Sprout Social's Community Managers' Tips from the Field with Simon Chan

Walking the metaphorical tightrope between the needs of your business and the needs of your customers can be a real challenge, but this is exactly what community managers have signed up to do.

Balancing the diverse needs of internal and external clients while maintaining your brand’s image and — hopefully — keeping everyone happy is no small feat. It’s no surprise that this can be a high-stress job, but fortunately for community managers old and new, there are some tricks of the trade that can help make your life easier. We spoke with  Wunderlist‘s Simon Chan to find out just what’s in his community management toolbox.

Learn to Say “No”

Community management can be a 24/7 job if you let it. Your community is always online, talking and asking questions — but if you try to keep up with them all day and night, you’re going to burn yourself out. “It’s just not possible for any person to work those hours without feeling the affects,” explains Simon. “I tried doing it when I started and the result was just a degradation in the quality of my work.”

No one wants an over-worked, over-tired community manager trying to field customer questions, so a good community manager needs to know their own limits. “The number one thing is the word ‘No,'” says Simon. “It’s a negative sounding word, but it’s what’s kept me sane ever since I’ve been a community manager.”

Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you aren’t a team player — it’s crucial to be able to recognize what you do and don’t have time to do well, and say ‘no’ when you just can’t squeeze something into your schedule. Being honest with yourself, your community, and your co-workers will make sure everyone has the right expectations and help you get through your daily tasks without burning yourself out.

Get Away from Your Keyboard

Get Away from Your Keyboard

If you don’t those set limits for yourself, community management will suck up all of your time, leaving you drained, overworked, and frustrated. “‘No’ to me means being able to take a break from work and my community — whether it’s on the weekend or for a holiday, the opportunity to be able to step away from the constant nature of our work keeps you fresh,” says Simon. Making time for yourself to take breaks is another key reason the word ‘no’ is so important for a community manager. Whether that means getting away from the office for lunch or taking a longer holiday, getting away from your keyboard helps you relax, de-stress, and gets your brain ready to get back on the job when you clock back in.

What you do on breaks is up to you, but Simon likes jumping on his bike. “As a community manager, we try not to take the messages we read personally, but at the end of the day we’re all human,” he explains. “Riding my bike helps me physically work out any stress that I’ve built up so that I’m never tempted to take it out on the people that matter most: our customers. Plus the endorphins and adrenaline just give you some all around happy vibes.” So pick your activity of choice — any kind of exercise is good — and be sure to spend some time every day to burn off workplace stress and get charged up for a new day — or morning, or afternoon — of work.

Learn, Share, and Commiserate with Colleagues

Learn, Share, and Commiserate with Colleagues

The job of a community manager is to communicate with customers, but it’s just as important to use those communication skills to keep in touch with our co-workers and other people in the industry. Co-workers are an important part of your support network on both good and bad days. “It’s great to get the support of the rest of your team if you’re having a tough day and even better when you see their reactions to a really positive piece of feedback,” says Simon. “It help keeps the customer feedback loop fresh and spontaneous within our team, outside of our standard processes.”

It’s just as important to go beyond your local team and talk to other community managers around the world to share your experiences and learn from theirs. “One conference that’s made how I do my job better is Userconf. It’s also like talking with a few hundred of your closest friends, who love your job as much as you do and know exactly how you feel,” says Simon. But if you can’t find the time to hit up a conference, look for online communities or fellow community managers to follow on social networks — keeping up with your own community of community managers will help you stay on top of your game.

You can also click any of the images above or visit the Pinterest pin board to see Simon’s tips. Have tips of your own to share? We’d love to hear them! Tweet @SproutSocial with the hashtag #CMFieldGuide, leave comments here, or visit us on Facebook and Google+ to share your suggestions.