Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | December 17, 2010

Managing your Community..or is it Managing you?

Managing an online community is not easy. It is a very difficult position that requires a very unique and versatile set of skills. I will not go into all the skills necessary to be an effective online community manager, but suffice it to say these skills are very rare. All of these skills go into managing a community, which leads me to this post. Are you managing your community, or is it managing you?

One of the things that I and others harp on is how important it is to listen to your community. This is very important and I do not want that to get lost in this post. Listening is CRITICAL  to success.

In one community I am familiar with, the manager called me to express how stressed and fried he is. He is maxed out, tired, never any downtime, all these needy people. He is not meeting his goals for growth because he is putting out fires everyday, his boss is not happy because there are no tangible results and he is ready to quit. What is the problem you might ask? He listens to his community, he tracks and measures, and does what he is supposed to, but something is missing. As I dug deeper into this community I began to see it. The community was managing him.

This blog is a based upon learning lessons from shepherding and applying them to Community Management. Can you imagine a shepherd that cared for his flock of sheep would allow the sheep to lead him? NO! The community manager I was speaking to, was being led by his sheep instead of him being the shepherd and leading his flock. Sheep have this tendency and will try to assert authority in a flock. If this is not dealt with there will be serious problems. A sheep gone astray is dangerous not just for that one sheep, but given sheep’s flocking nature it could cause others to follow this dangerous path as well.

Your community is very similar to this flock of sheep. If the shepherd allows sheep to lead the way, they will not end up where the shepherd wants them to. The shepherd must lead his flock. But a Shepherd always leads from the rear of the flock. The sheep think they are leading, but really the shepherd with a strong and steady touch is guiding them down the path he wants them on. This is the job of the community manager, he must lead the flock on his path, allow them liberty to feel as though they are leading, but rein them in when they depart from the chosen path. A community needs a leader, and if you do not take that role, someone will. And I can promise you that whoever does will not have the same goals, objectives, or vision  you have.

Is your community managing you or are you managing your community? You know the answer. If your are being managed you need to act swiftly but very cautiously. You would be wise to seek outside counsel  because you are so close to the situation, and so engrossed in the day to day. Seek an outsider to take a clean fresh look and then use your knowledge and experience and craft a plan to manage your community to success.



  1. Andrew,
    When I saw you yesterday, I was going to ask you if you were going to update this soon. Logged on today and got my answer.

    Great. Thanks for this. Keep up the good work.

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