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What Community Managers Can Learn from Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons is bigger than ever. People of all backgrounds are once again flocking to this roleplaying adventure game. In this collaborative storytelling-meets-puzzle-meets-escape-room (or dungeon), a Dungeon Master (DM) guides players as they build a fantasy world through adventure quests, deadly foes, and magic. Much like improv, the DM develops the story while the players react, resolve, and grow.

What does this have to do with your community? A lot more than you realize. Come, adventurers, let’s explore how guiding a D&D session is like being a community manager.

Be a world builder

When you think about constructing your community, the best way to go about it is the same way a DM begins the construction of their world. Go all in and flesh out what sort of world and experience you want to portray. Be the expert on the needs, desires, and abilities of your participants. You need to know what they like and dislike, what they anticipate from you, and how you want them to interact with your story. For social media, that usually means knowing the diversity and variety of your customer profiles. Once you have your customers (or players) anchored into your story, you’ll have a better handle on how they may react to the experience.

Like a DM, you also need to be flexible and explore with your community. If you get a curveball thrown at you (like dealing with an unexpected announcement — or suddenly having to team up with your former D&D foe) you have to be willing to adapt and adjust accordingly with little warning. That’s the joy of social media — you can see your customers react in real time and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Putting together a powerful campaign

Collaboration and content are the cornerstones of a great campaign. Here’s how to roll it out so that it hits home with your followers or players.

  • Create a basic outline of your general world. Build a plan around your new campaign or your existing concept. Will it be fun and easygoing, or are you planning something deep and highly cerebral? Do you want to guide your customers to a purchase, or make your social media an extension of your customer service or brand recognition? How do you immerse your customers in the story and let their imaginations run wild? Asking the major questions and developing objectives now will help keep everything else on track.
  • Develop a roadmap to identify chapters in your overarching story. After outlining your world, it’s time to figure out your final objective. Every long-term story is going to have multiple arcs, or chapters. These chapters will serve as your strategy roadmap. You might include holidays, seasonality, major product/service releases, etc. Just as when playing D&D, each of your chapters will develop into a fully fleshed out story by the time you’re done.
  • Play off your community by making them a part of the story. There’s only one thing people like more than funny or crazy content, and that’s seeing themselves in your posts. Whether you choose to utilize user generated content, share photos of customers (or employees), or interact with your audience on social media in a personal way, this is how you take a good campaign and make it great. This is also the reason D&D is so popular. Like your customers, D&D players get to collaborate with you, feel the camaraderie of being part of something together, and are rewarded with great content.
  • Pivot when something new or different develops in your world. Have you found a trend everyone is jumping on? Got vital info you need to share ASAP? Things will always come up at the last minute. You need to be able to adapt as needed. Build room into your content calendar to pivot when the situation calls for it. So when the next ice bucket challenge comes up, you’ll be ready to embrace it. Just as when your D&D druid tries to befriend the enemy… go with it.

Find the balance between sacred and fun 

Building a community, much like building your D&D adventurers’ camaraderie, requires fairness and structure, but also entertainment and purpose. Communities require business goals and overall direction, but these things cannot define the experience or it will suffocate the opportunity for loyalty and collaboration. On the flipside, being too flippant or unstructured will undermine all the value and intention for the experience. Take your overall experience seriously as an offering, but never so serious that you miss the aligning opportunities that make communities great. Storytelling requires lore, cannon, whimsy, challenge, and history, and these are just as essential to a thriving, healthy community.

Be the help they wish to see

As mentioned earlier, be the expert! Listen to the discomfort in your audience, identify the challenges, and measure them against your intentions. You may have built what you believe to be an amazing and rewarding experience, but if it’s not translating to your community, you need to be observant. Offer support in all manners. In D&D it’s easy for a DM to assume everyone understands, and it’s easy to become frustrated when all your good intentions are missed. Rise above and keep listening. There are ways to help everyone, and it might require a bit of individualization or hustle to rectify a situation.

Being a strong community manager (or DM) isn’t easy. It takes effort and creativity to make an amazing story for your audience. The results are often instantaneous, and when it resonates, that connection is palpable, the feeling of camaraderie real and true. A well designed, collaborative campaign can be ever so rewarding for both you and the larger community. So sit back, roll the dice, prepare a few posts, assemble the perfect meme, and get campaigning.

Your community demands and deserves the best. If you want to learn more about how to create the perfect campaign, give us a call. We’re always happy to chat!

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