Sounds strange, right? At least that’s what I thought when ‘Dating Your Online Community’ became the focus of last Friday’s #CMGRhangout. Yet, it soon became one of the most fascinating and eye opening Twitter chats that I’ve ever been a part of.
There are so many parallels between community management and dating. Both are equally concerned with compatibility, trust, and relationship building. Yet this is a comparison that I had never dreamed of making. In order to build a community that will last, you have to think of it as establishing a relationship with the tens, hundreds or even thousands of people that are within it. You have to be able to determine who is and isn’t the right fit, as well as working towards a balance between giving and receiving.
I can’t emphasise how much this redefined my idea of online community management. So, here are the top pieces of advice that I took from Friday’s talk:
Start by Listening & Never Stop
Listening is no easy task. It’s not a passive action that requires you to sit down and nod your head as someone else natters on. To listen you have to be alert, attentive, and process the information that you’re receiving. Just like dating, in order to learn about and truly understand what an individual needs, listening is imperative.
This also prevents managers from ‘creating’ an image that they, personally, believe that the community should live up to. Instead, you’re able to see and appreciate the people for who they are; flaws and all.
Most importantly, listening is not just an act in the ‘getting to know you’ phase of any relationship. If anything, listening is the only constant. Once you being you never stop because, like dating, the needs of a community will evolve and change. The only way to pick up on this quickly and adapt alongside your audience is if your ears are constantly alert.
Compatibility: When it’s Right, it Feels Right
When you’re trying to make a long-term commitment, compatibility is everything. True compatibility stems from sharing similar values which allows people to work towards mutual goals. If you take this principal to community management: it’s all about brining a group of people together who share a set of passions and interests.
This, to some extent, should be easy. Compatibility shouldn’t be a constant battle. Whilst compromise is part and parcel with all forms of relationship building, there is a fine line between making a few adjustments & compromising yourself entirely. As cliche as it may sound, when you do find the right people to fit within a community it just feels right. Simply because everyone is aligned by their values, or a particular form of thinking, and feel perfectly comfortable with sharing their opinions.
Be Yourself… From the Very Beginning
Have you ever spent time getting to know someone and they begin by making a huge effort to impress you? Then, as the weeks pass by, they become comfortable and you’re suddenly presented with a completely different individual. Whether you’re dating or managing a community, selling an image that isn’t true to you is far from appealing. No-one wants to be sold a false impression! The only way to build a community that is genuinely in-tune with a brand’s image is to be authentic from the very beginning.
Giving an insight into your personality also builds trust and opens up the channels of communication. In terms of community management, consider it as leading by example. If you want your audience to be open, authentic and true to who they are, then management must do the same. Don’t just create an external image that is ‘attractive’ to suck people in. Trying to live up to someone else’s standards is far too energy and time consuming. Stick to the values that are central to your company so that the RIGHT people will find the community and stay.
Both Sides Must Show Appreciation
Just like any healthy relationship, in order for it to operate smoothly, both parties must feel appreciated and supported. Giving freely, telling people that they matter (and meaning it) is the first step to creating a faithful community.
Most importantly, be the biggest fan of your fans. Mention people, talk to them, share their work and acknowledge their support. This generates loyalty and creates a community that will stick around and support you in return!
Accept Failure as an Option
Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts – Winston Churchill
We, as humans, often use fear of failure and rejection as an excuse to not do something. Whether you’re scared of being turned down or scared of pursuing a dream; fear of failing is often at the root of it.
So what happens when you embrace failure instead of running from it? It empowers you to take risks. As a community manager, there is no guarantee that your venture will take off, thrive and develop immediately. In life there are no guarantees. But, would you rather try, potentially fail & learn from the experience or miss out on a huge opportunity? Failure is as much a learning curve as success. Without it you can’t grow.
If you do plan on dating your online community – do it the right way. Focus on establishing genuine relationships with people. Listen. Be true to your brand and don’t waste time worrying about failing. That way you may be rewarded with a community full of amazing characters, ambition and real passion.Follow @lifeofaworkgirl
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