast, welcoming change, and delivering a lot of value sounds great in theory, but in practice, one of the biggest obstacles is burn-out. Within a 2 month slot, I tried 4 different methods and had to settle for the solution that was the least bad of the bunch. In the beginning, it was fun — towards the end, the team and I were frustrated and no one could remember what method we were using anymore. We’d all burnt out.
These are six wonderful things I learned from experiences over time in a short spell. As a community manager, you will face many more. But the earnestness of your mindset will take you ahead in dealing with them as bad or good experiences. For more on building communities, check this out.