Community managers are passionate about social media and the brands they represent, but it’s a demanding role. Continually building new relationships with people through conversations that take place 24/7 across social platforms requires you to always be “on.” Balancing the intensity of the job with your personal needs can be very challenging, but as we learned through our Community Manager Field Guide, there are ways you can set yourself up for success.

During Social Media Week, we took our Field Guide offline to gain more insight from some of the best and brightest social media managers in the business. Sprout’s VP of Marketing, Andrew Caravella, led a lively discussion during Field Guide Live! The session featured Janet L. Nowlin, Speaker of the House for Potbelly; Justin Saper, Director of Marketing and Social Media for Lettuce Entertain You; Katherine Gear, Area E-Commerce Marketing Manager for Hyatt Hotels; and Scott Kleinberg, Social Media Editor for the Chicago Tribune.

The front-line experts from four of Chicago’s most iconic brands shared personal stories and key takeaways including:

  • Tips to foster a productive work environment
  • Technologies to create efficiencies and streamline workflow
  • Behaviors that bring insight into your community
  • Ideas for finding balance in the always-on world of social media

Know Everything About Your Organization

In order to effectively communicate a brand’s voice and message, you need to know what’s going on across departments within the organization. This applies whether you’re part of an in-house team or an agency. A successful community manager has access to key decision makers and has an in-depth knowledge of the brand, voice, products, and industry.

Community management isn’t just about fostering relationships with your audience, but also with your internal teams. Although departments outside of marketing are encouraged to embrace social media, they don’t always see the opportunities for sharing like you do. You’ll be inspired by something that no one else recognizes. Community managers must be acutely aware of what’s happening within their company so those great ideas aren’t missed.

Office Essentials and Technical Must-Haves

Since you’re at the office a majority of the week, make your space as comfortable and efficient as possible. By creating a smart and relaxed environment, you’ll be able to tackle even the most challenging of social situations. Here are some of our favorite Field Guide must-haves:

  • An extra power cord
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • A very large monitor
  • RSS reader
  • PC adapters for multiple screens
  • Fitness trackers
  • A scheduling tool
  • Coffee

Turn Negative Feedback Into Something Positive

No one likes receiving negative feedback. The easiest way to prevent it is to make sure your customers aren’t unhappy in the first place. However, that’s not always possible, and sometimes, regardless of everything you do, some customers will still be unhappy. The very worst thing you can do is ignore it.

Shielding your team from negative feedback is actually doing more good than harm. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to social customer care, and pretending that bad reviews don’t exist won’t make them go away. If anything, silence from your brand will likely frustrate the customer more. Learn how to handle negative feedback, turn it into something constructive, and respond quickly. Doing so might help to ease some of the customer’s disappointment.

For more reactions from the panel, check out the official #SMWFieldGuide Tagboard. You can also find more tips on successful community management in our interview series or by downloading the Community Manager Field Guide PDF.