How To Avoid Community Manager Burn Out

January 25, 2012
By Lisa Barone in Branding

Monday was Community Manager Appreciation Day, an online event started by Jeremiah Owyang three years ago to honor and recognize those who fight on the brand front lines every day. Last year I honored the day by offering up 8 ingredients that make a community manager and paid homage to a few folks who I think do it really well. This year I wanted to talk about something different.

I recently gave a community manager interview where I was asked whether CMs were finally being given the respect they deserve, what goes into the position, and what their roles are within an organization. You can read my answers to those questions and more over there but what was really on my mind is something I don’t think gets talked about enough – just how easily it is to burn out from the position.

As I’ve written before, being an online public face isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There’s a dark side associated with always being on, having to manage several different social media identities (at minimum, yours + one branded account), a host of different platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Q&A sites, etc), your own blog (holla), wrangling fans, bringing out the best in people, responding to attacks, and constantly defending what you do to people in your organization and in your life. Those who spend their days working to build these communities and living such public lives can easily find themselves burning out from working on too many problems, too many sites, and trying to be too many things to too many people.

If you’re a Community Manager, how do you protect yourself?
Or, if you’re a brand, how do you protect the person you’ve put into this role and ensure they stay in it for a long time? Hiring and re-hiring not only gets expensive, but it makes it more difficult for your community to trust your public face.

Below are a few tips.

Set Boundaries

Don’t be a dummy; set boundaries for yourself and your community.

For example:

  • When are you “on” as a Community Manager and at what time do you turn off?
  • How often will you “check in” with the various social networks?
  • What’s the priority level assigned to each site?
  • What will you track and what won’t you track?

These questions are important to answer because they’ll help guide interaction and set limits that will help your Community Manager maintain their sanity. Not long too, it was expected that just because a Community Manager COULD do their job 24/7 thanks to Web-enabled phones and a constant Internet connection that they should essentially be on-call for the brand. However, we’re starting to see people step away from that belief and set up core operating times. This is beneficial for a couple of reasons.

First, it tells your community WHEN you’re there and actively listening and ready to engage. This is helpful for setting user expectations. If you tell your community you’re only there between 10am-6pm, then they won’t go looking for you at 10pm when they have a question. It also gives a Community Manager the time they need to detach. We can’t live on all the time. That’s how people die. Or go crazy and take lots of people with them.

Find Your Tools

There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel or feel like you need to do everything by hand in order to be engaging with your community the right way. To help save time and mental energy, seek out tools that can help you do your Community Manager responsibilities more efficiently and more powerfully.

What types of tools should you seek out?

A tool like UberVu will provide you with real-time analytics; one dashboard to track all your social metrics like fans, followers, mentions, etc; the ability to assign tasks and manage your team from a central dashboard (!), provide demographic information, and more. Community Managers working for larger brands will have something like this already waiting for them in-house, however, for small- and medium-sized companies, UberVu can help streamline what can otherwise be a very fragmented and time-consuming process.

ViralHeat is another social analytics program to help you track mentions, measure sentiment, provide analytics and help give you the insight you need to essentially be in multiple places at the same time. It also integrates with SalesForce to help you do something with those leads you’re acquiring through social channels.

If you hung around during our 12 Days of SEO, you’ll remember that Joe, Outspoken Media’s SEO Manager, introduced us to Mention Mapp, a tool that helps you discover groups of people that Twitter users connect with the most. Enter in a username, and it will generate a visual representation of that person’s relationships. If you’re looking to understand who influences whom or find clusters you think your community should be part of, this can help you identify those pretty easily.

The tools listed above are just a tiny sample of what’s around there. As a Community Manager, depending on what you find yourself doing most often, there are tools to help with content management, tracking events, managing multiple Twitter accounts, etc.

Befriend Other Community Managers

We all need to vent and be around people who understand what we do and what we’re struggling with. It’s for that reason that attending BlogWorld Expo has become one of the absolute highlights of my year. It’s one of the few conferences I can go to and be surrounded by people who do exactly what I do, understand the pressures, and who are passionate about it. As Community Managers, it’s really important that we have that outlet. If you can’t get to a show like BlogWorld, participate in Twitter Chats related to the subject. There’s a Communication Manager Chat every Wednesday from 2pm-3pm Eastern. Get involved. Or if you’re not ready to talk yet, at least listen. Not only is it a chance for you, the CM, to hear about issues your colleagues are facing but it can also be a way to highlight your brand and the community you’re forming there.

If that’s not your scene, talk to your boss or the people on your team about the stresses you’re feeling or what your day looks like. Sometimes talking through problems can help you find answers you wouldn’t have found on your own. Or someone will say something in that meeting that will put your brain on a different path and open up new doors.

Keep your perspective

  • If you can’t blog today, the world will not explode.
  • If you can’t tweet today you’re sick, your community will be there waiting tomorrow.
  • If you put off responding to that blog comment for an hour to eat lunch, the world will forgive you.

No, I swear, that’s all true even if it doesn’t feel like it is!

We hire Community Managers to be work on the front lines of our brand. It’s a huge investment – both for the CM and for the company whose put them in that position. Make sure you’re taking care of your brand’s public face. Because why burn out is dangerous, it’s even more dangerous when the person burning out for your company has access to your company Twitter account. ;)

For all the CMs out there, how have you avoid burning out? What works for you?

Oh, and video meme anyone?

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