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Before elaborating some of the dos and don’ts of community management, it may be helpful to provide a definition, but I was not entirely happy with those I found. Thus, I tried to analyse the term from a linguistic viewpoint.
Community as an individual term has several meanings but can refer to a group of “people who are the same in one way”. When the term is considered a blended word, it could be argued that it consists of the words “communication” and “unity”. Communication is about exchanging information and opinions and unity implies that something is complete, and all the separate parts are connected. When all these meanings are combined, a community may be defined as “a unity of people who are the same in one way and who are involved in communication”.
That sounds somewhat harmonious, doesn’t it? Well, the impression is deceptive. Communities can be a powerful asset for a company, but they could also be the source for harm to its reputation. That’s where the “management” and its regulation aspect come into play. For me, community management means that the communication of a group of people who have a common interest is controlled to a certain extent to make the members and the company happy. To achieve that, the following dos and don’ts may be considered.
DO Care for the Community Members
Jerry Green explains that it is important to welcome new members and to show them how they can contribute. They could like posts or even respond to contributions. They should also be referred to the community guidelines. Such guidelines should clearly describe behaviour that is appreciated and conduct that will not be accepted. Green’s advice is: “Be firm and consistent in applying the guidelines to all members.”
DO React to User Generated Content
Green points out that it is important to read comments thoroughly to provide the users with appropriate answers and to show them that the interest to assist them in the best possible way is genuine.
Rebekah Goldstein points out that quick response times for questions should be the aim because many people expect an answer within an hour. She emphasises that any engagement or interaction with the company’s content needs to be acknowledged in some way (e.g. a like, a retweet) because the users will then feel more positive about the company/brand. Green also mentions that the “super users” should be acknowledged and nurtured which can be done with “a quick note of appreciation, thanks or congratulations”. The support of this “group of passionate, dedicated advocates” is valuable for the community.
Especially, when negative comments or complaints are concerned, it is essential to resolve the issue quickly. This may even be done privately but Goldstein points out that a response to the original comment should explain how the matter was dealt with. Negative comments should not be ignored or deleted unless they are offensive.
DO Show Empathy
Green explains that whenever responding to a user it should be considered by the brand representatives that the user may be upset and would like to get assistance. Marcus Beard explains that empathy is one of the five traits a community manager should have. He states that it is important that the feelings of the community need to be understood and shared because only then it is possible to foster a strong relationship. When dealing with criticism, the community manager should not side too much neither with the audience nor with the company.
DO Monitor the Content
Green explains that issues can be detected when key word filters are used. Thus, it is possible to react to “potentially volatile political discussions, product issues and dissatisfied clients”.
Additionally, it is helpful to use analytics for the evaluation of the content. By doing so, it can be made sure that the content is appropriate and shows what the users search for. These activities can help to improve the content and increase the users’ satisfaction with the community.
DON’T Act Like a Robot
Green explains that it is important to use “a sincere, personal voice” for all responses. Goldstein emphasises that generic replies should be avoided because users feel disappointed when responses are not personalised. She recommends: “Try make people feel special wherever possible.” It helps to humanise the brand and can “make or break a relationship.”
DON’T Feed the Trolls
According to Green, it is best to deal with them calmly and depending on their behaviour in compliance with the guidelines. They can be ignored, they can be warned or even be sent away.
Shannon Abram explains that “trolls have the intention to hurt with no value-add in their comments”. However, there may be “a nugget of truth” in a negative comment and valuable information for improvement could be offered and she recommends not to let this chance pass by.
The list of dos and don’ts is by no means complete but it already shows that community management is tricky. Community managers need to have traits such as tact, sensitivity, patience, excellent communication skills but their job also requires a thick skin. Hats off!
© Photos: Alexandra Wurian
 Macmillan Dictionary: https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/community