Today, I'm starting a series about organizing an active community that's never before been managed. This situation is growing more common, since many companies with successful products realize late in the game that they need someone onboard to organize the (messy, disorganized, broken) communities that have grown as a result. If you’re just starting out, there is hope.

I'm here to answer the question: Where do you begin when you're tasked with something so overwhelming? You have so many questions and yet you have very little time to ask them. 

I’ve been there. I picked up the never-before-managed expert academic communities for Chegg’s homework help products. It's been an interesting road. But I’m now successfully through the crisis stage and onwards on a journey toward community unity and awesomeness.

Your users may be angry, they may be frustrated, or they may be breaking rules that don't even exist yet. It's tempting to jump in and start responding right off the bat. Instead, you should arrive with an action plan.

This will be a five-part series, organized in the following steps that you should take if you're facing too many roads to travel down all of them at once:

  1. Create a clear line of communication from yourself to the community. 
  2. Create rules and guidelines. Distribute them widely.
  3. Survey the current community for sentiment to get a sense of what motivates them to leave or keep coming back. Institute end surveys for people who decide to leave.
  4. Pick out the positive examples in your community and tell their stories a bunch of different ways and through a bunch of different channels.
  5. Create long-term strategy, outreach, and content efforts for the community. Begin to tell the community's history. Make it badass.

Now, before you begin this journey, take a moment to breathe and remind yourself that each person you help is a victory. Make your users feel amazing and you will reap the rewards. Don't let the detractors get you down. 

Take another moment to be thankful. If your company has created products that are engaging enough to build an organic community, that's a very good sign that you're working on something worthwhile.

And, finally, after you're done deep breathing and being thankful, decide today what success will look like for you in your new role. So many community managers skip this step and end up working tirelessly toward some nebulous endpoint that never presents itself. Instead, decide now what you will see as a success at the end of the week, in one month, and in six months: a specific growth goal, a specific number of replies sent, a specific number of engaged comments. Take things from there so you have a concrete goal to work toward.

Now go out and wow 'em. 

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