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How the Most Successful Community Managers Grow Their Audiences

The term community management is relatively new but the concept of building and nurturing community is not. If you’re a creator with a fanbase, you know how important your community is to your success. But are you doing all that you can to maintain an engaged and thriving community?

I’ve spent the last few years building, growing (and sometimes breaking) communities of all types and sizes and have learned some hard truths about what it takes to successfully manage a community. Along my journey, I’ve recognized a few key traits found in the most successful community managers.

If you’re hoping to connect more deeply with your fans and effectively grow your community, focus on these four valuable characteristics and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy, happy community of your biggest fans.

Think strategically

Managing your community is not simply about responding to comments on your Youtube channel and sharing Instagram stories with your fans every now and then. As your audience grows, you will notice it becoming more and more difficult to keep an engaging line of communication between you and your fans; and unless you want to spend your entire creative career monitoring your social media accounts, you should probably take a more strategic approach to building your community.

A good community manager applies strategic thinking to any project

The first step to creating a community strategy is figuring out what your main goal is. Is it to grow your social media following? Turn more fans into patrons? Double your Youtube views? Even if you want all of these things, it is important to choose one to focus on. Remember, strategic thinking is all about figuring out what the most important things are that you can work on so that you are not bogged down with mindless tasks that aren’t pushing any needles.

“Too often, we stretch our resources as far as they will go. But this is the the opposite of what you should be doing. You want to be doing way less and giving each tactic way more.” -Richard Millington, online community author/speaker

After spending some time focusing on the high-level approach you plan to take with your community, you’ll come out the other end with a much more solid grasp on how you can best allocate your limited resources as a creator.

Empower others to have a voice

Your fans are your biggest cheerleaders, so it’s important that you give them a platform to share their excitement around you and help spread the word about your work. If you’re a creator who has trouble promoting yourself, empowering your fans to speak for you will not only help you overcome your fear of self-promotion, but will also give you more time to spend on more important aspects of your work.

“When you’re growing a community, it’s pretty much impossible to please everyone. The most important thing a community manager has to do is empower people and make sure that they feel they’re a true part of the community they love.” – Bram Kanstein, community growth strategist

In marketing, we call this type of interaction brand advocacy. It is essentially free advertising, so you should leverage it as much as possible with your community.

A few fun ways to empower your audience:

  • Create an exclusive group for your biggest fans to gush about you
  • Post about something exciting on Facebook and give those who share it an opportunity to win something
  • Ask your followers what types of things they want to see from you (Patreon will be launching a poll feature soon that will make this a cinch). 😉

Engage fans around your published work

What was the last thing you shared with your fans and how did you share it? Was it a mp3 download of your latest track that you posted to Twitter? Or a personal journal entry shared with your patrons on Patreon? What happened to it after you shared it?

A good community manager knows that sharing content is only the first step; the journey of a published piece merely begins when you click “share.” After it’s posted, you must then interact with your fans around it and keep them engaged.

“There are no shortcuts to building relationships. Hacks only work to get people in the door, from there you need a solid relationship maintaining plan.” -Sarah Lang, Director of Community and Support at TicketLeap

Has this ever happened to you?: You spend days—weeks, even!—on a piece of content and excitedly publish it to your audience. You sit patiently for the likes and comments to roll in… but they never do. How does this make you feel? What do you do about it?

If you said, “delete the post and find a dark corner to cry in,” please keep reading. This is a defeatist attitude and one that will not help you build your audience. If I had to count the number of things I’ve published that received little to no interaction, I could quit my day job and drink Mai Tais on a beach in Hawaii for the rest of my life.

Interacting with your audience is an essential part of developing a dedicated following around your work. Next time you publish a piece of content, tag somebody in it; add a CTA (“call to action”) at the end of it; share it with another community where fans similar to yours hang out; just do SOMETHING other than hoping for engagement to magically happen.

Never stop being curious

How much do you know about your fans? Aside from you, what do they enjoy? Where do they hang out? Are you friends or is your relationship purely transactional? Do you even care?

A good community manager will know a lot about who is in their community and what their interests are; an even better community manager will have even more questions about their fans than answers. They are constantly digging deeper into the behaviors and quirks of the people that make up the community and figuring out new ways to form closer connections with them.

“The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” –Neil deGrasse Tyson

Next time you meet a fan, ask them how they discovered your work or where they typically hang out online. Listening closely to your audience will help you understand what makes your community tick and find ways to engage with them at every opportunity.