Finding Your Voice as an Online Community Manager

Sep 23, 2015

So you’ve decided to start an online community for your company, organization or brand. Or perhaps you’re taking over as manager of an established community. Either way, you’ll want to develop a voice that clearly sets the tone and pace of the conversation, while allowing for your membership to shine. Spending some time thinking about how to authentically engage your audience will make the difference between a thriving, growing and sustainable virtual meet-up vs. a collection of dried-up conversations and dead-end threads.

Below, I have curated some do’s and don'ts for developing nuances of timing and tone that will engage your members and keep them returning and sharing more often.


  • Match your tone and voice to the personality of your community. It’s crucial to keep the goals and values of your members in mind, and to reflect those in your language, vocabulary and grammar. A community of clergy and a community of tattoo artists require different vernaculars. If you’re a non-profit entity, don't use corporate jargon.
  • Attract quality rather than quantity. Being a real person, engaging in a relaxed and natural way, enhances the quality of each interaction. Remember your audience and always interact without condescending or patronizing. Those genuine interactions will naturally grow your membership.
  • Consistency and timing matter. The most successful online managers know what to post, but also when to post. If it’s a new community, post frequently at first, paying close attention to your analytics to see which times of day or days of the week or month, engagement increases, then do it consistently!
  • Members can smell a “canned” post. To avoiding sounding contrived, don’t plan your posts too far ahead of time. Instead, stay involved and interested and post timely and relevant material. Follow your membership’s lead, offering your expertise and knowledge only when it will enhance the conversation.
  • Experiment to increase engagement. This is especially true for new communities. Try different kinds of posts to jump-start conversations. Ask open-ended questions and use fill-in the blank posts and polls to stimulate discussions. Consider tracking response rates to various types of posts.
  • Don’t stifle the conversation by participating too early. The community manager will often have the last word, so let your members interact before weighing-in with the authoritative answer to a question or concern. Aim for that sweet spot where enough interest is sparked that your contribution will really add value.
  • Don't make negative comments into a big deal. All communities have critics and complainers, and the more time you spend answering their concerns, the more attention you draw to them. Deal with complaints swiftly and authoritatively and then disengage.
  • Focus on your members. Rather than touting your own ideas and accomplishments, praise your members’ participation, rejoice in their successes and let your members inspire one another. Model successful engagement while allowing your members to be the real superstars.
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