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The ultimate guide to the world of online community management

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What does an online community manager do?

An online community manager is responsible for fostering and growing your online community. This dynamic role requires a mix of interpersonal skills, strategic thinking, and flexibility. An online community manager’s helps to:

  • Maintain your brand voice and tone in all interactions

  • Engage your audience with regular posts and prompt replies

  • Ensure a safe space for all by moderating user-generated content (UGC)

  • Enforce community guidelines and remove inappropriate content or users

  • Resolve conflicts between users to maintain a positive, respectful atmosphere

  • Build your community by fostering conversation and a sense of belonging among members

Depending on your community size or your business goals, you may want to work with multiple community managers or reach for automated content moderation tools.

The 5 types of online community management

No matter the platform, the goal of online community management is always to provide your audience with value while ensuring that discussions remain collaborative, encouraging, and respectful. Let’s discuss the five types of online community management.

1. Support and success community management

Customers want a place to go to find answers and solve problems. Support community management creates these spaces, which can take a few forms:

  • Forums

  • FAQ documentation

  • Community websites (ex: www.community.domain.com)

Businesses with technical products, like software companies, often maintain support communities. The Sendbird Community, for example, provides all users with self-serve access to documentation, tutorials, and expertise from more experienced users in a collaborative, solution-oriented space.

Sendbird Community

2. Product and feedback community management

Product and feedback community management makes a space for customers to share thoughts and offer feedback about your products or services. Every business can benefit from this type of community management. Listening to customers, and incorporating their feedback, is essential to driving product improvement and innovation.

That said, product community management is especially important to software businesses that want to find and fix bugs that diminish the product experience. Newegg, for example, hosts a forum-style chat on the social platform Discord.

Newegg forum
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This allows Newegg to collect and address bug reports from one place while also hosting various conversation threads. The community moderator is crucial to keeping the discussions positive and respectful.

3. Acquisition and advocacy community management

Acquisition and advocacy community management is about engaging with people, such as leads, customers, and brand advocates, who are excited about your brand. These communities are a chance to nurture the relationships that drive brand awareness and promote your products via social media, word-of-mouth, or affiliate marketing. The community manager keeps discussions on these forums relevant and aligned with the goals of the digital space.

BeeHiiv, for example, runs a partner program on its website where brand advocates can refer new users to BeeHiiv for a 50% revenue commission. This drives acquisition by turning affiliates into advocates, who then attract more customers.

Behiiv
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Acquisition and advocacy community management is ideal for retaining your top customers, boosting brand loyalty, and driving awareness.

4. Contribution and content community management

Content and contribution community management is at play whenever a business solicits content from customers on a platform. For example, marketplaces like Airbnb host user-generated content (UGC) on their site in the form of user listings and reviews.

User reviews on Airbnb
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To protect the user experience and brand, all UGC is screened for quality and appropriateness before it is published. The community moderator is dedicated to screening UGC in real time to ensure it meets your community guidelines.

5. Engagement community management

Engagement community management allows you to create a courteous space for people to connect around your brand, product, or services. Social media accounts are a prime example of this type of community management.

Social accounts are meant for customers, though, and you may also want a community to connect your employees, management, partners, and vendors. Platforms like Slack, for example, enable teams to easily organize and communicate around varied personal and work-related topics.

Slack window
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Now let's talk about the major principles of online community management that you need to know.

7 core principles of online community management every community moderator needs to know

Online community management involves a variety of strategies and tactics to drive engagement, ensure a positive atmosphere, and promote the well-being of community members.

1. Community building

Members may struggle to make connections and feel a sense of belonging at first. Encourage interaction by making introductions, suggesting conversation topics, and hosting activities like icebreakers. This can help to create a feeling of camaraderie that evolves into organic engagement.

2. Content moderation

Your community needs a space where members feel safe and at home. It’s the responsibility of the online community manager to monitor, review, and delete any UGC that violates community guidelines and degrades the user experience.

3. Conflict resolution

To keep the atmosphere harmonious, your community moderator may need to resolve the occasional dispute between members. Moderators are effective communicators, ready to mediate and resolve issues diplomatically.

4. User engagement

Growing a vibrant community requires a regular infusion of content, discussion, and group activities. Try a variety of engagement tactics — polls, challenges, gamification — as well as audience-specific content to encourage participation.

5. Feedback management

Soliciting and implementing member feedback is the best way to improve your online community management efforts. This demonstrates your responsiveness to members and your commitment to improving the community.

6. Technical support

Digital community management often aims to provide customers with support for product and technical issues. By addressing concerns promptly, you can enhance the user experience, deepen brand loyalty, and demonstrate to customers that you care.

7. Community growth

Attracting new members is crucial, especially right after you launch your community. You can experiment with various marketing strategies, outreach, partnerships, and incentives as you try to discover what your audience is looking for in your community.

If you want to be successful at launching and growing your online community, it’s imperative that you base your efforts on a comprehensive online community management strategy. How should you do this? Let’s find out.

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6 tips on crafting your online community management strategy

Community management strategy

Here’s an action plan for how to create value, engage, and grow your online community.

1. Pick a community management channel

Start by choosing a channel or platform where you’ll manage your online community. This might be a social media site, a community-centric platform like Slack, or a custom support forum on your website.

Consider your target audience to find your best option. For example, Discord is home to the gaming community. TikTok is popular with younger audiences. Or Instagram has a wide appeal. You can collect user feedback to double-check your choice of platform.

2. Find your digital audience and understand what they like

The next step is to identify your audience on a given platform, and what they interact with. Who do they follow? What content do they engage with? How are their brand interactions? Once you understand what resonates, you can tailor your online community management strategy to your audience’s preferences to drive user engagement.

3. Set goals for online community management

Setting goals allows you to reach objectives and measure success, but goals can be tough to define at first. Fortunately, you’ll have engagement metrics to review — likes, comments, mentions, etc. — within a month of launch. Average your total engagement across these metrics to get a baseline for your community engagement efforts. Next, use those numbers to set attainable goals around brand awareness, follower count, and customer satisfaction for coming periods to develop a model of success.

4. Define your online community guidelines

Community guidelines are rules that establish the types of content and conduct that isn’t allowed in your online community. It is recommended that you publish your community guidelines for all to see. The online community manager will refer to these ground rules as they monitor and remove unwanted UGC.

5. Interact regularly with your online community

Online communities thrive on consistent two-way engagement. This means you should publish content regularly, and respond to all member questions and comments in a timely manner.

You might want to plan out how often you’ll post new content and respond to members. Following a schedule helps people to anticipate your next post, and also ensure you have the bandwidth to reply to all questions and concerns authentically.

6. Measure your online community management results

Your online community management efforts will generate lots of data. To understand your performance, you can use tools like:

  • Platform analytics: Most social platforms include built-in analytics for assessing engagement data and content performance (e.g. Instagram Insights, Twitter Analytics).

  • Analytics tools: If your chosen platform doesn’t include in-depth analytics, you can look to outside help like Google Analytics or social listening tools.

It’s also a good idea to regularly A/B test your content to identify what types resonate most with your audience.

How to overcome the challenges of digital community management

For many brands growing an online community, content creation and moderation can be recurring challenges. The fix is being proactive.

Ask your audience for their favorite content

The first challenge of online community management is to find what content resonates with your audience on a given platform. To skip guesswork, just ask people what they like. Use a chat thread, social media poll, or email survey. Community members will see that you care and respond with honest insights.

Prioritize community content moderation

Content moderation is the more persistent challenge in online community management. After all, if community members often feel unsafe or annoyed by your content, there won’t be a community for long!

What is community content moderation? Community content moderation is about identifying and removing UGC that violates your community guidelines in real time to protect your members and brand from harmful and unwanted content. For businesses with limited resources, automated moderation tools like Sendbird’s Advanced Moderation can be a cost-effective alternative to hiring human moderators.

So you’ve launched and grown your online community. Now let’s take a look at some best practices for sustaining that growth!

6 best practices for online community management

Effective online community management allows you to foster a positive, engaging space that creates value for your members. Here are some best practices for creating an online community.

1. Be your authentic, branded self

As you grow your online community, remember that authenticity attracts. You set the vibe. Use a consistent brand voice with each community member — human, genuine, and interested — to create a welcoming atmosphere and a memorable experience. Over time, as your brand personality develops, your online community will become an ever more interesting place to be.

2. Engage proactively with your online community

It takes consistent effort to build a vibrant online community where members feel like they belong. Regularly check in on your community, share new content, and ensure members are getting the help they need. The more visible and engaging you can be, the faster you’ll gain new online community members and their trust.

3. Set clear community guidelines

Communicate your expectations on what behavior, content, and interactions won’t be allowed in your online community. Publish your community guidelines for all to see. When coupled with timely content moderation by your community manager or content moderator, the ground rules will allow you to maintain a productive, safe environment that upholds your ethical standards.

4. Listen to your online community

Listening is the best way to understand your audience and deliver more value to them. This can include responding to DMs, routinely reviewing your forum or FAQ pages, or using social listening tools. If community members feel heard, they’re more likely to come back.

5. Show your followers appreciation

Be sure to acknowledge all your members regularly, whether they’re excited newcomers or long-standing pillars of your community. Members will be some of your most devoted fans, after all, and meaningful recognition will only reinforce these feelings of trust and advocacy.

  • Engage each new member who joins as soon as they arrive (“Welcome Blair, we’re happy to have you here!”)

  • Monitor your accounts and pages for mentions, keywords, and hashtags. Respond to these directly.

  • Keep track of your most engaged community members and find ways to reward them for their commitment (swag, meet the team, rewards points, etc.)

6. Remove inappropriate content through effective content moderation

A key aspect of online community management is protecting members from harmful and inappropriate content — spam, scams, trolling, harassment, bullying, abuse, explicit material, and more.

An online community manager is responsible for monitoring, reviewing, and removing any content that violates your community guidelines before it can negatively impact your member or brand. To maintain a respectful and inclusive atmosphere, the online community manager may need to suspend or ban repeat offenders. Be firm but respectful; most members won’t intend to overstep your guidelines.

A note on online community management services

You can hire an online community management services company to grow and manage your online community experience. Outsourcing to experts is a way to gain new growth strategies, ensure consistent engagement, and free up time to focus on your core competencies. The service provider oversees every aspect of your online community for you: content moderation, engagement, support, and feedback.

Community management services can be costly compared to managing your community in-house. However, this can be an appealing option for companies looking to optimize experiences, recover from bad PR, or scale growth quickly with new and innovative strategies.

Finding the right online community management platform

Online community management platforms offer a variety of tools to help you manage, measure, and streamline your community management efforts in one centralized hub. When evaluating these platforms, consider factors like:

  • Integrations: Your community software should talk with the apps you’ll be using for community management, like customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, help desk, and social media management software.

  • Customizability: Members will feel more at home if your platform design is aligned with your branding. Customizable software allows you to tweak the look and feel of the user interface so it feels true to your brand and ultimately enhances user engagement.

  • Scalability: Community management software should be scalable, and ready to handle a growing number of members so you can grow your community seamlessly.

Prices typically range from $20-$60/month, or more for enterprise products or those with premium features such as surveys, gamification, reward programs, or a built-in CRM.

Sendbird’s Advanced Moderation for content moderation

Sendbird’s Advanced Moderation is an automated content moderation tool with everything you need to create a comprehensive rule-based content moderation system — complete with advanced chat moderation features and proven online safety tools. With Sendbird’s Advanced Moderation, you can fully automate and customize your management of UGC from a single unified dashboard.

Moderation rules

Designed for efficiency and consistency, this automated, scalable tool allows you to detect, evaluate, log, and execute on inappropriate content in real time from one place. Meanwhile, future-facing features like a review queue, rule-based auto-detection, and moderation records can help you multiply the accuracy and impact of your community content moderation efforts.

The future of online community management

Looking ahead, AI and automated tools are set to enhance the speed, accuracy, and precision of online community management, especially with regard to content moderation. Automated tools trained on AI will continue to improve at spotting and removing unfit content without human oversight. Human content moderators will still be required, but have more time to focus on growth-related aspects of community management, such as content creation, or handling nuanced situations that automated content moderation tools cannot understand.

As AI evolves into its own distinct platform, AI chatbots may soon be an embedded feature across community platforms. Powered by natural language processing (NLP), these GPT-like bots could allow members to query the AI canon from inside your dev forum, website, or Facebook page. This would represent a huge uptick in user value for any online community. Going forward, online spaces are set to become safer and more interesting as technology steps up to augment and replace human efforts.

Next steps for online community management

Much like gardening, online community management rewards consistency, positivity, and regular weeding. Your community will grow slowly at first, so use this time to understand your audience, create unique content, and foster a safe, productive environment.

When it comes to community moderation, you can enlist outside services or automated tools to support your internal efforts. Both can help you protect your people, gain efficiencies, and grow your community faster. Sendbird’s Advanced Moderation tool can help you seamlessly elevate community trust and safety with minimal effort.

Start a free trial today, or contact us to learn more!

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