An Introvert’s Guide to Community Management
Rachael Silvano writes about she navigates being an introverted Community Manager.
We all know the type. That person who can effortlessly glide through a room and leave feeling revitalized, with more energy than they came in with. That kind of extroversion is often expected of Community Managers. To be the life and soul of the party — the gracious host tasked with making sure everyone is happy and comfortable.
But what about folks who find that work exhausting? I remember a community event I was invited to years ago, a 'cocktails and talk shop' ordeal, and actively dreading it. While there, I connected with some amazing people and enjoyed the event, but the lead-up and aftermath left me feeling like I had run a marathon. Classic introvert.
Introversion is often misapplied — it's a myth that introverts hate socializing. More often, introversion just means socializing expends more energy than it adds. In other words, I am gregarious, outgoing, and sociable when I'm at an event. But afterward, I require a cooling-off period of anywhere from hours to days.
Sound familiar? Then this article is for us — those who prefer to hang back and watch from the sidelines while still being stellar Community Managers. And spoiler: you can 100% be both. Here's why I think so.
Quantity ≠ Quality
Leaving a conference with a stack of business cards has never been my scene. For me, networking looks a lot more like a buddy system — a quiet conversation about Spotify playlists or my cat's recent antics. Yes, identifying a social buddy can be a lifesaver for introverts. But it also allows me to build a much richer connection with my buddy than I would have done by trying to shake every hand in the room.
There are folks I met at conferences years ago who I still check in with and who check in with me. These bonds, created by slowing down and asking more than the expected, "how are you and what do you do?", facilitated a deeply impactful connection (which, to my delight, didn't mean having to shake hands eight dozen times).
In our virtual communities, this plays out in direct messages. I apply this technique by finding a member I'll put on my calendar to DM once a quarter. By using our directory and having a few things on hand that I know I'll want to talk about (A.I., board games, disc golf...), I have an already-prepped intro ready to go. By dialing down the pressure and focusing on making deeper connections, we both win.
Taking time allows for reflection
When I go to an event, sometimes I'll book some time for me to sit quietly and reflect. It gives me the space I need to re-energize and reflect on the connections I've already made, which in turn allows for meaningful follow-ups. In our digital world (and in the now well-documented time of Zoom fatigue), I make a point to turn off video for at least one call a week.
Additionally, getting outside, walking away from my work, and setting aside some of the more social tasks for administrative ones helps me break up the day and not feel like I'm "always on".
Spotlight-sharing comes easier
A powerful tool for the introvert is their ability to share the stage. In my quest not to be the center of attention, I can give space to other really cool folks! This also plays out successfully in online spaces. More often than me posting a thread as a Community Manager, I'm motivated to encourage the right person to join the fray and post themselves.
I'm more comfortable running things behind the scenes for workshops and live events — and it works out just great. While I could MC or host myself, asking other members to step in gives them both a chance to step into a leadership role in the community and benefit from all the fanfare that comes with being in the spotlight.
We're our best selves when we know what our ideal environment is (hello, working from home). For introverted community folks, that environment can be a balancing act in that we choose a profession that asks us to be more sociable than perhaps comes naturally. However, there's so much to gain from embracing our authentic selves. And by taking time and steps to re-energize, we can be (and are!) accomplished, successful community leaders.