Max: Do you have any advice or recommendations to any CMs who might want to get better at setting boundaries for themselves but are scared or nervous to ask their team?
It's such a work in progress. I'm infinitely lucky that I have a team that I trust deeply, so I feel comfortable giving them a "Hey this is me time and I won't be here to answer that until I'm back." In general, I've noticed that my current org (based in AZ) folks put their time zone in their Slack signature. It's a gentle-but-present reminder that "Hey you may be DM'ing me at 6 p.m. my time, so don't expect to hear from me until tomorrow."
I've found that funny out-of-office messages do really well. I like being honest with members that "While I really do want to chat, I'll see when I'm back from the wild coast of Maine."
Kirsti: I’m keen to find our about your most successful community ritual, in your current role or past.
What an interesting question! I dig it. The ritual that comes to mind, if only because I've done it at every community I've ever been a part of, is hosting new member calls. There is something about that experience, being on Zoom, saying hi, and asking members questions that transcend community use cases for me. Not sure how much of a ritual that counts as, but it's a comforting thing that I get to do once a month!
Katrine: There are obviously many, many different ways to engage with community members, but what are some of your favorite tactics? How do you think the way you engage with members changes over time as they become 'OGs' or more comfortable within your community?
I really like the way you prompted this question, because so often in a community of 14k folks I lose sight of how our original founders are doing, or furthermore how they have acclimated since we last engaged with them. I personally really like thematic engagement. Required "your mileage may vary" — but for us we usually see that September is when we see a boost of new folks, and so we build programming that trends towards back-to-school or Halloween... it may be a bit more personal but I find that my own enthusiasm for a season change helps carry it over for members.
Georgina, our Director and I both feel really strongly about the efficacy of high-structure programming. That is to say, running a 'course' that is time bound, has email reminders, and provides community members with some sort of deliverable at the end. I think it helps lift the veil of "I don't know what to post" and makes it more of a "this is my little learning cohort!", and that's been really fun for us to produce the last few years.
Lastly, to get to how I engage with folks over time... I do try (although I'm certainly far from perfect) to keep tabs on the members I know. When I bought my first house in April, I told some of our members that I knew would be excited. I think, for me at least, that bit of personal designation is special and makes it feel like an actual friendship than just 'the Community Manager'.
Sagi: I’m curious to hear — what has been the most surprising thing in your community-building journey so far?
Honestly, I think it's just how accessible the thought leaders in this industry are. There are so many folks that have legacies as community practitioners, and I look up to, and then I see them on LinkedIn and they are like "HEY!" It's a really wonderful industry in that way — there is a shared drive to make us all good at what we do.
Ben: I would just love to know about a moment or two that are the highlights of your community career.
This may sound cheesy, but the amount of validation and feedback I got on my first Creator Guild article was really a highlight. I spend a lot of my time behind the scenes (which I prefer!) and to hear that what I wrote resonated was a really warm feeling that I plan to bottle and look at on the shelf.
Related — a best practice that I really like is that whenever we get a compliment in our community, from a DM to a post like, "hey this was really helpful!" Georgina and I add it to a 'We Rock' Trello board. It's not only an awesome way to look for a quick community win if you need it, but if I'm having a bad day, I cruise in and remember that we do OK.
Brian: How do you think about tying community activities to business objectives to illustrate impact to your leadership?
Were I, I don't know, in a hot seat of one kind or another, I'd say that the connection of your community to business objectives is of critical importance. How I think about it is most certainly a work in progress. One thing I have learned is that it doesn't matter if you think of the community health as good/bad/other if your leadership doesn't see it the same way. I've presented metrics that feel weak to me but have had leaders over the moon, and I've ran lovely, bespoke programming that has done nothing to impact value and is basically, "Oh isn't that nice". Some of that comes from how I share those metrics out, some come from working at orgs where a CEO just gets it, and some comes from knowing how to prove the right kind of value that your community can give.
Lindsey: This one's a bit more macro, but what's one change you're hoping to see happen within the community industry in the next 5 years or so?
This is such a fun thing to think about! One thing I wrote about previously, that I'm already seeing change for the better is community role definition and progress. When I was at the Community Roundtable years back, the community roles were flooded with social media, actual building management and so on. Now with places like... well, here, and The CR, and other spots, I feel there is a collective momentum of "what community is matters" and I field less of those requests (and have a nice amount of job security!)