139. The Online Community Manager with Shannon Paris

September 3, 2020

“This job helped me understand why people gather. And the problems they’re trying to solve when they gather.”
—Shannon Paris

There’s a good chance you’re a member of a Facebook group. Maybe you’ve purchased a product or a training program and as part of that purchase, you were invited to join a private group hosted on Facebook or some other independent platform. Or like me, you may be part of an online community gathered around a shared interest.

Now, there’s someone who manages that community. And to varying degrees, it is a role that can be as visible or as behind-the-scenes as designed. That role – the Online Community Manager – is what we’re exploring in this episode.

Second Breaks Ep139 Shannon ParisShannon Paris is the Community Advocate at What Works, an online community helping small business owners build strong businesses.

I’ve been a long-time What Works member, and I know how well Shannon executes this role. I asked her to join me and help me take a peek behind the curtains to get a better understanding of the role and what it takes to be one.

In this episode, Shannon and I started off with her starting point. She was new to the role when this job was first suggested to her. We talked about her initial thoughts about the role, and now 3 years later, how the job has evolved for her. We took a look at some of the parts and pieces of her job, what member engagement is about, and what it takes to make it happen.  Shannon also shared her thoughts on how you could get started if this is something you’re interested in pursuing.


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I’d been in an organization that was established in 1946. It was a big giant organization that’s like a big ship that was hard to move. And so the idea of doing something that had this. Had a forward-looking element to it, that sounded innovative, and on the front end of where communities might be going. Just sounded really intriguing to me.

Part of what I love about working for a small business, like the startup-sized business, is you kind of get to do everything.

I think it’s iterative. You’re always working on and always listening to your people to see what it is that’s going to help them. What problems are they trying to solve? So, inspiring engagement is as much about listening as it is about pushing out content.

Just thinking about what have I learned along this journey and in this job, in particular, is the why. Why do people come together? What problems are they trying to solve as they come together?

You just don’t open the doors and the people come and they start talking. You have to build a container. And you have to turn the lights on and show them the way. So I think that’s what we do.

I would start researching who’s out there doing it. Get involved. Sign up for their newsletters. Get in any of the communities that you could get into, just to sort of learn more about the industry. Join communities and observe.

There’s actually more talk out there about what does it take to be a community manager because it’s growing in the field. You’re seeing people being called Director of Community. Or VP of Community, especially for brands. We have the segment that we’re working in, this online business world with a dedicated community where the appeal is the private space for people to come and work. But big brands (like Coca-Cola) have tons of community. So in addition to our segment, it is a growing sphere.

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