• Online Communities

Avoiding holiday burnout for community managers

by Khoros staff | Dec 17, 2020

In this blog series, a member of the Khoros Strategic Services team dives into a topic they have helped many enterprise brands with, sharing insights and best practices. Khoros Strategic Services has deep expertise in community management, paid social, analytics, content, and they're ready to help your brand.

Traffic on online communities is building this holiday season

With traveling limitations and various stay-at-home orders across the globe, the holidays are going to look really different this year. Many consumers are putting social gatherings, baking, shopping, and gift-exchanging on hold this year. In some ways, loneliness might replace beloved holiday traditions, and so for many people, connecting with people online or virtually may make up the bulk of their communications with others.

Typically, community activity during the last couple months of the year varies by category. For B2B communities, we generally see a drop in activity, but for other industries, especially retail, we usually see a massive upswing as holiday shopping is in full swing. Whether a consumer is seeking support for an issue or just sharing a positive brand experience, the holidays are a great time for community engagement. And this year, with more people staying at home, we’re expecting an even bigger boost in online community traffic.

Community managers are feeling the holiday squeeze

So, with customers expecting an “always-on” support system, how can community managers and moderators avoid burnout and feel balanced this holiday season?

My name is Caroline, and I work for Khoros Strategic Services, helping our clients manage digital communities every day. Since that online support is often a lifeline for users, the importance to show up for communities, especially now, is imperative. A lot of things go into making a great community experience for customers. But perhaps the most important are the people behind the community — the strategists, agents, and managers who bring that user experience to life.

In these last few months of what has been a year of heavy lifting for community managers, the risk of burnout is understandably heightened. Social media fatigue is real and occurs when someone is overwhelmed by an excess of social media interactions — an extremely common experience for social media managers, as they spend both work and non-work hours online.

The same is true for community managers. These people need to take care of themselves this holiday season, both for their own sake and for the sake of the brands who depend on them. Here are my tips on how to prioritize your mental health this season, while still being there for your community.

7 tips to for community managers this year

1. Create structure and boundaries

Have you ever laid in bed scrolling on your phone looking at images of puppies for fun at 11pm, and then saw a community notification that your team should be aware of? If you’re a community manager, the answer is probably yes. We’ve all been there, wondering whether we should notify our teams so late at night. This is especially true during the pandemic, when so many of us are working in the same spaces we use to eat, relax, and sleep. This can make it even more difficult to draw boundaries between work and non-work. It’s an easy mindset to fall into:

I could log off now, or I could write this report late tonight. I’m working remotely and I have no plans, so I might as well keep chugging along.

But striking the right balance is crucial, especially when you’re working from home. If you find yourself making excuses to continue working past regular hours, try one of these strategies:

2. If you’re a leader, lead by example — and communication

As a direct manager or a leader in this industry, it’s imperative to demonstrate to your team that you value their need to achieve balance and time to unplug. When you communicate after-hours with coordinators or moderators, they can feel obliged to show that they’re a team player by replying. This can lead to burnout. A better strategy is to lead by example: even if you’re working late, save requests for your team for the next day. If you absolutely must ping them late at night because, say, you’ll forget if you don’t, add a “FOR TOMORROW” at the beginning of your message. Even better, if you use Gmail, you can choose to schedule your email to go out the next morning. That way, you communicate your respect for their time away from their screens.

Scheduling an email in Gmail

Justin Cook, our GM of Marketing here at Khoros, includes this beautiful sentiment at the bottom of his emails:

3. Curb your offline check-ins

It’s easy to worry about what happens when you’re offline. Will a community member post something against the house rules? Will users perceive a post negatively and cause it to go viral?

Before the holidays, make sure your team has clear guidelines about what kinds of flags can wait a few hours for support, and what kind of flags require immediate action. For example, if a community member has a support question that your team’s resources don’t cover, depending on the topic, this could require some more time to gather information and approved messaging before flagging.

Take time to familiarize yourself with your brand’s crisis plan before your time off so you understand who the team will contact in case they need immediate assistance. Review the plan with your team and trust them to follow it; this will reduce stress ahead of longer offline periods.

If you can, temporarily turn off work notifications during your holiday. Reduce your work pings and notifications to only send for emergencies, so that your time off is really time off.

If you need to check in with the team, create short calendar holds and leave yourself a checklist of exactly what you need to do so you can stay on-task and log in and out.

4. Team check-ins (during work hours)

During election week this year, one of my teams held standing, optional check-ins at the end of each day where moderators could drop into a Zoom with team leaders and talk about anything from what show they were watching on Netflix or the newest recipe they were trying out. Setting up these meetings communicated to the team that we were there to listen if they wanted to discuss anything, work or non-work related, and where we had honest conversations about stress and anxiety. Create a space where the team feels supported and heard, especially during stressful periods of work. Consider daily or weekly optional check-ins to get a pulse into how the team is feeling.

5. Expectations and priorities

As the holidays approach, make sure priorities of tasks are clear to the team. Consider kicking off the week with a list of EOD tasks, EOW tasks, and nice-to-have tasks so the team understands what to prioritize throughout the week. Team leaders should be transparent and set expectations about what teams can accomplish. If you have options to increase the number of teammates, be realistic about onboarding and training needs.

6. Take advantage of the product’s features

When addressing bandwidth concerns around the holidays, don’t forget you can arm yourself with some helpful product features to streamline moderation efforts.

Consider adding AI to your online brand community

Worried about an influx of questions from your community during the holidays? Adding a bot could help you continue streamlined communication with your members without having to fully staff a large group of agents. Bots help lower the barrier to entry of communities for newer members who might hesitate to pose a question to a bunch of strangers. This addition can also help reduce data pollution and repeated inquiries from multiple users at one time.

Streamline visibility into your community by integrating it with Slack

Community managers and administrators are constantly switching between multiple applications. Our new Slack Community Integration brings your community to your Slack workspace, reducing the need to switch applications all the time. You can adjust your notifications to ping you for direct mentions and posts you’ve subscribed to, cutting down on noise and showing you only the most relevant information.

Trust your community

One of the many benefits of communities is the ability to foster peer-to-peer relationships for customers to share expertise and thus reduce support inquiries directed at your team. When you’ve built a place where customers can come to each other to solve their problems, continue to allow your community members to support one another.

Use your community’s Welcome Area to be transparent

If your brand has adjusted holiday hours, let community members know ahead of time. Consider using your unique Welcome Area to provide updates on your community’s business hours, and let users know where else they can find emergency help if they need it. A community is built on relationships and trust; your customers will appreciate the heads up.

7. Be present and reward yourself

Agents, managers and strategists are some of the most resilient people in the industry. We’re experts in our communities; we know our communities the best, and we anticipate their needs every day. The job can feel like you always need to be “on,” but remember that you deserve this (and every) holiday break.

Review your team’s schedule ahead of your break so you know when you’re fully covered and can 100% enjoy the holiday. If you can, turn off notifications for certain apps/programs. If you can turn on your OOO automated email or Slack status, do it. Respect yourself and your teammates.

Unplug, unwind, and get offline.

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