Taking over a community – tips and pointers?

(Brien Hall) #1

Hi everyone, excited to be part of the group.

Cross posting this from the Lithium community:

I’ve recently learned that I will be taking over community manager duties for an already established, but young, community (4-5 months old). I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what info I need to get from the outgoing CM, but I’m curious to hear your feedback.

-What are some must-haves/must-dos?
-Behind the scenes
-Publicly in the Community
-Any common pitfalls to avoid?
-What would you do on Day 1?

(for background, I’m also working as CM on standing up another community at some point next year, and have previous CM experience starting a community from the ground up.)



So, what are you working on?
New Community - 100 Day Pan
(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hey Brien,

First up, what kind of community is it and will you be a community team of 1?

(Brien Hall) #3

Thanks @HAWK.

The main goal will be to make it a lively, active consumer peer-to-peer support community, eventually building to be be the first choice for customer support. Secondary goals will include building brand engagement/awareness, and testing tactics and strategies for the other upcoming community I’ll be running.

Not 100% clear on team size yet, but it will kind of be a team of one. I will have a small moderation team, and likely some connections to the online care team as an escalation path.

I’m in the process of getting all the background info, strategies and roadmaps this week and next, but wanted to get a conversation going here as well.

(Shreyas) #4

Hi Brien!

I’ve taken over a community during the early stages & can share some of my experience. It was done over a month. To give you some background, the product was an open-source chat platform for communities, so we had the obvious stakeholders who were the community managers running their communities using our platform. We also had a 1-year-old Campus Ambassador program targeted at students in universities. Over the course of a month, our previous community manager sort of transitioned out while I became more active on the platforms+ emails comms. We started with an email introducing me to all our members and also gave them an option to schedule a chat with the new community manager to get some ideas on how to improve engagement, grow their community & help them with tech stuff(or just to say hello :grinning:).
With the Campus Ambassador program, I made sure that I was present along with the previous community manager during weekly office hours and hangout calls with the Campus Ambassadors so that they were familiar with me (and I with them). I also personally reached out to the most active ambassadors and got their suggestions and inputs on where they thought the program currently was and how we can take it forward. This was done to clarify that I’m not “taking over” what they had built, but just catalysing & empowering them.

So, to break it down:

  • What are some must-haves/must-dos?
    Must do’s would definitely be getting to know your community members+identifying power users/ambassadors.
  • Behind the scenes
    I got an extensive dump about the history of the community, any specific happy+sad moments in the community and understand community motivations identified by the previous community manager.
  • Publicly in the Community
    One thing that I’ve seen not working in some communities is an outsider ‘taking over’ the community. I’m not sure if this only happens in tech and open source environment, but when organizations hire a new community manager, the some community members don’t welcome the change. It’s definitely a good practice might be to acknowledge that you’re new, you’d love to have their support and that show them that you’re genuinely excited to be a part. If you have the bandwidth, do set up 1-1 calls the power users.
  • Any common pitfalls to avoid?
    Setting your tone is really important. Get to know from the previous community manager on what the company’s tone is- was it casual or formal. Make sure you reply accordingly. I’m glad that our previous community manager had set a very friendly and casual tone. That made it easier for me.
  • What would you do on Day 1?
    Depends on what you define as day 1. For me, it was more like Month 0 and Month 1 :sweat_smile:

(Richard Millington) #5

There’s some interesting studies on this I read somewhere.

I think the biggest thing is to learn as much as you possibly can before you do anything significant. The biggest temptation for leaders is to come in and be the leader by stressing big changes. This causes a backlash against the leader. The very best thing you can do (assuming you’ve already got/accepted the job) is to learn.

Set up meetings with every single stakeholder in the organization and ask them what they would love to see from the community. Setup meetings with your best members and a few regular members. Find out what they would most love to see.

The most people feel you listened to them the more they will listen to you later. Don’t try to make any big changes until you’ve done this bit.

The next stage would be to benchmark where you’re at now. Get all the data you can and benchmark your community to check the ROI, the level of growth, activity, etc…benchmark member sentiment too. This will be really useful to prove your value later on. Think this echoes what @dun3buggi3 was saying too.

Only once you have done this would I begin making tweaks/changes in what you’re doing. I guess the saying is true, first seek to understand and then be understood :slight_smile:

(Shreyas) #6

Absolutely! Can’t stress this enough.

(Darren Gough) #7

I’d be tempted to set up some interviews with any members who are also seen as controversial or struggle to accept change. Some are just bad eggs (such is life) but often you can find that they are simply frustrated no one is listening. If you can get them to feel that they’ve been heard, even if you’re honest in saying you can’t guarantee you can do everything they’d like, you can find some members seen by the community as a problem, will give you time and support your work.

Occasionally they have an absolute gem of an idea that they simply didn’t feel able to share. It’s worth putting (a little amount) of time in here to gain buy in and the chance of unearthing something good.

Lastly, never promise to do anything, set dates for action or give anyone expectation until you’re sure you can deliver.

(Brien Hall) #8

Thanks for all the quality tips and feedback everyone, much appreciated.

Starting to get my “next 100 days” plan together, will come back here to share any key learnings from the transition process.

(Nikoletta Harrold) #9

I would definitely recommend to introduce yourself. I was a CM at a tech community for the last 4 years, and I have learned that people appreciate transparency and introducing yourself, even if you are not going to be omni-present on the community. I was in your shoes 4 years ago, so if you need anything specific ping me!

(Frank Field) #10

If I were in your shoes, I would just try to get clear on the main reason your community exists and then let the rest stem from that. Assuming your management is on board with that purpose. If it’s the first place for support, then focus on ensuring that people can find helpful content and get their questions answered.
That would, I believe, help the secondary purpose of building brand loyalty/awareness.