Here are some tips to build your community experience and make yourself an appealing candidate to a company hiring for a community manager:
1. Figure out what topics of interest you’re most excited about
Any company that’s building a community will have an audience of people who have a common interest. Does the community manager absolutely have to share that common interest? No. But it definitely helps so you can speak the language of the community, and create meaningful conversations.
2. Just start a community
The beautiful thing about community building is that anyone can do it, any time. The best way to gain experience as a community builder is to just build a community around something that interests you. My first community building experience came when I was a hardcore gamer back in middle school. I created an online clan which developed into an entire online community with forums, competitions and more. My next community experience came when I started u30pro with Lauren Fernandez, because we were both young professionals and wanted somewhere to have conversations about the problems we’re facing.
Start a forum, a facebook group, a meetup group, a twitter chat, or utilize any other platform on which you can bring people together.
3. Participate in the community that you want to manage
If the company hiring for the community manager position already has a community, if you’re able to it may be a good idea to participate. Show that you know how to interact with people and lead conversations.
4. Improve your leadership and management skills
Tony Bacigalupo brought up this amazing point to me the other day. He said that community is more about leadership and management. In order to successfully manage a community, the members of that community need to respect you. You’ll find great value in being a leader with a level head that can moderate without bias and keep everything organized.
Tony’s teaching a class on community and all of this that I’d recommend checking out.
5. Really research the jobs beforehand
No two community manager jobs are exactly the same. In fact, a great deal of job listings titled “community manager” actually have nothing to do with community. So don’t just jump at every community manager job posting you see. Really look at what the goals of the company are and what their expectations are.
Avoid any community manager jobs from large companies that expect a really wide range of responsibilities. This often signals that they don’t really know what they’re hiring for.
6. Look for community roles working under an experienced community manager
This is something that I wish I had done. While in the end, jumping in with both feet to take on leading community at Scribnia taught me a great deal, I was only able to get through it thanks to some truly amazing community mentors.
If there’s a community role that’s paying an entry level salary with no equity, and you’re expected to build the community strategy at a high level, there’s a good chance you’ll fail and end up in a bad spot.
Working under an experienced community manager will provide you with much needed clarity in a role that is often clouded by misinterpretation and miscommunication.
7. Talk to other community managers
Before doing any of that, a good idea is to talk to experienced community managers. Ask them about what they do on a daily basis. Ask them about their goals and where they sit in the company. If you can build a relationship with someone that can mentor you as you grow in the position, that’s awesome.
Also valuable is talking to community managers who have the same amount of community experience that you do. I’ve been doing this for a couple years now and it’s extremely valuable to be able to talk to someone else that’s going through similar situations and obstacles that you are. Danya Cheskis Gold and I used to meet a couple times a month and just share our experiences. It provides a great deal of perspective, and comfort in that you’re not the only one dealing with those issues.
If you’ve been hired as a community manager or you’re hiring for a community management position, chime in here. What would you recommend to someone just getting started?