Build an Engaged Community


Companies are using digital platforms to connect with their consumers and/or employees. So whether it’s via an internal enterprise social media network or a Facebook page building engaged communities has become more important.

What would an engaged community look like? Lots of people active in the community and some productive outcomes.  What constitutes a productive outcome depends on the community’s purpose, it might be questions answered in a support community or successful idea generation conversations in a strategic community, or money generated in a crowd-sourcing community.


Your community should have a strong sense of purpose, you might even state your community’s purpose right on your front page.

sharepoint community

Communities without a purpose suffer one of two fates; either they shrivel and die, or they become social only – virtual watercoolers. In one company I know of the most active community was one where employees discussed their pets. I’m a fan of pets, but I doubt the company built a enterprise social network to facilitate this discussion.

Content & Programmes

You need to feed the community with content. The Community Roundtable identified five great ideas for content and programmes.

  • member spotlights
  • ask me anythings
  • work out louds
  • photo sharing contests
  • questions of the week

Notice anything? All these examples explicitly call on the community to participate.

ask me anything

Download the free e-book from the Community Roundtable for ideas and examples on making all of these work.

Community Manager

The best community managers make it look easy; from welcoming new members, answering questions, modelling the behaviour of the community, solving any issues and providing the content and programmes to serve the community and build the purpose. It takes a particular kind of person to do it well.

Sprout Social has made a good distinction between the roles of social media manager, who functions as a brand representative for a company, and a community manager who champions the purpose of the community.

community manager

Community managers who build engaged communities can share their expertise in their own communities, and need to be rewarded for their expertise and the care they take.

Image:  networks | geralt via pixabay  |   CC0 1.0 

Community Manager Appreciation Day

Your online presence is often the first “place” customers go to talk to your company, and the first “place” potential customers meet you. The people managing those communities fulfil a very important role for your company, and there are lots of reasons (I wrote about five) to show your appreciation for them, and Monday is the day to do it.

It’s Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD) on Monday so if you manage community managers here are some ways you could show your appreciation.

1 Say Thank You

Include some specific examples of posts that have been important, significant discussions/events or initiatives that have helped the company. You could, particularly in internal communities, post in your thanks to the community.  You could also make a public notice to go on the water cooler/coffee machine. If you don’t want to do this publicly, an email of face to face thanks also works.

2 High Level Recognition

You community is delivering value to business, find a business leader who can say this in email to your community managers. Many community managers take on the role as an “add on” to their usual job, if this is the case include their managers in the email list.

3 Buy coffee/tea

Not every company has free coffee on tap, your social media/community managers will appreciate the coffee/tea of their choice. Ask the barista to write “thank you” on the cup.

4 Invite them to join the CMAD webathon

The group behind CMAD has a day long programme of speeches and lectures all relevant to the role of a community manager. You can see the whole agenda and sign up on the site.

5 Run Your Own Web Event for Community Managers

I have done this, we ran an online meeting in two sessions (to cover Asian and American time zones), we had expert sessions on webcare, content calendars, and examples from round the world on local challenges (this was the most popular session).  If it’s too late to pull this together for this year how about announcing it on Monday, and making it a showcase for other colleagues to understand the role of the Community Manager.

6 Bring Cake

Yes, I have done this. It might be my colleague’s favourite  😉

If you make a small occasion of cake with coffee and say a formal thank you it’ll be a very personal way of showing your appreciation.

7 Small Gift

Put a card on the community manager’s desk with gift or an appropriate gift voucher inside, your thanks will have more impact if you add a written acknowledgement of specific achievements. If you’re not in the same place look for an email option – there are plenty of online gift voucher options.

8 Join the Community Manager Roundtable

The Community Manager Roundtable has a wealth of resources, training and research that can help your community managers improve their work, and professionalise their role. They can also contribute to the annual survey on the state of community management.

If you’re a member of a community you value take time to post a message thanking your community manager. If you can, ‘@’ their manager in the message to increase the recognition for their hard work.

If you’re a community manager pat  yourself on the back, and take a moment to reflect on how your community has evolved and grown in the last year, then plan one thing you want to improve in your own arsenal of awesome community manager skills.

Big personal thank you to the wonderful community managers I’ve worked with, it’s been a pleasure and I’ve learnt from you all!

Image: Thank You  |  Pierre Metivier  |  CC BY-NC 2.0

5 Reasons to Love your Community Manager

Image: Collaboration /Richard Yuan/ CC BY-NC 2.0

Many companies, particularly larger companies, often suffer the curse of “re-inventing the wheel”. But strong networks can nurture the development of good ideas, the transfer of knowledge and faster solutions. Good community managers connect people and foster effective collaboration.

Image: Deaf Bible Translation Team /Elyse Patten/ CC BY-NC 2.0

This is perhaps more evident in internal communities, there may be communities with a goal that relates to employee engagement – sharing the CEO’s vision, induction programmes or specific communities on organisational culture. Your community managers will play a big part in building these communities. But there’s another way successful communities help employee engagement; we know that “recognition” is a motivating factor at work. Managers and community managers can provide that recognition via a community, but so can peers. If community managers build a culture of appreciation they’ll be setting up that peer-recognition.

Image: Occupy Detroit /Cocoloco Photography/ CC BY-NC 2.0

In a crisis or an incident fast accurate answers are really important, and a strong community can amplify your responses. I’ve seen companies overwhelmed by questions during a technical issue with their site, other followers of the twitter account were re-tweeting or answering questions directly. But this will only work if you’ve trusted your community manager to build a community first.

Image: Victoria and Albert Museum Info Desk /Mark Hogan/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Service is now provided online and in real time, this can be a cost cutter and time saver for a company. Community managers work to find answers or experts, and provide the service

Image: Twitter On The Rocks con Cris Alcazar /Camom/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As customers have moved to using their computer/tablet/mobile phone their first view of your company is your website, and the first person from your company they meet may well be a community manager. Your customer service frontline is now conducted across the internet and you are relying on your community manager to provide the service and convey the brand values of your company.

Community managers are increasingly important as the use of social media grows both inside and outside companies. If the community managers in your company are doing their job well, today is the day to thank them – it’s Community Manager Appreciation Day.