Online Community Management: It’s about more than sending a tweet

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By Kelvin Claveria, Blogger at KCCLAVERIA.COM

Community conductingManaging a community online - what exactly is it?

Some people think it's synonymous with handling a Twitter account, but what I found out during the July Net Tuesday Vancouver meetup is that it's more than that.

The meetup's panel, which consisted of Rethink's Leah Gregg, Capulet Communications' Theo Lamb, and Eat Street's Lima Al-Azzeh, discussed what it's like to build and grow a community online.

Based on the tips that the panel shared, here are eight skills (in addition to sending a tweet) that you need to thrive as a community manager.

Research skills

Community management is about building communities where they currently hang out. Part of your job as a community manager is to figure out what platforms your communities gravitate toward and then ensure that you have presence there. Although it's tempting to join emerging platforms like Google+ and Pinterest, you have to determine if it makes sense for your organization to be there.

Diplomacy

The job includes communicating with different stakeholders, who may include donors, board of directors, volunteers, advocates, media, and critics. Each of these stakeholders has different needs. Successful community managers can wear many different hats depending on whom they're talking to.

Web analytics

Although some non-profits shy away from analytics, the panelists agree that measuring the right metrics (AKA data to track your online activity) helps in growing communities.

If you're in love with Google Analytics, you're one step ahead of the game. (If you're not, don't fret! Google Analytics makes it easy to learn what they're all about.) Use numbers to help guide some of your decision in growing your community. For instance, what type of content resonates with your community? What are the needs of your advocates? Community managers can answer these questions accurately by using web metrics. Shares, mentions, and conversion rate are examples of metrics that may help.

Of course, it's not always about the numbers - look at numbers, but also context.

Acknowledging awesome people

starRecognition (preferably, publicly) engages your community. Sending a tweet is one way of thanking volunteers and donors - but what other creative ways can you do to make them feel special? Many community managers in the non-profit sector work everyday to answer this question.

Adaptability

Mistakes, miscalculations, and accidents are easily spread around the web now because of social media. Part of managing a community is reacting quickly and being prepared to adapt to unexpected mishaps.

Having a social media policy or a crisis communication plan is a great precaution - but guidelines will not cover everything, so expect the unexpected.

Eagerness to learn

As the web changes quickly, successful community managers commit to continuous learning. Some of the resources that the panelists recommended include groundwire.org and the book The Art of Community.

Collaboration and teamwork

With many medium and large organizations sharing day-to-day social media tasks, community managers should be able to work collaboratively. Teams should address issues such as establishing a consistent tone and avoiding redundancy. In addition to a social media policy, teams should consider tools such as Hootsuite, a tool for organizing your Twitter activity.

Interpersonal skills

The panelists agree that cultivating your community offline is as important as doing it online. Brush up on your social skills and ensure that people's experience with you offline is as warm and pleasant.

Although many online resources are available about community management, I appreciated hearing first-hand from professionals who are actually doing this type of work. And as the meetup was well attended and generated a lot of tweets, I think it's safe to say that people are curious about this profession.

For more info about this meetup, check out some of the tweets in this Storify or follow #ntvan on Twitter.

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Originally posted at GetInvolved.ca