Keys to Successful Community Building & Management

One of my favorite things about being a creative type is the wide range of passions available to pursue for us. I learned that during my time at Northwestern, and am still learning today.

Specifically, I’ve really grown to love social & community management, from my internships to my extracurricular activities. Throughout the past few years, I have managed, engaged with, and ultimately grown a number of communities. With each experience, I’ve learned some tools of the trade and best practices.

You might have realized that the role of “social & community manager” didn’t even really exist 5 years ago – and I love that! It means the work force around us is adapting to the needs and skills of the people who compose it. I can’t wait to embark on a career in this field, and if you’re like me, here are some of the most useful pieces of knowledge to remember as you maneuver.

Know Your Target…and Well

This was key during my time as Intern for CRWN Magazine, specifically because the brand was still very much in a growing stage. We had many conversations on “Who is the CRWN woman?” Or, in other words, who do we envision ordering a copy of the magazine, following us on Twitter, etc? This question is significant because, once you’ve got the answer, you’ll figure out how to engage with said audience. It helps when developing a tone for the brand, which is crucial in social copy, blogs, email newsletters – you name it.

Get Involved to Make an Impact

Getting involved with your community is one of the most fun parts of community management, in my opinion. All of the event planning and project management I did as part of NABJ-Northwestern’s exec board really allowed me to not only build my skill set, but to directly interact with our members. Planning and running weekly meetings meant I got to answer questions and see the community on a regular basis. While I planned CRWN’s Photographer’s Reception, I was regularly speaking with those I invited about logistics, and when they finally arrived at the event it was great to put faces to names.

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Learn more about this photo at my Events & Projects Portfolio here!

Recognize That the Community Knows What It Wants

This is crucial! A community manager who doesn’t eagerly accept feedback is a really bad community manager. At the end of every quarter for NABJ-NU, I sent out performance review forms for members to fill out. What did you like this quarter? What would you like to see more of? While I worked with Northwestern’s Community Relations team, we would ask for feedback via emails or in person. Doing this will ultimately allow you to be better with the first tip: knowing your audience. People are complex creatures with fluctuating desires. The sooner you realize communities of people are no different, the better your engagement will be.

Join Communities Along with Managing Them

The most efficient way to strengthen your community growth proficiency is to be a part of a community…or a few. Being in communities such as Blavity Creative Society, Minorities in Media (MiM Connect), and CMX Hub is not only a way to observe the management styles of others, but to simply be a member. I’m able to ask myself, “what would I like more of in this community experience?” and translate to my own management duties. Being in communities is the newest way to network with others in a trusted setting.

Don’t Slack on Social

See what I did there? Because Slack is a social app? Anyways, we’re living in a digital age. For every event I’ve planned, I have invested just as much (if not more) time in scheduling tweets, designing text photos for Instagram, and so much more. Unless your community is centered around hating social media, expect social media to be a huge tenet to your growth & engagement strategy. That can mean putting together a Twitter chat, arranging a “take over” via Instagram Stories, or even a weekly AMA (ask me anything) on Facebook LIVE. People are spending more and more time on their phone and their apps, so make sure you are making a point to reach your community on all fronts.

Don’t Be Stingy with Accolades!

One of my favorite things about MiM Connect is how the community manager will give shout outs to members doing great things. Other communities I’m in will do things like reserving Fridays for community members to brag on their accomplishments. With NABJ-NU, I implemented “Member of the Week,” which allowed the exec board to show appreciation for member who were very involved and also gave other members a goal to reach (no lie, at one point people were approaching me wondering how they could be Member of the Week). If you’re proud of your community, let them know!

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CRWN Mag’s intimate launch celebration, featuring dedicated community members.

BYOB: Build Your Own Brand

This may seem like a no-brainer, but hey. For those times you may be transitioning from roles and/or trying to go to another level (like I currently am), keeping up your personal brand is the best way to keep doing the work even if it’s not in job setting. Through Siez The Day, I’m pushing content, scheduling social posts, interacting with others, and much more on a daily basis. That way, I can show potential employers how familiar I am with the tasks at hand, but it also shows how much I truly enjoy social and community management. Beyond all of that, your brand is an extension of your resumé, so keep it together and keep it you.

Data is Your Friend

Don’t click away just yet – community management isn’t going to require you to be a math whiz. But in order to measure success, you’ll have to get familiar with tools like Google Analytics, Buffer, and Later to get the job done. Develop KPIs (key performance indicators) as a means to know what high engagement means and how to get it. With Northwestern Community Relations, our audience was 10,000 people strong. Whereas with NABJ, we were targeting 100ish people. Know your numbers.

Community management is changing everyday, so a good social & community manager has to be willing to fluctuate with the current. Get these skills under your belt, but more than anything, stay open to learning more. It’s best for everyone involved.

Until next time,




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