I’m going to give you some context about my professional journey and then dive in to expand on my new role and 7 things I had to learn to become an effective community builder.
9 months ago I made a massive, career-changing decision by switching from working as an HR professional at one of the top 3 Banks in Nigeria, to a Community Manager, Technical Talents at the fastest growing Tech company in Africa. Moving from Access Bank to Andela Nigeria didn’t just represent a career switch, but a switch in organisational culture, technical expertise and behavioral requirements. I moved from having my work done only at the office to being able to work remotely; from an HP to a MacBook Air (lol); from a restricted and highly regulated environment to a creative and open environment. But, as I said, I’m not here to talk about that… maybe in a later blog post. I’m here to talk about the switch from HR Strategist to Community Builder.
Technical knowledge is highly essential for all roles. In my particular case, I was someone who hadn’t been plugged into the tech ecosystem before, but I then took up a role which essentially deals with building tech and learning communities. I didn’t have the technical knowledge neither have i ever done it before.
So, how did I pull this off? Well, I asked myself the same question, and put together a list of the 7 things that make me an effective community builder.
- Be an evangelist of the company: An evangelist is a zealous advocate of a particular cause. They are usually vocal and very passionate about the company’s vision and mission. They walk “the walk” and talk “the talk.” They aren’t shy when it comes to preaching their organisation’s gospel through physical meet-ups, blogging about the company and being a digital evangelist on all social networks. Effective Community Managers should be digital evangelists. Besides “talking the talk” face-to-face, maintaining a digital presence in the community by sharing a blog, or even having a presence on various social platforms will enable you become better at engaging with a larger audience. One of the goals of a Community Manager is to scale programs, and social media can be leveraged to achieve this without the worries of geographical boundaries. Though online community is important, connecting with people in-person will help strengthen the relationships you build. The offline community is just as important to facilitate through events, trainings, meetups and in-person meetings. This helps you connect and also learn from others within the community. I have done this and turns out i’ve been added to a list of 100 developers in Nigeria to follow. I live, breathe and preach the Andela mission.
- Communicate effectively: As a Community Manager, you are synonymous to a brand manager, you are the spokesperson who can engage people in effective dialogue. Understand that your role is to help people and enable the community connect with each other. To do this, you have to be an effective communicator who articulates thoughts well. If you aren’t, you could lose the essence of the idea you are trying to evangelise. In other to do this I attended a “Story telling for change” course by Acumen which has helped me in my public speaking and engagement.
- Be authentic: It’s not just about having a voice, but having an authentic one. I try to use my sense of humor when appropriate and sometimes not so appropriate…just to break the ice :). Being authentic helps you build trust with your community, after all, you represent the human face of the brand and people trust a brand with a face. Just imagine, would you trust a brand that was faceless?
- Think like an entrepreneur and adapt quickly: Be entrepreneurial and have a vision for each project, big or small. Entrepreneurs are decisive, calculative, motivated, creative, persuasive, versatile, flexible and open minded. Building a community means having a strategy for it and the knowledge and drive to implement it, whether with building on a big platform or having a presence and voice on a small one. Always think of where the community is heading to an dhow you can support it to get there.
- Partnerships, Partnerships, Partnerships!!!: Build strong partnerships through service swaps or by searching for organisations who have the same goal and partnering with them (shout out to @forloopNigeria who gave me a platform to build on). Partners allow you leverage their communities, just as Kendra who is a tech evangelist @MicrosoftNG told me when I first started out “my community is your community.” Partners point you in the right direction and also ensure you are not lost.
- Listen to the community, add value and build relationships: Being a good listener enables you gather feedback more effectively (digitally, in-person etc.). This feedback can go a long way towards improving the quality of the experience the community members have. This helps create authentic relationships, not just ones that are based on you trying to sell your organisation. Investing in relationships will open up opportunities for partnerships (which relates back to point #5, in which you should always be on the look-out for partnerships). ALWAYS remember that social media and community are rooted in human interactions and relationships. If all you’re doing is promoting the company’s interests, you’re not a Community Manager, you’re a commodity salesman. DON’T focus all of your time and energy on shiny tools that create a confusing user experience and de-emphasize the people. Tools can be overrated. Focus on the relationships.
- Empower colleagues to be builders: You can’t do it on your own. Building a community also includes the internal community of your company itself. Empowering your colleagues to engage with the community will make your job easier and also help them better understand the value in what you’re doing. Find a few folks within the organisation you can partner with, and let them help you tell your organization’s story.
And there you have it, Babajide’s bible to being a Community Manager, and no this wasn’t handed to me on a mountain on two tablets.