How to: Community Management

Community (fancy word by the way) means: community. With this statement, I do not want to initiate a basic English course, but only clarify what it is all about. A community does not have much to do with technology, but more so with you as a human being, who is part of that community. And because people do not want to communicate with machines and programs, but with other people, we can answer the question of technology at some point. Already connected with the hint that I think it’s pretty bad, with which technique you look after a community. A messed up community can not be saved even with software.

On the other hand, is not it nice to finally have a digital topic where we talk a lot more about people than about tools? It happens way too rarely anyway. That does not necessarily make it any easier. Because that also means that a lot more should happen by hand (or rather, capriciously) and the machine is usually only there to make routines easier to control.

What is important? To you of you!

You want to build a real community? Then be there for her. Ideally, in the age of permanent all-around networking, one would need a 24/7 presence, but in most cases this will not work.


I’d like to ask the question: how much time do you have to spend on proper community management? If you expect a nice, handy number now: Sorry, that will not work. Of course, “as much as possible” is a bit vague and not quite what you want to hear. But it is the most honest and pragmatic answer. Everything else has to do with the size of the community and of course your options. If you can not be there permanently, then just communicate that. A good community will understand that.

Of course you can and must steer a community a bit just in the beginning. You know that from parties: There are all at the beginning a bit helpless and wait for something to happen. The good host, however, knows how he gets the store going. In the case of community, that means getting a conversation going. Set yourself topics, ask questions.

However, this is also a small tightrope walk: You should not be overly intrusive. If a topic does not work, then it just does not work. Finding out what’s going on in your community and what’s not is just the hardest task right from the start. Unfortunately one in which only “trial and error” works. Every community manager and every journalist can sing a song about the surprising results that come from time to time.

What else are you in the role of founder and manager of a community? Everything. Impulsor, moderator, living wailing wall, complaint management, commentator … the list could go on for a long time. In short, community support includes all conceivable forms of communication.

Order must be: Give clear rules!

Of course, nobody likes to play the block warden. The janitor, the overseer. Only: If you want to build a working community, it will not work without a few rules. At the very beginning, and for the time being, you will be the one who not only sets these rules but also monitors their compliance.

If this prospect scares you: There are two little comforters.

First, it is up to each one of us to fill that role. You can do that also very charming and friendly. Always remember: What goes around comes around. In this case, the tone you pretend will shape your entire community.

Second, experience shows that a functioning community has amazing self-cleaning powers. In other words, the members are already looking to keep things within limits. This means that you can at some point even take back clearly when the community has played itself.

How strict or even not the rules should be: Also in the answer to this question no machine, but only the own head helps. They only have to be one thing: clearly and clearly communicated. To really follow them consistently.

Beware, Buzzword: Be authentic!

I admit, I’ve been pondering for a while on whether and how to avoid this notion of authenticity. As you can see: unsuccessful. Because, from my point of view, there is no concept that could better describe how to successfully move in a community.

Experience shows that users have an amazing sense of whether they are just presented a medium-good spectacle. By the way, you may well be a little bit in a bad mood (in moderation and limits). Nobody expects that community managers are always in the best of spirits.

So, I’d rather put on a note that is not that good. We are not here in the USA, where basically everything always fantastic and wonderful has to be. No one here believes you, if you always think it’s great.

There is something else about authenticity. Something that I always want to discuss with fellow journalists, somewhat unsuccessfully by the way: error culture. If you, your company, whoever makes a mistake, stand by! Everyone makes mistakes, no community in the world seriously expects you to be flawless. The vast majority of shitstorms only become really big due to the wrong or the missing reaction to a mistake. An open handling of a mishap, on the other hand, quickly collapses the wave of indignation, which is usually overdone in any case.

Do not feed the troll!

You can be a good community manager: it’s not impossible to catch a troll. The art is to distinguish the troll from the critical mind. But once you’ve identified someone as a troll, the old and iron rule is not to feed him too. In Bavaria we always say: do not even ignore it. There’s a lot of it. Trust it, the troll will take any small impulse from you to the happy occasion to go on. After all, that’s his purpose in life.

To kick someone out of a community is always the ultima ratio. But if there is no other way, if someone does not respond to friendly and less friendly admonitions: Do it, it’s your community, you’re the host. If someone keeps puking on you at a party, you would do the same, also in the interest of the other guests.

Until then, stay calm! When the sound in a community first aggravates, it is experience from experience terribly difficult to capture everything again.

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