Burnout is no joke, and the Community Industry is no stranger to it. In fact, sometimes I feel like a broken record when I talk about burnout, because I talk about it so often. I’ve not been in this industry as long as others, but in my time I have been steeped in community. I read conversations in the CMX Community, build relationships with our members and hear about their experiences, and interview folks on the Community Corner Podcast. So, why is burnout so prevalent? I have a theory:
Most of us are doing too much. There, I said it! We manage the community and run all of it’s programs – the online discussion space, the newsletter, the blog, events, community advocate programs, moderator groups. So, we have two options; 1) hire more help, or 2) do less. This blog post is not about option 1… Check out How to Hire a Community Manager if you’re going with option 1.
This blog post is about how to do less. Something like the SSCC model (stop, start, continue, change) intends to help us figure out the priorities on our plates, but this is easier said than done. And why is that? Because community managers tend to be emotionally attached to our programs. We know our members, we know what they want and what they love, and we give a lot of ourselves to our communities. So, how do we determine what stays on our plate, and what has to go? How do you reevaluate priorities in your community?
Write down everything that you do, every program you run, and every task and responsibility that correlates with those programs. Include how much time each task takes you in an average week (even if it's not something you do every week), and add those tasks up so you see your time spent per program.
Project: Weekly Newsletter (~3 hours per week)
Tasks: Planning content (~45min), creating content (~1 hour), building newsletter (~1 hour), scheduling (~15min)
Project: Online Community space (~11 hours per week)
Tasks: Daily engagement answering questions and commenting on member posts (~5 hours), member troubleshooting (~2 hours), tracking and measuring chosen metrics (~3 hours), rituals and weekly posts (~1 hour).
Community Professionals wear two hats; The Relationship Builder and The Business Brain. Our work is social and emotional, we build connections and create relationships. That’s the Relationship Builder. Our work is also business! Those relationships we build affect the bottom line for our business, and our job is to prove that business value to the organization.
Generally speaking, our communities serve two entities: our members and our business. When determining value, it’s important to look at your community and its programs through both of these lenses.
Using the SPACES model, determine which business goal your community is serving. This is where community operations come in. Connect your programs with your organization’s sales/marketing/CS platforms, and check the numbers. Determine which programs are driving the most quantifiable value. For example, if your community drives Acquisition for your company, you might be measuring the number of Sales Qualified Leads your programs are driving.
Sort your list from step 1 in order of driving most quantifiable business value to least quantifiable business value.
Then, determine which programs are driving the most value for your members. Which programs do your members love and talk about all the time? This can be measured with sentiment metrics like Net Promoter Score. This is also where your gut can come in. Which programs, if they went away, would cause your member’s hearts to totally break? Which programs drive the most value that are positively affecting your member’s lives (regardless of business value)?
Sort your list from step 1 in order of driving most member value to least member value.
Now, put your lists together and compare! The programs that drive the most business value and member value, stay. The programs that are not in the top half of either the business value or member value lists are those that you need to think twice about.
On top of this obvious list ranking, ask yourself, is your list reflective of what you want your community to be? For example, you might be spending a lot of time managing the online community, but does that align with your brand and community mission?
Yes, I know. I’ve been there and I’ve felt that. I’ve felt the pit of my stomach tie itself into knots at the thought of closing a community or cancelling a program. Try flipping that thought on its head. My good friend said, “I always like to think that saying no to something is saying yes to something else.” By removing a program from your plate, it leaves you time and resources to make the remaining programs better.
Here’s some advice for when you truly feel like you can’t close or cancel any programs:
Get help prioritizing. This is where your manager could come in, or a trusted third party (like a CMX'er). Bringing a fresh set of eyes into the conversation will do good. Especially if those eyes are from someone who isn’t as close to the community or your members. They might be able to offer an unemotional perspective.
Tool up. Use a tool to help project management. It can even just be a google doc or excel sheet! There are many, many tools out there but you don’t need a fancy (or expensive one) to help you keep track of work and priorities. Tracking your work helps you see where you spend your time and how much effort it takes. For example, is there a project that ends up taking more time than you realized? Scaling that down will give you more time elsewhere.
Scale down. Maybe you don’t have to cancel or close programs completely. Perhaps it’s about scaling down what you are already doing. For example, instead of weekly, perhaps you send your newsletter monthly.
Hand off. Check out what help you already have on your team. Perhaps someone on the content marketing team can help come up with content, and edit your blog. Perhaps someone on the operations team can help streamline your operations.
Hire. Use this exercise to help you determine the need for headcount. If you truly can't remove any of these programs from your plate, turn them into two roles - determine what you want to continue to work on, and figure out which programs could be moved to the plate of a new hire. Then check out How to Hire a Community Manager!
I hope that these steps help you to re-evaluate your priorities, and ultimately clear some space on your plate. Burnout is real, and community professionals are no stranger to it. If you have questions about your plate, feel free to send me an email! I’ll see if I can help. And make sure to join the CMX Community, and connect with other community professionals just like you!