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23 community management tips from the experts

This post originally appeared on socialmedialondon.co.uk.


Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day! Every year, for one day, we get to celebrate the fact that we slave away behind Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to keep social media running (kind of).

After the success of our predictions article, we wanted to ask some of our #smlondon community members about their community management knowledge. We had one question:

What’s your number 1 tip for successful community management?

You can find their answers below – and let us know your tips in the comments below!

Pippa Akram (@Social_Pip), the mother of our mascot BeefTweeter and freelance social media consultant thinks you need to make the members of your community feel valued:

From a simple retweet or regram of their content, rewarding them with special offers (or freebies) which only they’re eligible for, responding to THEIR post and tweets (as they do yours) to paying attention to the little details such as remembering special occasions like birthdays, events, holidays they’re off to etc – in a nutshell treat them not as a (potential) customer but as you would a friend.

Alison Battisby (@AlisonBattisby), founder of Avocado Social has one tip: don’t force it:

Never force a social media post as chances are your audience will pick up on the fact it has been posted for the sake of it, rather than to actually share something genuinely interesting. So many brands piggy-back on trends now just for the sake of it, which ends up looking desperate and contrived. A few brands did this recently when the news of David Bowie’s death was announced. Keep it relevant to your brand and audience. It’s better to say nothing than to force it.

Jade Beckett (@JadeKirrie), Social Media Cooordinator for University of Surrey goes for the research approach in community management:

To build and maintain a successful, engaged social media community, you need to do your research. Look at the analytics, carry out some audience analysis, listen to the social conversations and really find out who your community are – as well as what you can do for them. This will help you to add value to the social media experiences of your community, rather than simply knowing what you’d like them to do for you (i.e. share and amplify your content). By providing insight-led content that adds value, members will be more likely to engage with and speak positively about your brand. Brands don’t ‘have’ communities – they are a part of them and should therefore help to enrich them.

Rosie Chadwick (@RosieChad) of Spider PR wants community managers to start making engagement personal:

Engagement is key for community management, and one of the best ways to do this is to make it personal. When replying directly to your community, for whatever the reason may be (positive or negative) refer to them by their name, and reference the message they sent you. It adds a personal touch, and shows that there’s not just a robot sat at the other end of the computer. Listen to what they’re saying and with this you can build a loyal, engaging community, influential followings and even use their engagement (particularly if positive) as future content.

Daniel Cohen (@danielcohen82), head of our Israel contingent, says that positivity is the main element of good community management:

When a customer has an issue, persevere to ensure that they come away with a positive feeling. You may end up converting the customer into a fan!

For an amazing example of this, see how the fantastic team at Buffer reacted when I had a problem.

Ruth Davison (@struthdavison), Marketing Assistant and Tweeter at 72Point and OnePoll thinks you need a rapport for a successful community:

I would say the key thing is to remember the people in your community and reply to everything; build a rapport. Never let your community feel ignored or like they don’t belong – they just won’t engage. Speak to them on their level, make content relatable and overall be positive and friendly. People will always engage and contribute if they feel like you’re listening and they can interact with you and the content is relevant to them.

Queen of Hats Sophie (@SophieDeering) says you need to show the human side of a brand:

Don’t be afraid to show a bit of personality, because people want to see the human side of your brand. Think about who your audience are and adapt to your tone suitably. Whereas some may react well to a quirky sense of humour, others may require a more professional approach.

Steven den Boer (@stevendenboer), Social Media Editor for Radboud University thinks that the management should be with the community:

My number 1 tip for successful communities is to let the community be in charge. Community management is a contradictio in terminis to me, since a community relies on their members and what they have to bring. So if there’s a community manager, the most important task is to get the community involved, ask their opinion and give them freedom to express their opinions. The community manager should be getting the members excited about the content, but on an equal level as the members, not as a boss telling the members what to do. An example of how I do this is the Instagram account @radboudadventures, which is managed by a different student every week. All I do is handover the account to another student and they have total freedom on the photos posted!

Christie Fidura (@cfidurauk) of The Perfect Circle believes that you need a good pair of ears to get good community management:

Stop talking and learn to listen. Hear what the other person is really saying despite the words beg used. Your ears are the most important tool a Community Manager can have.

Dom Graham (@GuitaristDom), a Marketing Manager and Content Creator believes you should take the community offline to help increase online engagement:

I would say that asking members to get involved with offline activities is something that most brands or organisations can do that will really improve online engagement. People are then enthusiastic about getting back online to talk about their experiences offline (if it’s been a positive experience). I’ve seen this in a fairly prolific way for charity in particular.

I (@LaurenceHebberd) think you need to be on the ball:

Managing a community is not a 9 to 5 job. Social media is on all the time, so you should be too – if you’re switching off over weekends, you might be missing massive opportunities.

If you have a piece of content related to a big TV show or (positive) news story, you need to be ready to post your content at the right time to get lots of visitors.

You also need to be on hand to manage in case anything goes wrong.

Andrea Hirai (@andreaeleanor), Forum Editorial Liason of Money Saving Expert thinks community managers need to keep it simple:

ListenAssistGuideAdapt where need beCelebrate achievements!

Chrissy Hughes (@imCommunityMgr), who manages the Restored Hearing community (@restoredhearing) says that you need to take your community offline:

Create an offline event for your community based around common interests and location. This is a great way to meet your community face to face which in turn will help people feel closer to your organisation.

For example, I pioneered World Tinnitus Day for my community. The aim of the event was to raise awareness about tinnitus and bring our community together so that they could meet each other, and meet us face to face. We had expert speakers take part, free hearing tests and an evening dinner together to end off the day.

This year we hope to provide our community all over the word with the materials they need to create their own events on World Tinnitus Day so that everyone can take part! Create an online Facebook event group so that people can keep in touch with each other and keep up to date with your event.

Rebecca Jones (@becksi_j) of Spider PR thinks that community managers should always be trying to re-engage:

It’s the second level of community engagement that many community managers won’t think about. You have already successfully managed to encourage a portion of your community to comment on a Facebook post, tweet your handle or post a picture of you, but what next? You should always be then looking to stretch out the conversation. Rather than simply liking their comment, reply back! Keeping up our side of the engagement not only makes our community feel valued and appreciated, but it will turn one time users into dedicated community members who’ll come back again and again.

Adam Libonatti-Roche (@baconchin) of The Drum wants community managers to keep going:

NEVER GIVE UP. In the words of John Cena, internet sensation and wrestling superstar, you should always keep pursuing excellence wherever you believe an opportunity lies.

Social Media and Community Management would still be utilising marketing methods of the past if there had been those trendsetters who decided to go against the grain. Screw the system that exists and trailblaze; never tell anyone that you can’t do something and at the end of the day, never give up.

Ruby (@rubyl0ve), who looks after multiple communities for Link Humans thinks that communities on social media need to be – you guessed it – social:

It’s the most simple but effective piece of advice – be social. There should be less automation and more conversation. Even if the community you manage is a large one, make sure you engage with those who are in it as best as you can.

Oh, and never use the word ‘bae’.

Samantha Martin (@socially_sam), an online media strategist wants managers to keep the members at the centre of the community:

The most important thing to remember when starting, maintaining and managing any online community is to always keep all of the members of the community at the centre of it. A community is about every single member not just the leader or a select few. That is a fan club not a community.

A true community serves all of its members needs.

With the sudden rise of live streaming apps there has been a new formation of “communities” based around users of these apps. Some are very good, for example the PeriGirls on Periscope that encourage and support other women using the app. The community isn’t about its leaders, although they do a fantastic job and are appreciated for it and every member is encouraged to support every other member in whatever way they can, be it just visiting and sharing their broadcasts to offering help and practical advise when needed.

You also have tagtribes set up by Mark Shaw, again similar format to Perigirls and designed so that members help each other.

On the flipside you have others that are set up by specific users to support and promote that specific user. I’ll not name names but there’s a clue in the tribe/community name usually as it contains the users name. This is a fan club, not a community and is designed with the sole purpose of gaining more fans, followers, hearts, likes and coverage for that one user. If you wish to question this ask yourself how many times the lead user has visited your broadcast to share it and support you? Do they even follow you back?

Community is also a two way street so whilst you may be busy supporting others and doing things for others it’s important that you are getting the same level of support in return. Pick your community wisely. Some will lift you and some will drain you.

Matt Navarra (@MattNavara), Social Media Director for The Next Webthinks it’s all about one thing:

In a word… responsiveness.

Being part of a community is all about feeling your contribution is noticed and that your engagement is valued. Community managers should double-down on replying to its members and spotlighting great comments or suggestions they post. The more often you do this, the more the community will dive in to your next posts discussion thread.

Sherrie Rohde (@sherrierohde) of mycmgr.com thinks that community managers should stay out of their own way:

My most important tip for being a successful community manager is not to get in your own way. Don’t let pride take you down and be sure to take the time you need to take care of yourself so that you can be who you need to be for your community.

Marta Stańczyk (@tusmaster), Communications Manager for Sotrender wants community managers to adjust to their audiences:

Don’t wait for your audience to adjust to you – adjust to them. Keep up to date with data – check when your fans and followers engage the most, what type of content provokes the most activities – and adjust. It’s like buying a gift – don’t choose something you’d like to receive, consider their interests and likes.

Seana Stevenson (@SeanaSteve) of Spider PR wants more indirect interaction between brands and customers:

It is extremely important to search out hashtags to find people who are interacting with the brand indirectly. People get really excited when a brand communicates directly with them, and finding them when they don’t know you exist turns them into fans. These are also people who want to be found and usually will post more content at you in the future once they are aware of your existence.

Marta Svetek (@Martholio), Content Manager and Lead Trainer for Digital Marketing at Freeformers believes that authenticity is important:

Focus on authenticity. Authenticity is paramount to building trust in the relationship with your followers. Only then can you start building a true, loyal community around your brand.

Also, don’t be the lone ranger. Social media is the domain of the entire company, and you need foster and draw on that as much as you foster the community of followers to allow for an authentic translation of company values from company culture to community. Enable and encourage your coworkers from all departments to contribute!

Alex Zamfir (@alexzamfir90), Social Buzz Specialist at Falcon Social is a believer that there are many parts to community management:

As a community manager, answering customer queries should only be a small part of your strategy. Curate inspiring content to entice your audience, and encourage them to interact with you outside of daily support issues. This will help you build a loyal community, rather than just delivering customer service. You should also be proactive in trying to grow your audience – participate in Twitter chats, use listening tools to find out what your customers are saying, and where. This will take your social channels from a support mechanism, to the starting point for a meaningful digital relationship.

Thank you to everyone who contributed a tip – and let us know yours in the comments below!