Many companies are getting on the social media train, thinking about how different online platforms can help to create better internal and external collaboration, branding, knowledge sharing etc… In the social hype, mistakes are made and lessons learnt. Sometimes it helps to have a little help…
For this post, I interviewed Social Media Strategist and Community Manager Emma Williamson for her thoughts on how to manage an online community. Emma has spent the last few years helping to build one of the UKs most successful online “parenting-community” platforms. She is now working with the one of the UK’s fastest growing IT companies to help create a meaningful social-media presence. You can find Emma’s full bio at the end of the post…
What got you SO interested in social media, Emma?
I became interested in social media when on maternity leave with my first child. I joined a well known UK baby forum and got involved with moderating comments on the site. As a result of my experience in this area I was approached by iMama.tv to join the team and be responsible for managing the online community. As luck would have it, they also wanted some help with their social media so I threw myself in to learning on the job and built a successful brand across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (achieving YouTube partner status).
When you talk about online communities, what do you mean by “community”?
A community in the online sense is any group of people brought together on a social platform by a common interest or goal, be it related to parenting, politics, music, sports or so on. A community will usually have it’s own set of rules and a hierarchy of membership. Whereas neighbours or friends may converse on the school run or in coffee shops, members of an online community interact through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
What would you say are the keys to successful community management, online or not?
A successful online community is one that is inclusive and evolving. It is welcoming to new members, and supportive of old and new alike. It has a set of guidelines or rules which are adhered to by the community. It’s a place where people come together for something they can’t or don’t get in ‘real life’.
What advice would you give to new community managers to first get the ball rolling and then create real engagement of members?
New and old community managers alike shouldn’t be afraid to get stuck in and engage with their community members. Whilst of course it is important for managers to make sure the community is running smoothly, it is also important that they are seen as a PART of a community and not just the enforcers.
Most communities have a number of hot topics – new community managers should familiarise themselves with the popular and controversial topics of a forum or platform as internet law has it these topics will come up time and time again.
But most importantly, community managers should develop their own voice and personality. Yes they have to toe the party line, but members will respect that they have ideas and opinions of their own.
Last question: What problems have you encountered in your work as a community manager and how did you overcome them?
As a Community Manager I’ve been lucky to oversee largely harmonious online communities however from time to time I’ve had to quell the odd uprising or deal with a particularly nasty troll or faker. I’m always taken aback when something or someone seriously disrupts an online community but as time passes people forget the upset and normal service resumes. My advice in these situations is support your community members, deal with trouble makers discreetly and move on.
Emma Williamson is a Social Media Strategist and Community Manager.
Her social media experience includes three years and counting as the Community and Social Media Director for iMama.tv, the world’s first video based parenting website. She is also working with IT Supplier Kelway UK Ltd to develop and deliver a fully integrated social media strategy across five major platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Emma is currently building a website to support her social media consultancy, SoMeForYou.
Married with two kids (three if you count the husband) and based in Hove, Emma is a BA Hons English Literature graduate with a passion for cheese, sci-fi and Mulberry handbags – not necessarily in that order…