Who has been an inspiration for you as a community manager?
For me, there were three key sources for learning about community building and wrangling:
- Travelling along with The Grateful Dead taught me the audience is part of the band, so to speak. They encouraged sharing, trading, recording, and loads of instant entrepreneurship with a crazy, spontaneous market outside selling everything from veggie burritos to libations.
- Cub Scouts taught me the importance of skill learning, working with small teams towards a common goal, and celebrating micro-leveling-up by earning badges. My Mom ran the pack and she also taught me about running small businesses and helped start my first media projects at 7 years old.
- Hitchhiking in foreign countries taught me to be trusting of strangers, open to new opportunities, and to enjoy the differences between cultures. Plus I learned how to hustle to earn money by selling chestnuts, picking grapes, and being a lazy roadie for rock bands, among dozens of other (very) odd jobs.
What is the most important part of being a community manager?
Listening + Empathy + Tenacity – Ego x Creativity / Storytelling = Community Awsumness
If you could attend one conference to learn about community management, what would it be and why?
I used to enjoy the legendary Gnomedex conference. One room, single track for a couple of days. You settle in and hear new ideas and get to know your neighbors rather than chasing around to find the next panel or prezo. Make your audience comfortable and they’ll engage more.
What is your favorite book that has helped you become a better community manager?
I often share the example of Tom Sawyer and his “painting the fence” situation but I’d also put the Adventures of Tintin into the mix. Tintin and his pals solved conundrums gracefully and creatively and he was always curious about new cultures and people.
What do you like best about being a community manager?
Virtual travel and free hugs.
I don’t travel as much as I used to. But now I enjoy interns – and even community members – coming from all over the world to visit or work at our office. Plus we recruit Diplomats in dozens of countries who collaborate with our campaigns. So I get to learn about their cultures and neighborhoods, while learning how to grow HootSuite in their countries.
I also truly enjoy passing along my knowledge and experience gained from doing web-centric startups since 1996(!). I‘m thrilled when I see my interns, diplomats, and folks who come to my talks, excel in their personal endeavors and careers – whether at HootSuite or elsewhere.
What skill should every community manager have?
Versatility. I think of this as interdisciplinary-ism – you have to be a “Jack of many skills” AND a master of a few of them too.
Tell us about a success story you’ve had as a community manager.
Launching international markets by taking a grassroots community approach. I’ve seen huge companies fail (and lose loads of money) by treating global markets the same as the US. Instead, HootSuite has opened up new markets on small budgets by using community-building tactics to build diplomatic relationships. Our recent launches into Chinese countries and Germany are great examples of this. Japan, however, was HootSuite’s first truly localized market and has a special place in my heart from my time spent living in the mountains as a mushroom farmer.
What advice would you give someone wanting to become a community manager?
Start building community for your favorite non-profit, political cause, sports team, book club, or hobby group. Don’t wait for someone to ask you – just start the party with a distinct goal in mind. Measure what matters but remember that the art of relationship is more important than the stats from the thousands of micro-gestures you generate.
Tell us about a job that helped prepare you to become a community manager and why.
I worked as a host at a private beach club on the island of Guam, in the Micronesia. My job was to welcome the people in their language (Japanese, Korean, Chinese), give them an overview briefing about their day, and then get to know them. I would do this by taking them on tours, whether it be jungle hikes, natural history walks, horseback or 4 wheeler rides, snorkeling or through beach soccer and obstacle social games, or just through beer and barbecues Sometimes, guests would camp over and I’d juggle fire sticks, play drums and play mahjong with them. Then I’d sleep in a hammock after getting them all tucked into their tents.
Through this, I learned that everyone who shows up to the same place (i.e. your community) doesn’t necessarily have the same needs or expectations. Take the time to understand each person’s unique needs and direct them to the program that fits them best. We’re all in this together so let’s make it enjoyable.