When does the online community manager’s job begin?

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Many community manager positions advertised online ask for someone to help supervise and develop a newly launched community. In my opinion this is far too late to look at employing a community manager. They should be involved from an early point in the development cycle, ideally when plans for the community are still being developed.

There are a number of reasons why ensuring the online community manager is onboard from this early planning phase:

  1. They can get to know the platform the community is built on
    Knowing your platform, how to add and update content, how to moderate, how to make changes to user profiles is core to the community management job.
  2. They can be involved in the user testing
    If your community manager finds something awkward or confusing you can be certain your community members are also likely to.
  3. They can prepare engaging content
    Having time to prepare content for your community, be it forum topics, a list of future polls or a schedule of blogs will aid the smooth running of the community in the first few weeks.
  4. They can be involved in seeding the community
    Being there to seed the community with content and invite those all important first few members in allows a community manager to identify trends and get an instant feel of how the community is likely to develop.
  5. They can develop internal relationships
    Often under-rated, having the time to develop relationships with other employees who may provide content, or be able to help with questions that arise about your brand or services, provides long term benefits to the community.
  6. They will have time to develop a library of external resources
    Sourcing resources such as external blogs and relevant news articles allows you to quickly update the community and provide a talking point for community members.

When that “go live” date passes and you offer your community out to the world, having a community manager who has been given a chance to familiarise themselves with the environment and build internal relationships before the traffic arrives will only help with the long term success of the community.

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8 Comments

  1. Jonathan:

    I don’t think it’s far too late. As the community manager for our local sites, the challenge we’ll face is trusting someone to hand the reigns over to, when that time comes.

    The community manager doesn’t necessarily have to be involved right from the start at all.

    Interesting piece though!

  2. Stuart G. Hall:

    Useful piece. The flip side of this analysis is that if the community manger comes in post-launch they’ll be playing catch-up to some degree. I think there’s a role for specific coaching or mentoring for managers, who might benefit from short specific 1-2-1 guidance to overcome issues such as setting up viable metrics that meet cross-organizational objectives.

  3. Daniel Copley:

    Nice piece.

    I agree that your 5th point is perhaps a bit understated in the role of a community manager. Getting your colleagues (inc Directors etc) onboard may not only influence the direction, efficiency and honesty of the community…but, if you work in a large organisation, these people will be helping to promote your community. A CM needs to have the ‘offline’ skills to enthuse potentially doubting colleagues about the prospect of having an online community.

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  5. Louise:

    Cheers for the post Dan. Definitely playing a little catch-up post development, but as CM’s come and go it’s part of the territory. Have uploaded this for our community - http://www.themoderatorcommunity.com so thanks again for the resource!

    Sincerely, Louise.

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