Be the Bridge — Perfecting the Art of working for both your Company & Your community
In my early years as a community professional, I worked exclusively in the weeds. The weeds are where the users live, participate and engage with your product. Navigating the weeds is not for the faint-hearted, it’s where both the magic and the mess happen. Nestled in the weeds, I struggled to see the bigger picture of both the community and the company. When I communicated my work to my colleagues, while passionate, I struggled to explain the community in verbiage that they could understand.
Communication is the hardest and most important part of creating a bridge between your company and the community. At its core, the bridge is a communication channel, a way to communicate expectations to every party. A successful community manager unifies both of these worlds, facilitating teamwork, cross-collaboration, and trust.
On the one hand, you need to be deeply connected to the users to best understand them and be their voice, while on the other, you need to be able to step out of their world and communicate its happenings in relatable terms your colleagues and superiors can understand.
Learn the language of both worlds!
To be a successful bridge, it’s crucial to learn the language of both worlds. Don’t assume both parties speak the same language. Start with your company, how are they going to judge your performance? What outcomes are they looking for from the community?
From there, ask the same questions to your community. It’s important to understand what motivates your community members and how they measure the success of their participation — both individually and collectively.
Figure out what similarities and differences exist in expectations between community members and your company. You may find both parties want similar outcomes, they just frame and communicate them in different ways.
Find easy wins for both parties!
The little things matter! When something goes well, go out of your way to highlight it. Find examples of unity and share them across the community and company. These little wins will add up, eventually resulting in a shared history of success!
By the nature of our work, we must live in two worlds. The more experience you get as a community manager, the easier it will be to navigate both seamlessly. This process is simultaneously critical to your success and inherently challenging. If it feels hard, you’re doing it right.