'It’s Been 1 Year Since I Pivoted to Community Management: Here Are My 10 Top Learnings'

Max Pete
Community Manager at Freelance Founders

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been — and only been — working in community for a year. It somehow feels both like it’s been a few moments and a lifetime since I left behind everything I knew to jump into a totally new career.

That said, pivoting from freelance design and advertising has come with its fair share of challenges. Starting from scratch in a completely new field is not for the faint-hearted! But I have also learned a lot in the process, and grown more than I thought was possible.

And what better time than the anniversary of the best career choice I’ve ever made than to share the knowledge? Here are 10 takeaways from my first year in community.

1. You don’t need to do everything at once

One of the first things that I learned in the community space was how easy it is to get burnt out trying to do everything at once. I found myself spread super thin in the first couple of weeks because I wanted to do it all (launch new events, new Slack channels, etc.). Every task seems equally important when you don’t have a well-thought-out strategy.

Actionable tip: Schedule a meeting with your team and create a plan together of attainable action items for the quarter, and reevaluate every few months. If you need some help developing a strategy, check out Noele Flowers’ guide: Community Strategy: How to Build Yours From Scratch.

2. Do things that don’t scale

At Freelance Founders, some of our best events have come from small, group-led initiatives. This past year, we have hosted events like accountability sessions, breathwork/meditation, speed networking, and more. All of these events were pretty intimate (5-15 people) but when we ask for feedback afterward, these tend to get the highest ratings of all.

Actionable tip: Don’t skip out on smaller events/initiatives because you think they won’t reach the masses. Small and impactive moments can really move the needle!

3. Trial and error is key

The truth is, mistakes happen and they are all a part of the process. I launched event ideas and engagement plans that ended up flopping. Instead of beating myself up for them, I learned that in community you need to do some experimenting to see what sticks. Knowing that every idea that you come up with isn’t going to be a hit, but each misstep is a step in the right direction.

Actionable tip: Launch one new community initiative that you have been meaning to test and put it out there. Even if it doesn’t take off right away, don’t let perfection stop you from making progress.

4. It’s OK not to have all the answers

Having worked in marketing for 10+ years, I got pretty good at knowing what and what not to do to hit my goals. But because I am still new in the community space, I found myself unsure a lot, and because of that, second-guessed my decisions. The truth is, no one has it figured out all of the time — your best is all you can do.

Actionable tip: Acknowledge and accept that you won’t have all of the answers and that is OK. And it bears repeating: keep experimenting! That's where you'll find those answers.

5. Connections are everything

Something that struck me over the past year: even though some of our members might not have 'connection' as one of their reasons for joining the community, it ends up being the main reason that they decide to stay in it. If your members don’t feel connected to each other, they may not be as engaged in your community, or be inclined to leave it altogether.

Actionable Tip: Make it easy for your community members to network and connect with others. I highly recommend using Meetsy to enable members to meet with others on a one-to-one basis.

6. Not every member is going to be active, and that’s fine

When I first noticed how many members that we had in our Slack vs. the number of members who were actively engaged, I freaked out. It wasn’t until I started talking to other Community Managers that I realized that having ‘lurkers’ or ‘silent engagers’ is very common, and can actually be a good thing!

People participate in all sorts of ways. Just because they aren’t sharing a lot or engaging in posts doesn’t mean they're not getting a ton of value from the community.

Actionable Tip: Find other ways to connect with your silent engagers. Reach out to them directly and set up one-to-one calls. Ask for direct feedback and what you can do to make their community experience even better!

7. Connect with other Community Managers

Ironically, being a CM can feel isolating at times. Luckily, I came across this awesome group of community builders in Community Club. It's full of community people who are great to chat with, and have a wealth of knowledge that I could immediately implement in my own community. I find myself coming back daily.

Actionable Tip: Head to Community Club and make a profile if you aren’t already a member. I can’t recommend this group enough!

8. When in doubt, ask for help

Don’t ever feel afraid of asking for help when you need it. Being on a small community team, I've often felt like I had too much on my plate at once. So I went to my team and asked if anyone could assist on some of the tasks that needed to get done. Most of the time your teammates are willing and able to help you out — all you need to do is ask.

Actionable Tip: If you feel weird about asking for help, start with one small task that you could potentially have another member on your team help you with. Start small and build from there!

9. Don’t skip the 1:1s

One-to-one connections are, in my opinion, the lifeblood of your community. A lot of the time, members don’t want to share a ton with the whole community, but chatting with one other human is much easier. It also creates a space where they can be more candid with feedback and ask for advice, etc. As I’ve already touched on, this connection is super important for your lurkers or silent engagers.

Actionable Tip: Set up a call with someone in your community that you haven’t connected with yet or chatted to in a while!

10. Have fun

Yes, being in community management can be stressful and challenging, but it also is a lot of fun! Think about it: part of our role is to help uplift others. We have the opportunity to really change people’s days, weeks, and even lives! Whenever you are going through a particularly stressful time, remember why you got into this biz in the first place, and how great it can be.

Actionable tip: Dedicate some time at the end of every week to reflect on how your week went. What went well? Did you have any wins or learnings? Too often we forget to do this regularly and can’t remember all of the cool things that are happening!

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Getting into community has been one of the best career decisions I've ever made, and I'm really excited to see what my journey will bring. If the first year is anything to go by, then I can already tell that I’ve found my calling.

Ready to take the leap?

The community industry is exploding, and the demand for Community Managers has never been higher. C School is here to help, whether you're looking to pivot from another career, or you're just starting out. Find out more or apply here.

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