10 ways to fail as Community Manager

Community Management is not an easy job. There are many ways to fail. Here are ten you can avoid:

10 ways to fail as CM

1. Saying “My community is stupid”

I heard this from several CMs and it’s just wrong. Your community is not stupid and assuming this will lead to mistakes. You’re underestimating your community when you think this.

Your community is as stupid and as intelligent as the rest of the world’s population.

And yes, I myself was saying this once in a while when I was stressed out. I still don’t think it’s appropriate and what’s even worse is saying it right into the face of your community. And yes, I saw this happen.

2. Being impolite.

No matter what your community does, it never gives you the right to be impolite. You’re the CM. It’s your job to maintain politeness and be calm in the middle of a shitstorm. If you can’t do that, go get another job.

Politeness includes that you say “Hello” and “Goodbye” and that you answer every question even if it’s for the 100th time you do it. Don’t say “I already answered that question” – at least not without including the link to your answer (if it’s a long answer).

3. Breaking promises

If you make a promise to your community you have to keep it. Breaking it will damage the trust your community has in you. If you really have to break it, at least explain it. That will not make it better but may ease the way for you to earn the trust back.

In general, I’d not really recommend to make promises at all. E.g. never say “never”. Say “It’s currently not planned” or “According to my knowledge this is highly unlikely to happen”.

4. Not giving explanations

I just recently saw a CM quoting a user. Under this quote he wrote “That’s wrong”.

That was it. So despite the fact that it violates basically all rules of politeness, it’s also not giving an explanation of why the user was wrong. Giving an explanation is inevitable. You’re always writing for several people, not only replying to one person. Keep that in mind. Always. Explain what and why you do it.

5. Not expecting the shitstorm

If your company is about to release a major news to the community, expect the shitstorm! People don’t like changes and even though it’s by far more likely that bad news will bring a shitstorm also good news can – or things that were no news at all but rather some kind of interaction activity (google e.g. for #McDstories if you missed it). So be prepared.

6. Making yourself untouchable

You’re not the little god of your community.
You’re not the omniscient entity everyone has to follow.

You’re a human being same as all of your community members, you can be wrong, you can misbehave, it may even be necessary that you apologize.

7. Overestimating yourself

Point 6 directly brings me to point 7 – don’t overestimate yourself. There may be things that you can’t handle alone (see e.g. “suicide in the community”) and that you need help with. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t be to shy to ask for help. You can ask colleagues, you can ask in a CM community, just don’t be hesitant about asking for help when you need it.

8. Not showing presence

Yes the job of a CM requires more than just being “there” for your community. However, your community needs to know that, when and how you’re available for them. If you’re not there for your community you’re not a Community Manager.  End of Story.

9. Treating your volunteers badly

Many CMs, especially those working for huge forums have a team of volunteers supporting them with the daily work. Not only are these volunteers part of your community but they’re also helping you without any payment for the sake of the community. They are also part of your team, so you’re in a difficult position and have to manage them similar to employees and at the same time you have to keep in mind that they’re not paid.

So unlike an employee you can e.g. not ask a volunteer to do something by a certain time – you need him/her to agree that he can manage it in time and is willing to do that at first.

Thank them for the work they do. Your respect and trust is the only payment they get..

10. Establishing a strong public hierarchy in the team

No matter if your team consists of paid employees and/or unpaid volunteers – it is never a good idea to establish a public hierachy. By doing so you’re signaling your community that the word of one staff member may not be worth as much as the word of another staff member.

If you feel you need a hierachy for the staff, keep it internal. For your community it should not matter who reports to whom.

In case you have volunteers you may need to point out that they don’t have full information access (if that’s the case).  However you should make absolutely clear to the community that your volunteers always act as part of the team.

Last but not least I’d like to thank Mike and Mel for teaching me so much about Community Management done right. And the people I rather not name here for demonstrating how not to do it.


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