In my experience launching and managing the community of HuffPost Live, I’ve learned some key lessons.
Here are five tips for building a community that I’ve found will work whether the communities are internal or external, online or offline. (Note: For internal communities, “brand” represents your company, and “community” represents your employees.)
1. Listen more than you talk.
Many people think community management is social media marketing. Though community management includes some marketing, the main distinction is that social media marketing is the bulldozer and community management is a magnet.
No community member cares about you or your message. They care about themselves and what it means to them. When we listen, and let our community know we are hearing them, we draw them in and keep them coming back.
2. Be proactive more than reactive.
The community manager is in a unique position. He/she is the voice and ears of the brand and the community.
By identifying a situation before it becomes a situation, you can prevent a crisis and deliver an experience beyond expectation. You see a shift while others see only a trend.
In short, proactive = productive.
3. Help beyond your brand.
The pressure to drive results gets us so focused on all our actions to help the brand. When we let our community members know that we are there for them, they do the same for us.
4. Build one person at a time.
We all hear about big data, but every number represents a person. We are all pushed to see growth and big numbers when it comes to followers, “likes,” and engagement.
What we are missing is this: Community management is about building. Any way you look at it, we all build our community one person at a time. When you find the individual who can make a big impact, it’s worth way more than any number of “likes.” These individuals may be small in number, but deliver big results.
5. Look beyond your community.
When I used to fish with my uncle, he’d always predict the best spot to fish based upon time of day, depth of the water, and type of fish we were trying to catch. He also understood that if the fish weren’t biting there, we’d have to find a new spot.
The same thing goes for building a community. We have to always look for new “spots” to find community members. Our existing community will have attrition. If we never look beyond our existing community, it will never grow.
Think of other communities you can align with, research to find new and emerging influencers in your market, and always keep an eye out for new ideas in unusual places.
In no way am I proposing that this list is comprehensive, but they are five tips that have worked for me when building communities. What have you found to be essential for you when building communities?
In this video with Ragan.com Publisher Mark Ragan, McDonald shares the skills you need to succeed in social media:
Tim McDonald is community manager at HuffPost Live, and founder of My Community Manager. Tweet him at @tamcdonald. A version of this article originally appeared on the SalesForce.com blog. Learn the five steps to communities that thrive.