How to Be an Online Community Manager

Someone recently asked me, “how can I learn how to be an online community manager?” The answer, quite simply is, just start being one.


Like lots of things in life, online community management is not something you can really “study” how to be. Not like being a surgeon, or software developer, anyway. Sure, there are excellent best practices out there, but the complexities of what make humans (and more importantly humans in a shared space and around a shared topic) tick, make one best off learning by doing. As you start doing, you will hypothesize what might work. And you will try. And you will be wrong. Not always, but many times. You will question if you know anything about community management at times as a result. That’s the crazy thing. What you so fervently estimate will work, will in fact turn out to be the opposite.

But that’s the other crazy thing. By being wrong about what you anticipate what will be successful in your online community, you will learn the 50 shades of your community (sorry, bad joke), and ultimately what makes things tick. You will learn how to inspire new members to join, how to keep the conversations ignited, how to appropriately moderate, and how to drive good content. Keep track of what you try and the outcome. Look at your analytics. Ask people what they think. But above all, try all.the.things. Try everything! This is not a plan, plan, plan and execute once in a while kind of deal. This is a roll up your sleeves and plan on getting really dirty and exhausted, and feel like you want to quit. But then something will spark, and you’ll be reborn.

How can I start trying my hand at this you ask? Here are a few ways. Once you have a topic you are passionate about and want to start conversing online, stand up a Google + Community, or a Ning community. Or you can even start as simply as with an email chain people can reply all to. The important thing is just to start trying. As you start to refine your skill, keep in mind there are some traits that serve community managers well. Here are 11.