To some, the job of a community manager may seem straightforward—to build, engage, and support a healthy community of members. Of course, the reality of community management is much more complex. You are responsible for both the day-to-day work of community building, including welcoming new members, facilitating community conversations, partnering on user-generated content, nurturing champions, and more, as well as the strategic elements of the program, like establishing a growth strategy, measuring and reporting progress, and proving impact on the business.
Soft skills (also called power skills or interpersonal skills) are critical to the success of many effective community managers who are taking on this diverse set of responsibilities, but they are often overlooked. As the name suggests, soft skills are the non-technical traits that relate to how you work with others. They include how you interact with colleagues, how you solve problems, and how you manage your work.
For instance, let’s say you have a candid conversation with a member who violated your code of conduct and upset other members by sending unsolicited sales DMs in the community. If you diffuse the situation in a way that leaves everyone feeling understood while still enforcing your guidelines and setting a precedent for the future, that’s an example of soft skills in action.
Read on to discover the top soft skills that community managers need to have. To discuss what skills your peers are looking to develop this year, join 1500+ community and DevRel leaders the Uncommon community.
Before digging deeper into the soft skills that a successful community manager possesses, let’s consider community management goals and the hard skills required to achieve them. Common program goals include:
It’s worth noting that, in some organizations, the more “back of house” skills and duties such as timeline management, data analysis, and tech stack development may be owned by a community operations manager who works closely with the community manager(s).
The hard skills mentioned above only account for one part of the equation. You will also need to refine your soft skills to be successful as a community manager. These may come to you naturally or you may have honed them in a previous role or life experience. In either case, soft skills can always be learned or developed at any point in your career.
Soft skills are hugely important for community managers—after all, the role is centered around people and relationships. Recognize that these skills are key to positive and successful interactions with both your community members as well as your colleagues.
Benefits of soft skills for your community include:
Benefits of soft skills for you and your team include:
To help community managers be more successful in their roles, our friend Jacob Gross compiled a list of the top five soft skills they should build: communication, empathy, problem solving, creativity, and flexibility.
Communication is at the heart of everything community managers do. You are constantly communicating with members, colleagues, executives, and partners, all of whom have different communication styles that must be taken into account.
And, because time is a precious resource in the busy day of a community manager, you must be efficient in how you communicate. For example, keeping messages brief and to the point, requesting specific feedback from stakeholders, and scheduling time to conquer your inbox and prioritize responses.
As a community manager, you interact with people every day across various roles and backgrounds. Empathy means you are able to understand the needs, concerns, and perspectives of members because you see things from their point of view.
Whether that comes from shared experiences or simply listening to what’s on someone’s mind, empathetic community managers are able to build trust and connect with people regardless of their personality, opinions, or communication style.
Given the people-centric nature of community management, you are expected to navigate a constant stream of requests, problems, and feedback. Be solution-focused and take these problems in stride—take action to remedy what you can control, and delegate or reach out for help regarding things you can’t.
Conflict resolution is a critical type of problem solving for community managers to master. You will often find that the best way to settle disputes amicably is to focus on the people behind the disagreement and, taking cues from other soft skills, practice empathetic communication.
It really is an exciting time to be a community manager. Because community management is a fairly new discipline, you will often find yourself in situations where there is no playbook or you have quite a bit of freedom to shape the strategy and tactics that are used to drive growth.
Creativity means that you aren’t afraid to blend your own bold ideas with inspiration from other communities and leaders who are on the cutting edge of community development and innovation. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different types of content, events, and tactics to drive engagement—just be sure to measure the results of each new thing you try so you know what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes things don't go as planned (the audio malfunctions during a livestream event) or “emergencies” pop up (your product is unexpectedly down and users are miffed). Across all of these sticky situations, you need to be flexible—roll with the punches and learn from what happened, adapt, and keep moving forward.
Much like the business at large, your community is a dynamic and constantly changing environment. Your company leaders won’t remember the hiccups that caused a minor inconvenience one day, but they will remember your ability to stay flexible and keep community work aligned with business priorities as they evolve.
Soft skills will always be vital for community managers and they can be improved over the course of your career.
At the same time, adopting modern tooling as part of your community tech stack will allow you to get more done with limited time and resources. This is especially important for small or one-person community teams looking to scale output beyond their headcount and achieve outsized results.
For example, an intelligent community growth platform can enhance the soft skill of empathy through advanced sentiment analysis that identifies positive or negative messages across the community. From there, you could reach out to members who are struggling and help solve their challenges much faster than if you had to manually parse through channels and flag issues. The same tool could also augment your communication skills by automating key engagement touchpoints and custom workflows.
Common Room is the leading intelligent community growth platform for teams that want to accelerate growth while maintaining deep, personal relationships with members.
Want to continue the conversation on soft skills and community building best practices? Join us in the Uncommon community where you can connect with 1,500+ other community and DevRel leaders to discuss strategies and exchange tips.