Many talents are necessary, of course, but one in particular presented itself as I began planning recently for a family vacation. The skill in question was what Dawn Foster called "workaholic tendencies," and the idea isn't that you are literally working all day but that you're available nearly anytime to respond to questions or to moderate hotly debated topics. My problem wasn't the vacation, but that my family was traveling to the "large square states" in the western United States where cellular data reception isn't always available. I was also traveling to western Canada where data roaming charges will question any employee's committment to "stay connected" to the workplace.
The other key behavior that comes into play is what Dawn calls "self motivation," but what others might describe as "control freak." You can definitely use that second term for me. It's okay; I wear it like a badge of honor. But, it's kind of hard to stay connected to your community and stay in control when your next bit of network connectivity is six or eight hours away. Plus, it might be nice to actually spend time with the family on the family vacation.
So, what's a good community manager supposed to do?
Most communities aren't led by a single person, so community managers definitely need to foster collaboration within their support teams. In my case, we have an extensive set of training and reference documents in our "Help" space for our internal employee instance of Jive called Matrix. This content is customized for our environment and addresses features and functionality, access/login issues, and other frequently asked questions. My support colleagues used this material to learn Jive quickly, and it is often useful in responding to questions from our users.
Secondly, we developed a series of templates for responding to common questions. These are used to respond to Helpdesk tickets or direct emails to our admin team's email alias. This keeps the messaging/tone consistent and is an efficient way to handle common questions that have links to reference docs or training. We store these in a restricted-access space available to the support team, and each of us can edit these over time to keep up with changes to our site.
I was very fortunate to have a great team working with me. This allowed me to really let go and trust the team to support the community in my absence. This is perhaps the most important part of the formula, because if you stress out over every possible and nuanced "I wouldn't have said it exactly like that" support response you'll never have a trouble-free moment ever again. You learned how to do this stuff through trial and error, and your colleagues deserve some consideration and freedom in this area too. So, you have to give your team opportunities to learn for themselves.
With these in pieces in place, our community was well supported even with the community manager off the grid.
In all honesty, I was impressed by my colleagues’ efforts in supporting Matrix while I was away. And I impressed myself by letting go, at least for a couple weeks .
Kevin Crossman is the Enterprise Community Manager at Juniper Networks. He helped launch Juniper's Jive SBS based environment and supports other content management and collaboration tools at Juniper.
Kevin is a proud member of the 2.0 Adoption Council, a collection of managers in large enterprises that are charting the course for 2.0 adoption.
The views expressed here are my personal opinions, have not been reviewed or authorized by Juniper Networks and do not necessarily represent the views of Juniper Networks.