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It is not easy being a community manager.

It seems that many people are content to call themselves community managers because they manage a Twitter account, post content on a Facebook fan page (with the goal of “engaging” the masses, or at least those who actually visit the page or allow posts on their newsfeeds) or run a group on LinkedIn.

I’m still not sure how anyone actually “manages a community” on Twitter beyond hosting a regularly scheduled tweetchat, but that’s a subject for another day.

The focus of this post is how community managers actually communicate with members, so I will stick to that for now.

If you spend your time posting comments like: “That’s awesome,” “Great idea,” “Tell me more,”  “So happy you shared that with us,”  “Tell us what you think,” and “Share your thoughts” you aren’t managing anything.

You’re not even thinking. You certainly aren’t going to grow much of anything. If this is how you communicate, your job is easy.

Make no mistake, there is nothing genuine about such emptiness. But once you start posting those types of comments, you will continue to do so for the long run. You will fall into a trap that allows you to believe you are engaging when you are doing anything but.

You need to invest more if you want to see a better return, and if you don’t think you can do better, you might want to reconsider your current role.

I recently discovered that I posted more than 7 thousand pieces of content on the community I managed for a little over 2.5 years. That’s a combination of comments, blogposts and images. I knew that I had to be one of the top contributors if I wanted others to do the same.

Yes, there were times when I posted short comments or told someone that their blog was awesome, but it was by no means something I did very often, and was typically followed by at least one other comment.

Because I like to lead by example, I will share with you a few samples of comments I posted to users in my next few posts, so be sure to subscribe to the blog if you want to see these samples of engagement in action and how taking a genuine interest in community participants can make a real difference.

If you learn anything about communicating across social channels in 2011, let it be this: Never write anything when you’re angry. I’ll take it one step further and add that you should never  respond to any comments that bring out emotions you feel you cannot control.

Here’s an example: You’re reading a highly critical comment about your company, yourself or one of your colleagues or employees. After the first few sentences you are fuming. You know it’s a lie and you cannot wait to rebut. That is when you have to walk away. You are in no position to respond.

Not yet.

I have seen this time and time again, and the people who would seemingly understand this concept, and the permanence of any content posted online, fall victim to their emotions.

One comment turns into two, unfinished thoughts morph into uncontrollable rants, and when the dust settles, they look like a fool.
Consider the tale of this back and forth on Twitter, as described by MG Siegler over on Techcrunch. This is just one case of bad judgement and it probably won’t have much fallout for those who participated, but it is chronicled on a popular blog, something they may not have expected.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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