Community Managers aren’t the best followers in many ways. You’ll usually find them leading culture shifts at companies encouraging others to join in their march. This post is inspired by the ebook below created by TopRank that highlights tips for Social Media which is a spin off from the list of 25 Women that Rock Social Mediathat they published last October (and graciously included me in it).


Here’s my riff on their theme:

I contend that Community Managers just aren’t a fit for karaoke! The expectation is to sing a song where the words are provided. This isn’t the case for those of us that work with online Communities. Effective community strategy professionals require creative people that aren’t satisfied with following a  machine. We need to not only move out of our comfort zone, but we try to facilitate that shift in others through patience and guidance. Some of us work with external communities and there is an extra layer of challenge in guiding customers, brand advocates and detractors. And some work to build community within an organization and facilitate collaboration and break down silos.

So singing the same old song really doesn’t work because Communities are quite unpredictable. We are required to rise up to the requests of our audience (the community). Every day brings new requests for us to sing (respond) to. An experienced Community Manager knows how to respond whether they know the words or not. We actually thrive on new requests that require ingenuity and group learning experiences. A skilled Community Manager will ask the Community to join in the song and have them help work out the lyrics by crowdsourcing them!

One of my key strategies in implementing the new Dell Rockstar advocacy program was to mentor the Community Manager on how to ask the advocates what they thought the solution was. My previous role as a library manager taught me the valuable lesson that as a leader you need to empower the team to be a part of the solution in order to gain buy in and support. In Community that team doesn’t always report directly to you and many times they aren’t even employees, so you all better be singing to the same song even if the words may be just slightly different! This has allowed me to step away but periodically peak in on the conversations. On one occasion I noticed and forwarded a thread of an unhappy song to the Community Manager and said, ‘There’s a tidal wave coming, you need to ask the Community how they think this should be handled!’. Dell’s support forums are primarily peer-to-peer, but this was an occasion when Dell team members needed to step in and work more closely with the Dell Rockstars in order to make future threads (songs) more harmonious.

A solid community strategy will have the Community dynamics fine tuned and ready for when the platform breaks down. And technology will always fail at the most inopportune times. If you liken the community platform to a karaoke machine then you’ll know what I mean. Even when the platform has major problems, the Community keeps on singing. If it’s an emergency then the din in the inbox becomes a bit high-pitched!

I’ll never forget my first experience with a platform failure. It was Sunday morning and I awoke to a frantic email from one of my moderators in Germany. Someone had hacked the platform and my unpaid volunteer talked to the hacker and fended off the crazy threats. Then I started calling my team trying to find someone to fix the problem. (The platform version hadn’t been updated for a year and there were security holes that were easy to breach. It was playing old outdated songs and someone had noticed!) And Monday the CFO called a meeting to review the risks that we had been exposed to. (That wasn’t happy music!)

The reason that I love Community and Social Media strategy is that innovation only happens when you don’t sing the same song as everyone else does. Success in this career requires a lot of tenacity to convince others to understand the vision and importance of the organic long-term success of building relationships. It doesn’t happen immediately. I would argue that if your role as a Community Manager feels like you’re doing a great job singing the same old songs to the Karaoke machine then you may not be trying as hard as you could be. I challenge you to shake it up a bit and try out some new lyrics on your audience! I bet your Community will love it, grow with you and give you a standing ovation!

This is one of my favorite quotes.

Dance as if no one is watching, Sing as if no one is listening and Live every day as if it were your last!

I will admit that sometimes I feel that the true secret to being successful in this profession is to be brave enough to dance and sing when people are watching! That’s when the magic of the role is experienced and change happens!

If you’re intrigued by making your own music, spend some time browsing TopRank Marketing’s blog and slideshare account. You’ll find plenty of great ideas!