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7 don’ts of online community management

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

Social media community managersI recently attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several content creation and blogging sessions, and will share highlights from a few of my favorites. [See also: "7 deadly social sins," "8 ways to master the list post" and "40 content creation ideas for your blog"]

In this panel, Debba Haupert, founder of the online community Girlfriendology, shared the seven “don’ts” of online community management:

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1. Don’t do it if you’re not passionate about your community. Managing an online community is not for the faint of heart, said Haupert. You must be passionate about it. Always remember why you started your community. If you do lose that passion:

  • Get to know your community. It will remind you of why you started the community and will help you get back your passion.
  • Look for “wins” to celebrate. Learning to celebrate your achievements will help you remember why you do it.
  • Embrace technology and social media, and how it connects you with your community.
  • Have an “accountability partner” who can help you get back on track.
  • Fake it. There are times when you’re done, tired. Sometimes you just have to fake it.

2. Don’t be afraid to get to know your community. Listen to your community, and don’t be afraid to engage in conversation. Ask them what they think. End every blog post with a question. Know their schedule, their goals, their objectives. Recognize and reward readers who are frequently active on your community.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you haven’t failed in social media, you haven’t tried in social media. Don’t be afraid to try something new (e.g., Pinterest). Everyone is allowed to make mistakes. “I believe in ‘what the hell’ marketing,” said Haupert. “What the hell, just try it.”Social Media clutter

4. Don’t make it harder than it is. Managing your time is very important. Set time limits for yourself (e.g., limit your time on Pinterest to an hour a day), and actually time yourself. Haupert also shared a few tools that help her manage her time:

  • HootSuite, TweetDeck and Seesmic, social media dashboards that let you manage multiple platforms and profiles.
  • Feedblitz, a service that monitors blogs, RSS feeds and Web URLs for feed publishers.
  • Buffer, an app that helps you share Twitter and Facebook posts.
  • Rapportive, a Gmail add-on that displays social media info about contacts as you email them.

5. Don’t try to do everything. Survey the community to find out their social media habits and manage yours accordingly. For example, if your community is on Facebook, spend more of your time there. Also, prioritize your projects based on your goals, and plan accordingly. Haupert said she uses Marketing Calendar Blueprint to help her plan her time.

6. Don’t get sucked into “time-sucks.” This is where having clear goals and objectives helps. Manage your time on social media. If most of your audience is on Facebook and not Google+, spend your time on Facebook. Stay focused; use a timer to be conscious of your time. Repurpose content across multiple social media platforms. Understand what’s working and what’s not.

7. Don’t keep it to yourself.  You want to grow your community — ask them to get involved. Engage your community. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is this working? Is it helpful?” Get their feedback. Make it a dialogue. Also, share your knowledge with other community managers.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

In Featured, Media | Advertising, Social Media, Story ideas.

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