Community Manager Spotlight
Community management is the practice of cultivating and maintaining relationships among members within a specific group or organization. With the rise of digital platforms, the importance of community management has become increasingly critical. The objective of community management is to foster a sense of belonging and engagement among members, promoting collaboration and the exchange of ideas, and ultimately driving growth and success for the community as a whole. A recent study conducted by Forrester in 2013 found that companies with strong communities saw a 33% increase in customer loyalty and a 23% increase in cross-sell and upsell revenue. We interviewed Rachel McIntosh, a Community Manager at Venture Lane Startup Hub in Boston to gain insight on the day-to-day aspects of managing different communities, along with learning how to build a strong community foundation.
EKOS: We'd love to hear more about your career and what led you to pursue community management, in essence, what would be your 30 second to one minute elevator pitch about yourself?
Rachel: My path to community building certainly wasn’t linear. I've had an amalgamation of different experiences thus far in my career, but through it all I've always been a “people person”. I'm endlessly fascinated by the human experience and really cherish being able to connect with those around me. Being willing to strike up a conversation with someone is often the impetus of so many incredible things, both personally and professionally.
EKOS: What are your three tips on how to successfully build a community?
EKOS: Where can an aspiring community manager start if they have no experience at all?
Rachel: I would argue that we all have experienced community building in some way, shape or form. If you've ever started a conversation at the dinner table or organized an outing with a group of friends or whatever the case may be, these small moments are community building at work. These interactions are so baked into daily life that we may not immediately label them as such, but the motions and intentions are the same as those implemented in more formalized community settings. I think sometimes when you look at communities that are large or widely known it can be a little bit intimidating; however, the fact of the matter is, they all started out small. When you think about it, starting small is actually kind of the point. Bit by bit you learn, you grow, and you continue to build upon your latest iteration. Like I said, as long as you're leading with intentionality from the beginning, it's going to be successful, which is to say you’re going to add a lot of value to community members.
EKOS: What are some ways to support and grow a community, once it's actually established, and once you're actually getting engagement.
Rachel: It’s important to be receptive to what folks in the community want and need. Remember - your needs and your perspective are not representative of everyone’s needs and perspective. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, you should certainly be open to and respectful of the differences that often actually make your community a richer, more representative place to be. You might think “Okay - we're doing really great here”, but we all have blind spots. So, opening up and asking things like:
In being open to feedback and receptive to constructive criticism, you model the behavior you expect of your community members. Implementing feedback is also a fantastic way to ensure that members feel heard and valued.
EKOS: How do you measure the impact and success of a community building project or community?
Rachel: Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer here. A lot of companies are very metric driven, but measuring the “success” of a community can be really difficult by that standard. Sure you can measure things like Active Weekly Users, event attendees, etc. However, I often find that word of mouth is a powerful indicator of what you’re doing right. This is a situation where you’ll learn more from listening to how people talk about your community and what specifically they highlight as something they enjoy. It’s someone coming up to you and saying “I met this really incredible person, and they were able to connect me to so and so which opened this door”, or whatever the case may be. Those moments are magic and a testament that you’ve built something that has the strength to exist beyond your own involvement which is actually hugely important.
EKOS: How are you able to keep up with the latest trends and best practices within community building and management?
Rachel: I think that there are some foundational elements everyone should keep in mind when curating a community. Specifically, it needs to be a representative group of people that celebrates diversity. Commonality is what brings people together and differences are what adds a lot of richness and depth to our interactions. I also think that it needs to be a place that's incredibly respectful, meaning there is no tolerance of racism, bigotry, sexism, etc. As far as trends go, I don't really pay attention to them. I think by nature of the term “trend”, it's sort of a fleeting thing. I would prefer to build a community on a solid foundation. At the end of the day, we’re social beings - community is what we do! Have fun, be respectful, and strike up a conversation. You never know where it might lead you.
EKOS: Is there anything else you want to add?
Rachel: If you're someone who is really interested in community building, I hope you realize you’re already well on your way there. Like I said, it starts around the dinner table, in taking a walk with a friend, when you join a club on campus, etc.. There is community all around you. You know what it’s like to be part of a community you love. You know the things you’d change. These are learnings that will help guide you along the way. Although it might not be a linear process, it's a really exciting one and I’m confident you’ll find it incredibly worthwhile.
Community management is a crucial aspect of modern business and organizations, as it plays a vital role in fostering relationships among members and promoting growth and success. At EKOS.AI, we've had the privilege of working with communities ranging from 30 to 3000 people, and we've learned that no two communities are the same. Through our experience, we've also found that providing community managers with the right tools is essential to success. EKOS.AI was built with this in mind, enabling community managers to easily build and maintain their communities by fostering interactions among members, creating interest groups, and organizing in-person and virtual events. In short, successful communities are built on the foundation of engaged members and the right tools for community managers. By leveraging the lessons we've learned and the tools we've developed at EKOS.AI, we're confident that you can take your community to the next level. We thank Rachel for providing valuable insights into the day-to-day aspects of community management, as well as the steps required to build a strong community foundation. For now, stay connected!