Community management lessons to accelerate your career (part 2)

This is a blog series on how to be successful in the community field. In the first post you learned how to find the right job. Today is about how to begin your job successfully.

When you start a job in a nebulous field like community, your goal is to create clarity with as many people as possible about what you’re doing and how you’re creating value. You’re going to be evaluated against others with much more clear objectives than you by people who don’t understand the field you’re in. I know, sounds awesome right? It is one of the many fun challenges of being in community (or any new field). Often times your boss or executives have heard that community can help them, but they don’t know how. In fact, I’ve never had a boss who has worked in community longer than I have.

This article has 5 tips designed to help guide you towards clarity & quick success.

Tip #1: Get some quick wins under your belt

Whatever you want to do at the organization to help them doesn’t matter when you start. You may have grand ideas for revamping their main strategy, but your first goal is to get people to trust you. Even if you think they’re wrong, spend lots of time meeting people in groups and in 1:1s to ask them questions about what they define as success for your role.

Ask them what they’re most excited about having you do, what they worry the most about, and what they think a quick win for you could be. Ask your manager, VPs, peers — as many people as you can. Then look at those tasks and pick a few you can complete in the first month. Let everyone know you plan to do that and communicate about it frequently with them.

These early wins will help pave way for your bigger plans. One way to know you’ve succeeded at this is when others come to you to ask you questions about “community” out of the blue.

Tip #2: Understand the top priorities for the organization

When you start at a job find out what makes the place hum. Is it a type of project (e.g. for a certain client, a new technology), making money, or innovative projects? Also find out who gets the most attention from executives in the organization. In most cases community isn’t that thing in itself but it can be a means to that thing.

Figure out how you can benefit that thing. Just like above, your goal isn’t yet to launch your grand plans, but to build trust and momentum. Getting involved in the top priorities of an organization will give you access to people, insights and relationships that can help as you need things down the road. Most importantly, if you help solve a company’s top challenge, they’ll be more likely to invest resources in your plans in the future.

Tip #3: Build something new

More than any other department you have a set of people who can usually do more — your community. As you join people are going to want to know: are you any good? They may not get community but they will be excited to see you starting anything new inside of it, even if it isn’t the most strategic thing to do. It’ll show you take initiative and can leverage a crowd of people, just like they hoped.

Tip #4: Create a community framework

The Community Round Table has a great community maturity model. It helps break down any community into areas you can focus on (e.g. what tools do you use, what policies have you created). Go through that model, identify gaps and share it with your boss/team. You don’t need to act on everything here, but it is another way to align to organizational priorities or find quick wins.

Tip #5: Call out lack of resourcing early

Source: Community Round Table 2015 State of Community Management Report

As you start to do the things above you’ll begin to have an overall strategy for the community. According to research, the majority of organizations, even the best-in-class community centric ones, don’t staff the team appropriately. Make sure to make asks up front so you can point to them later if things go slowly and you don’t get them.

People will have a hard time connecting what you want to do back to the main organizational metrics because community is nebulous. Attempt to put it in terms of driving revenue, saving cost, driving the organization’s mission or other items you found are the organization’s key priorities. Don’t worry if you have trouble with this, 90% of organizations do too. Here’s a good guide on how to calculate community ROI.

These are some of the tricks I’ve learned about starting successfully in a community job. Not all of these tips will be relevant for you so use this as a menu to pick from. Let me know if you have other tricks that have worked for you too!

Want to learn more? Here are some articles I liked while working on the post above: