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Q+A with ModSquad’s Community Managers

Digital communities are everywhere, connecting us to one another 24/7. Communities dedicated to brands and products need structure, guidance, and oversight. To harness the power of those communities, many companies develop a roadmap for their growth. That’s where community managers come in. They’ll engage the community dynamically, fostering connections, encouraging digital inclusion, and offering educational and social opportunities.

Who are community managers? In short, community managers are passionate, savvy, engaging, and creative. They love building a full experience for people, and value both quantitative and qualitative data.

To share more about the topic, we sat down with four of our star community managers. Each has substantial experience managing digital communities, and while some have roles that combine other responsibilities, they all play a part in guiding and growing active communities for our clients. Before we begin our conversation, let’s meet some of ModSquad’s captivating community managers.

What excites you about being a CM?

Danielle: I enjoy being in a role that lets me leverage my insight into the community to improve their overall experience. With one of our gaming clients, I keep track of community feedback and requests. I then take that information to the game’s development team to see how they can work to make the game a better experience for everyone. In return, the community is pleased and feels heard. It’s such a feeling of accomplishment when you look back and see the changes you’ve helped make for these community members.

Jenny: There’s nothing more rewarding than building a space where people can get what they need, whether that’s information, friendship, or inspiration. It’s really motivating to know that the community is not bound by the creativity of the community manager. In fact, because of the energy and enthusiasm of the participants, it’s possible to grow and develop over time in ways that the CM, brand, or original members might never have imagined. 

Caroline: I’ve always been drawn to facilitating conversations between people. It’s particularly satisfying in the online world to see connections made that would never have occurred had it not been for the internet or the community itself. People love to feel like they’re a part of something, and it’s truly special to facilitate that.

What are some memories you have of particularly successful interactions in your communities?

Jenny: In our client’s tourism community, we have beautiful stories of distant relatives connecting through ancestry research within the group. There’s a lovely tale of a woman who, through the kindness of community members, received a stone from a beach in the European country of her great-grandfather’s birth. She feared she would never be able to visit, but to hold a piece of that land in her hand was deeply meaningful to her and her family.

Caroline: Success in a community can be defined in several ways, but the examples that stand out to me are related to positive feedback from community members. In one instance, I introduced a monthly incentivized challenge to a community focused on 3D modeling. Not only was it wildly successful and popular with the community, but it encouraged new members to participate in a way that felt welcoming and different from the normal topic discussions. 

Elodie: When COVID-19 arrived, we helped our client’s travel community adapt, since the audience shifted its focus from traveling overseas to touring local areas. We adjusted our content and messaging appropriately, engaged with the community, and drew out local knowledge from members — which people are now using to plan for when they’re ready to travel again.

What trends are you seeing recently in the industry?

Jenny: I work both with social media communities and community forums. I’m seeing a tendency to build unique micro-communities within the larger community. There’s also a conscious effort to be even more inclusive and aware than ever before. People want to hear different voices, see different perspectives. Because of that, it’s important to manage misinformation and guide the narrative in a productive way. 

Caroline: Online communities have always been a big-picture concept: People are craving community. They’re constantly searching for avenues to build relationships with folks who share similar interests or ideas. It’s why sites like NextDoor have become so popular.  We’re also seeing Facebook succeeding with localized groups for that reason.

Danielle: With 2020 being, well, 2020, we’re seeing even more investment in purely digital and online communities. In lieu of real-life events, communities, in general, are really investing in virtual events. Cooperative-mode watching, playing, and a sense of “togetherness” in game communities is stronger than ever. As we’ve all seen, communities have embraced the use of video streaming, chat, and video communication apps, bridging content with people.

What are some great ways you’ve developed community with social media?

Elodie: You need to be where your audience is and today, everyone is on social. The question is more about what approach to take. We have different accounts to target different audiences, but we also focus on nano to macro influencers, which is the best way to promote your community to a wider audience with limited or no spend at all. People tend to be more inclined to click on a link from a peer than from a brand.

Jenny: Celebrating user-generated content on social channels is a great way to promote a brand and empower content-creating followers. It allows people to be rewarded and acknowledged as part of the experience. Feeling appreciated should never be overlooked for customers or communities. Coordinating story takeovers with community advocates is another way to give voice to the community while promoting the brand through social media. 

Caroline: Some brands have successful communities on sites like Facebook through the use of groups. Others will tap into a more public community like Instagram or Twitter by using hashtags, partnerships with influencers, or giveaways. The benefits to using social media to promote a company’s brand and follower base are the ubiquity of the medium, the possibility of extensive reach, and the ease of use.

What are some of the strategies you’ve used to increase web traffic to your community?

Jenny: A very effective way to generate meaningful traffic to a community is through direct invitation or referral. Ask someone to join and connect to them individually with a discussion about why the community could be a valuable place for them. A sense of personalization creates authenticity when done well. Of course, paid search and mass outreach are ways to scale these efforts, but the quality of the traffic may not yield what you hope. When paid search is not a viable option, include calls to action in high-trafficked and trusted areas like email and social channels.

Elodie: Spend wisely on your promotion. Google search is a good place to start, but make sure to gather insights from Google Analytics beforehand. Remember that many use voice-controlled devices, so choose your keywords wisely. Then target social users with a small spend behind your best-performing content. Look at loyalty programs, a surprise-and-delight program, and smart social listening. Be sure to utilize your existing audience; nothing is stronger than peer feedback and recommendations. Stay in touch with your audience and listen to their wider conversation. Think audience first, brand second.

We’d like to thank our roundtable participants for sharing their insights with the Mod Blog. Community managers have the unique position of representing both the brand and the end user, effectively serving as the voice of each group to the other. They create a collaborative environment where people come together to connect and learn, a role that’s as important as ever. Here’s to community managers everywhere!

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