Don’t be the loudest voice in the room.

Photo by Yenna on Flickr

Community Management is communication – a lot of it. The message is most important and you should be accurate, polite and often apologetic in your dealings with the community. But by no means should you be the most active poster in the forums or wherever your community interacts the most. You shouldn’t be the first responder to every thread and there’s a lot of threads you don’t need to post in at all.

It’s also important to not be the one starting all the conversations – A gentle nudge here and there to direct the attention of power users is always a positive but don’t attempt to foster every discussion. This approach leads to a stranglehold on ideas by the staff and can actually wind up causing resentment among members of the community who feel like their input doesn’t carry as much weight as it should.  An effective community manager is more active in a ‘behind the scenes’ role – they alert community members to the topics that might interest them and encourage those users to get involved instead.

They also get the chance to tie together like-minded users who may have not interacted before: By letting a user know that their expertise, opinion or advice is desirable, you can strengthen both your relationship to the community and the relationships that exist within the community.

If you’re already the loudest voice in the room, take it down a notch. Try to off-set your quieting by appearing more active in other places. You can spend less time on discussion and more on pro-active education, via a blog or Knowledge Base. When you have an idea for a discussion topic, rather than starting the thread yourself, try choosing a community member who can lead the discussion for you. This way you can foster discussion in the areas that will help without directing the flow of ideas.

Behind the scenes community management is sometimes slightly more difficult than an aggressively hands on approach but the rewards are great. Just remember, don’t be the loudest voice in the room but always stay audible.

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