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Proper Feeding and Care of Your Online Community - 2/28/2012 -

What qualities should you look for in someone who will manage your association’s online community?

By Joshua D. Paul

More and more of your members’ interactions with each other (and your staff) are happening online—and that’s not going to slow down any time soon. One of the most important roles in this new way of managing members is your association’s online community manager.

An online community manager is one of the most versatile and important roles in a modern membership organization. A community manager is a jack-of-many-trades with a singular focus on waking up every morning and making sure that the association’s online community is successful by the organization’s standards. Rresponsibilities may include:

· Onboarding—welcoming and orienting new members to the community.

· Facilitation—starting and assisting with discussions to keep members engaged.

· Community Support—answering members’ questions about how to use the online community software.

· Plugging Holes—finding answers, or people who can provide answers, to unaddressed questions by members in the community.

· Content Management—managing the content plan and schedule, including tracking down content deliverables ahead of deadlines.

· Content Production—writing blog articles and discussion posts, responding to posts by members, and redirecting members to additional resources that the association provides on a specific topic.

· Curation—finding, vetting, and posting content of value to the organization’s membership.

· Relationship Management—developing and maintaining relationships with members, partners, and volunteer leaders.

Selecting the Right One

The single best thing you can do to ensure the success of your online community is the one thing most associations don’t do: Select a person to own the community. The community manager should be someone that can wear many different hats. Here are some of the skills needed in a successful community manager:

Understanding of social media. This person does not need to tweet every moment, but they do need to have an understanding of social media tools, how to use them, and the ongoing changes to the various platforms.

Good project management skills. All good community managers are really managing a large project with many parts and objectives. The ability to juggle multiple tasks, personalities, goals, and objectives is an essential part to effective online community management.

Grasps the larger vision. There is a lot more to being an online community manager than just adding a posting here and sending out an email there. There will be trends that show up in usage, comments that tell of an underlying issue, and opportunities that will arise. An effective community manager will spot these, and because they understand the overarching goals the organization has with its online community, they will act and communicate this data appropriately.

Has the appropriate authority. In many cases, the community manager may be the person who posts the content, but they will have to "pull rank” when necessary to get others to submit content on time. You need to give your community manager the appropriate title, backing, and status to get things done within the organization.

The Best Generation

Many executives look at younger people and think that if they have a Facebook page, they are a great candidate for the function of online community manager. On the flip side, they may also look past an older candidate simply because of the notion that social media is a young person’s game.

It’s better to evaluate potential candidates based on the social networking skills they already have—not their age demographic. With so many people getting involved with social media, the best advice is not to judge a book by its cover either way.

Joshua Paul is the director of strategy for Socious. Don’t miss the feature content on community managers in the January/February 2012 issue of Signature magazine.


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