A short while ago, a producer colleague of mine introduced a an aspiring community professional who asked if I had some tips and pointers for anyone looking to get started in the discipline of community management. In no particular order, here are the top pointers I’d give anyone starting out.
- Resist the urge to become a rockstar Community Manager. The worst CMs are the ones who make communities that revolve around them as mini-celebrities and construct a cult of personality. It isn’t about you. It’s about them, it’s about the game or product. It’s about building a community that exists to enrich the users. Resist the urge to play the part of king or queen – you are a steward.
- Build consensus, but lead. Be the final say, but know that the all of them will always be smarter than the sum of you.
- Community is one-at-a-time until it grows. When it grows and takes on a life of its own, pick the most outstanding representatives of the community, the nexus points around which community thrives, and tie some tow-lines around those people with direct contact. You can’t steer a community a million people big by yourself, but you can influence the influencers. Don’t try to move a planet through sheer force of will, nudge its orbit with strategically-placed meteors. You will know these people because they will sound eerily like yourself. Give these kindred spirits the lion’s share of your time and attention.
- Wear the strength of Community in your discussions with the development team. As Community Manager, you possess something they do not – the Vox Populi, the voice of the people. Being able to sift the signal from the noise in the chorus of discussions, debates and speculation gives you the singular power of being able to speak on behalf of the entire collective. You can halt bad ideas by saying “The community would hate this” or spur new development by saying “Here is the biggest item on the wishlist from our players.”
- Serve both masters well. As CM, you are the advocate, ombudsman, arbiter for the entire community. If the devs are doing something that hurts the community, you need to let the devs know. Likewise, if the devs need to say something to the community, it’s best spoken through your mouth and in your tactful diplomacy, and you owe it to the developers to see that their desires and intentions are communicated in a way that casts them in a favorable light. Trust and Access are the currencies of your trade, do not betray either. To that end, never give out a release date/time. Ever. The moment you do, you will be a liar.
- Take nothing personal. As CM, the forum is a tool in your hands, and like any tool should be treated as an extension of yourself. If someone expresses something you find distasteful, or gets personal on the boards, try to remember that this takes place in a realm where you have absolute power by virtue of the Terms of Service and EULA. There is no such thing as a “public” forum online, and discussion happens under the auspices of your will, in a privately owned setting. Consider your forum to be your living room. You can make someone to leave; it’s your home! There might be consequences to those actions, but remembering the quote from He-Man: “I haaaaave the power!” can take the momentary sting out of being called a doodyhead in a thousand creative ways. Eliciting an emotional response is often the intent from the trolls – don’t give in.
- Fall in love with your community. Because honestly, how could you not? If being a Community person is something in your blood, you’ll discover soon enough. As it grows and begins to take form, you’ll start to sense by almost second-nature an intricate, invisible web formed between users. Foster those connections, feed it with dutiful attention and the desire to improve things for the users in your care. It will reward you with growth, user-generated content, loyalty. Each connection formed, every mote of gratitude expressed for an answer given, or a response provided, lays another brick in the edifice of community.
Hopefully this helps provide some basic insight. The profession is a deeply challenging but rewarding one.