Several events (handling online community management for a new organization, returning to a bar where I was a DJ in college, creating a cross-school Facebook group for kids of my era in Hays, KS after a high school reunion) have all put me back in the heart of thinking about and handling start-up online community management.

Online community management means creating a content strategy, delivering intriguing social media content (be it created, shared, or repurposed), interacting with and building an audience, and doing it all on a consistent basis to keep people coming back and bringing friends with them.

You might think you are not doing community management, but if you are on Facebook or Twitter, community management is either what you are, or should be, doing.

Thinking back on my DJ years, organizing intriguing content has fascinated me for a long time. The successful practices for being a DJ or an online community manager are very comparable. In both cases, you are bringing together and arranging the best mix of content from various sources to create an intriguing content stream. The content can predominantly originate with others, but has to include self-generated content, too.

Approaching Online Community Management as a DJ Would Do It

I'd been thinking about the online community manager as DJ model before Angela Dunn's great post on the topic of "thought leader as DJ" last year, so these recent events prompted me to put my personal spin on the topic (that's only a pun for those older than 30, btw).

Here are 10 ways a DJ would approach online community management:

1. Create a signature style for your content

Decide what content topics you'll feature, how you want to intrigue your audience, and the actions and reactions you want audience members to display.

2. Develop a source list

Continually cultivate websites, RSS feeds, and people that offer intriguing content in your focus areas. It's okay to share content from popular sources, but there's distinct value to sharing information off the beaten path. (As a side note, launching a community outside our industry has demonstrated a value for those stupid online newspapers: when very topic-focused, newspapers can be a decent source of industry content to share.)

3. Have an adaptable content approach

Know what you plan to program (using even a loose editorial calendar), but be willing to share more of the content that's working right now.

4. Listen for new material all the time

Use all kinds of searches, tools, interacting with others, etc. to listen for and find new pockets of great material to share and promote. Watch the reactions to content and new trends developing. Alter your content stream to take best advantage of what you're observing.

5. Participate and learn from other successful online community managers

I "got" Twitter initially by observing how others we're using it. I'm back to doing that with Google+ now. Continually pick up new ideas based on how others are using social media well.

6. Be an engaging personality

Be enthusiastic, inviting, interested in your community, and "smiling" in an online kind of way. Doing these things attracts and grows a follower base.

7. Use and share content properly

Make sure you include proper credit for the original sources. Go ahead and paraphrase and paraquote, but don't lift copy someone else created. Link to original sources and credit where you're finding compelling content.

8. Solicit audience feedback

Ask easy-to-answer questions and continually check on what people think about your content and community. Also, find out what they enjoy in other online communities where they spend time.

9. Pace your content sharing for the right mood and type of community

Don’t just blast content with no time for people to enjoy it. At the same time, don't begin with lots of material, and then disappear for extended breaks. Match what you're sharing to where the community's mood is and where you want to move it.

10. Bring variety to what you share

Mix in your own material in the midst of sharing compelling items from others. Whether on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc., create an intriguing social media content stream that's distinctive and special. That means being anchored in what you do well while also incorporating new areas to stretch yourself and your audience.

What guides your community management?

Those are 10 areas I've been pulling from in my DJ experience to manage new online communities. What guidelines from your experience guide you as your build and cultivate an online community?  – Mike Brown


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