Community Management should mean Community Engagement: Value, Validate, and Respect
Community management should mean community engagement. Here are several ways to make sure you’re reaching this optimal level of community engagement, whether online or offline:
- Demonstrate value. People have a seemingly unlimited number of resources to draw from. Why should they be committed to your community? What are they getting from it? Show value daily or weekly with groups, links, tips, discussions, questions answered, etc. Are you bringing your best? If you are, it’s more likely the community members will be bringing their best ideas and involvement too.
- Value your community members. Be proactive. Do you reach out to them first with news or updates? And I don’t mean the “I just sent this to all 15,000 members” kind. I mean the type that’s 1-to1 that says, “Sarah, I just read this (insert link). It’s in your area. Thought you might be interested.” The true value in communities is when members sense this kind of personal connection.
- Assign value. Your members are more than just a number, more than just an annual dues renewal. They are individuals. Treat them as such, and use their names frequently. It’s been said that the sweetest sound is the sound of one’s own name. “Thanks for weighing in, Joe.” “Susan, you make a great point.” “I hadn’t been asked that before, Bill; I’ll look into it and will get you an answer by this afternoon.” I try to do this as much as possible when space and time will allow. Despite the thousands of people you may be interacting with on a regular basis, showing that you recognize someone can only earn you and your organization more loyalty.
- Delegate value: Ask for help. If your sense for community management is that it all comes from you or is assigned to one person, you’ve got it all wrong. Whether it’s during a meeting, conference, evenings/weekends, or a vacation, what happens when you’re away from the online community? Your goal should be for it to function just fine without you. Maybe not at first, but this should be what you’re shooting for. It’s similar to raising children. You don’t want to cook for them, do their laundry, and clean their rooms for the rest of their lives (or yours, whichever is shorter). Teach them to do these tasks for themselves. They all grow up. How they grow up is determined by you. You don’t want your adult children to be dependent on you; you want them to be responsible. Ask the same of your community.
- Validate your community members’ ideas. This doesn’t mean that they all get implemented, of course. But, did you see and express the merit in them? And, did you thank them for contributing? I’m a firm believer that all input can contribute to the final outcome. My “bad” idea could actually lead to your good idea. For this to work, you need participants. And when I say participants, I mean the active, contributing type of participants, not the let-me-sit-in-my-chair-while-you-spoonfeed-me kind.
- Validate your community members’ connections. If they’re having a positive experience, they’ll tell others. Celebrate and encourage these referrals. Thank the member making the connection. Welcome the new member wholeheartedly and help them find a place to plug in.
- Respect your community members. Whatever the affiliation with your community may be, your members come to it with a certain level of experience, skills, knowledge, and insights. Treat them as such. Don’t talk down to them. There’s a good chance they’re getting more respect elsewhere. And if they don’t feel respect in your group; well… they may not stick around.
- Respect their time. People don’t just join the community as a personal favor to you. Ever been to a meeting and left thinking, “That was a waste of my time.”? If members visit your community and don’t find compelling or relevant information and don’t make meaningful connections, they’ll go elsewhere. Make sure you are fostering the creation of good content.
What ways have you found to turn community management into community engagement? Feel free to share your ideas with us below or on Twitter.