What the Wizarding World Taught me about Community Management

I have been a full-time Community Manager for a little over a year but I have been an active member of the Harry Potter community for all of my adult life. As I have gotten more active in building and managing a fandom community through my website and podcast, I have realized how applicable the lessons I have learned translate to building and managing a professional and business community.

I would like to take these learnings about community management through my participation in the Harry Potter Fandom and share them broadly. I will attempt to break down three main aspects of a fandom and connect how that fandom translates into how Community Managers understand their customer communities.

Fandom is Participatory

Harry Potter is one of the largest fandoms in the world and that can be measured by the amount of content created by fans. Being a member of a fandom is largely defined by your role in it — you don’t have to create to be a fan but creating and signal boosting others creations is an important aspect of the culture.

The power of the Harry Potter fandom via Cheezburger

Truly engaged fans are eager and happy to share their knowledge and expertise. They like to connect with each other and if you’re not building a space for them to do so they will do it for themselves. Easily one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a community professional is helping to build connections and help spread the word about what is happening in the community. Advocating for community inside of a company is made all the easier when you’re able to point to actual examples of an active community. User generated content is a cost effective and authentic way to tell the story of a brand so find those people who are active an willing to contribute and encourage them to do more by recognizing their efforts.

Fandom is Passionate

Great advice for community managers

Fans love to give their opinions and are quick to lash out when they feel unheard or taken advantage of. Fans are eager to support, eager to learn and can be very loyal unless they feel betrayed.

In the aftermath of History of Magic in North America, writer JK Rowling, has been silent when it comes to the critiques from fans. This has caused great damage to her brand from her most loyal audience. Rowling has made herself very available online, however, during the controversy around History of Magic in North America her silence was conspicuous.

“Also worthy of note is that Rowling is known for responding directly to fan questions on Twitter, and overall being accessible to her fanbase. Despite thousands of tweets directed at her about these concerns, she has not addressed it at all. The silence is noted, and it’s deafening,” wrote Keene.

If you mess up, fess up.

The same passion that fans express when they love something will also show up when they’re displeased. The response from active and outspoken Harry Potter fans in this case is a lesson for all community professionals. It is a dangerous proposition to lean heavily on your fan/customer base when things are going well only to ignore them when things are going wrong. In order to build authentic and meaningful relationships with your community members it is imperative that you acknowledge not only their satisfaction but also their frustration. It may not always be the most enjoyable task but it will always be useful and worthwhile.

Fandom is Knowledgeable

Fans have a lot of knowledge and are eager to share that knowledge with others. Since fandom is participatory and passionate giving fans opportunities to share their knowledge helps to increase happiness and connections. Engaged customers should be your first source for feedback and insight into your communities wants and needs. You should also be thankful and encouraging your members for sharing their knowledge with you and others.

This knowledge from the community is valuable and valid — do not assume to know more than your audience. Community professionals should also make sure that they are advocating for their active community members with as much rigor as the community members advocate for the product/brand. Treat community members with respect and do not talk down to them — in many cases this could be the difference between a satisfied or dissatisfied customer.

The Key Takeaways include:

  • Give community members space to be creative.
  • Community is ongoing and constantly evolving therefore, the marketing/managing of the community should be as well.
  • Build authentic relationships based on trust and mutual respect.
  • Make sure the community feels valued and included in major decisions.
  • Protect the integrity of the community.