5 Ways to Set the Tone for an Online Community

There is no simple definition or description for an online community manager; sometimes called social media manager.  It depends on the size, needs, resources and purpose of the community.  That being said, all community managers are ultimately responsible for the health of their community.

Please note that, although the health of an online community and its success are related, they are not the same thing.  For example, there are companies that are successful on paper but their employees are miserable.

For the purposes of this discussion, we will define a healthy community as one that is self-sustaining, with a wide variety of members participating in discussions and where members feel comfortable posting publicly.  A steady stream of conversations with ideas, advice, questions or debate is a community manager’s dream.

There are many techniques and strategies that community managers can use to achieve this critical mass, but the underlying foundation of a successful community is its tone.  Setting the tone is the most critical, yet under appreciated, responsibility of a community manager.

Here are five ways that will help you guide the tone of your community.

inside-the-mind-of-a-community-manager1.  Actively welcome new members as part of your onboarding process.  According to Rich Millington, “the more time you spend with newcomers when they join, the more likely they will become regular members. These regulars are the backbone of your community, they’re worth the time.”

2.  Lead by example.  Encourage members to participate in discussions by participating yourself.  When in doubt, ask questions and be sure to respond to those answers.

3.  Use positive language, both publicly and behind the scenes.  For example, instead of “don’t do that”, say, “please do this.”

4.  Contact members privately when you need to redirect their behavior; public scoldings breed resentment.

5.  In order to foster a sense of community ownership, let the members create the content as much as possible.  If necessary, reach out to members and ask them to post about their interests.  Generating content “from above” should be a last resort.

Remember that members will always come and go.  In a sense, that means your community is always new.  The onus to maintain a tone that promotes member involvement and a sense of belonging will always be there.  Nurture your community until it reaches critical mass, and then nurture it some more.

PS – I welcome connections on Facebook and LinkedIn; just send along your request.  Please follow me on Twitter.  The links to my profiles are at the top of this page.


Image attribution – Dans la tête d’un community manager by Philippe Martin is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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