Part 10: Community Management

Alas, we’re at the end of the marketing mini series! Fortunately, I saved my favorite subject for last: Community Management.

In short, the community is the most important part of what we’re all doing here. You need a community for multiple levels — to raise interest, gather feedback, and build a happy, functioning user base made up of people who want to help one another. Community management (CM) is so, so important — you not only need community managers, but you also need to help them get your internal development team interacting with your community.

CM is a department that I constantly debate with management about — specifically, whether it should live under the marketing umbrella, or under customer support/service (CS). I personally believe it belongs under marketing, and should remain separate from CS. Both departments have similar duties: listening to developers, fixing issues, gathering feedback to improve users’ experiences. CS, however, is mainly about reacting to customers, and most of the time this is paid for by the customer. CS is held more accountable with their response time to issues — how long it takes them to repair damages, or get answers to the customer. Due to these reasons — and especially since much of CS is paid support — I like for CM to fall under the marketing umbrella. Of course, if you have a small team, it’s useful to use one or two people for CS and CM. But as your grow your customer base and market your product, you should separate the two departments.

My CMs for the games and tech products we worked on always had one main goal: Keep the community happy. A happy community is a thriving community, from a community of five to five million. My second goal for my CM has always been to grow the community, and to get those five people to five million (or at least to 500). CMs need to boost user activities on the forums, on social media, and at events, retain community members, and empower the community to (eventually) become self-sustaining. I encourage finding community members that have the knowledge and time to participate with our managers as moderators on the forums, or volunteers at events.

I also find it easier for myself and my team to work together when the CM is with our group. Once I’ve determined what I want our marketing goals, overall strategies, and budget to be, I share these details with the team so they can integrate them with their individual plans. I prefer the PR (public relations) person to work alongside the CM in order to make sure that when we put out news beats, the community gets the information in a timely fashion, and can also get some level of exclusivity.

The CM can also take press information and ask the community to spread it out virally on platforms like forums, social media, and Reddit. The CM will also work on event initiatives with our event manager, determining what events we’ll participate in, and how the CM can drive community activity online and at the event. They also work on events specifically for community get-togethers like user group meetups, conferences, community days, and charity events. The CM will provide us with information on the community, and make suggestions like, “Let’s do a promotion on Twitter!” or “We should integrate these terms on our SEO!” along with the overall health of the community, so we can take these into consideration to complete the plan for execution.

CMs also work closely with the internal development team, CS, and even with business development/sales. As I mentioned previously, I firmly believe that it’s advantageous for the development team to interact with the community. Use your CM to help you gather intel, and help get information back out if you’re too busy to do so yourself! My CMs have weekly meetings with the devs, and make reports on what’s happening in the community and any addressable issues they can tackle. CMs work with the CS team to identify trends, and help with any issues. They also put together programs and community events with the business development and sales teams, in order to get the community interacting with one another.

It’s super important to hire the right people for this job. Most of the time I’m looking at personality, and how a candidate interacts with others — more so than whether or not they’re gamers or super technical. (That said, I do prefer people that are experienced in video games and/or technology — it helps to have the vernacular and passion of your community.) Characteristics to look out for include empathy, great communication skills, proactive, a positive attitude, the ability to tackle problems from different angles, and someone who loves connecting people and networking. Oh, and did I mention positive attitude? There have been a couple of times in my career when people suggested that I hire someone **because they had X number of followers on Twitch, Youtube, Twitter, etc; while it’s great to have a popular, well-liked figure on your team, it’s more important to make sure that person’s personality fits well within the team, and they have the actual skills to do the work.

Be good to your community! Many companies simply look at the bottom line, and will squeeze the community for dollars at any opportunity by throwing them small tokens of attention. Don’t be like that! Listen to what your community is actually saying, and address their concerns — whether you’re able to alleviate those concerns immediately or not.