When trying something new we all make mistakes.
Some mistakes are unavoidable and you'll learn from them. Other mistakes are completely preventable. What follows are those that are not only the most common but also totally preventable.
Letting Things Fall Through the Cracks
When you let even a single comment or question in your community go unnoticed it can appear as though you do not value the contributions of your members.
If a question isn't getting any replies, try asking some clarifying questions to get some more information. It's possible that people aren't replying because they simply don't understand the question or the question is too broad.
Sometimes, posts fall through the cracks because there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and everyone assumes someone else will take care of it. More often, it's because the person responsible is doing too many other things and dedicate enough time to the community.
For both of these reasons, it's important that you dedicate one main person to own your community and be ultimately responsible for it. This person needs dedicated time, resources, and support. They can delegate certain tasks to other team members or even community members but you need one main owner.
Making it All About Yourself
By this point, you should know your group is not about you.
Your online community is a resource for the members to get what you promised them in your group's mission statement. It is not to promote your services or products. Beware of slipping into being too self-serving.
Sometimes, I'll post in our community and realize there are two back to back posts from me without any other member posts in between. If this happens, I either remove my post and schedule it for later on or I make sure not to post again until at least a few other discussions have been started.
If a new member joins and they see three back to back posts from the admin of the group it can be a quick clue (even if it's inaccurate) that this group is not engaging and members do not interact much. That's not how you want to start off with a new member!
In fact, it may cause them to turn around and leave the group before ever engaging in it.
Not Sticking to Your Rules
Once in a while, it might be okay to let a few things slide in your community. Maybe someone posts a job opening that's a great fit for your members, even though you have a rule against posting job openings in your group.
The problem with this is it's a slippery slope.
Once members see that it's OK, they'll begin doing the same. And it's much harder to deal with five posts that break the rules than just one.
Stick to your rules, even when it's hard.
If your community members continuously want to do something that goes against the rules, maybe it's time to consider creating a solution. For instance, you may want to start a weekly jobs thread where members can share open opportunities without cluttering up your group's feed with random job posts.
Assuming You Can Automate Community Engagement
It might be tempting to automate your engagement on social networks with a bot that likes and comments on your behalf, but you'll get to a point where it starts to do more harm than good for your brand. In today's internet landscape -- which is just saturated with automation -- you need to prove there's a thinking and feeling human behind your brand to actually connect with customers.
In certain communities, however, automation is more common than others. For instance, in Slack it's more common for a bot to facilitate conversations than on Facebook:
Putting All Your Online Community Eggs in a Basket You Don't Own
At IMPACT, we’ve built an amazing community of thousands of inbound professionals... and it lives on Facebook. We’ve talked many times as a team about both the risks and the rewards associated with building our community on Facebook.
Sure, the odds of Facebook disappearing completely tomorrow are quite low. However, even if just the Groups portion of Facebook was to go away, it would be a big deal for our community.
(I talked about this issue with Facebook in-depth in the section on where to build your community. It's just worth mentioning one more time.)
Inconsistency with Your Traditions
Traditions are an important part of online community management. They help keep members engaged and gives them a reason to come back. That said, your "traditions" will become instantly ineffective if you aren't consistent with them.
If you decide to do a personal promo thread on Mondays but miss one Monday, you can probably still recover. But if you miss more than once not only will your community start to lose interest they'll feel that you're not invested in them and will know they can't rely on you.
This is yet another slippery slope for your whole community.
Engaging with Trolls
The best community management advice I've ever heard -- and frankly, good advice for life in general -- is to avoid starting a conversation you cannot end.
If you see a conversation that requires your intervention, by all means, do what you have to do. However, there will always be people who just want to argue. Their goal is not to find common ground or compromise; their goal is to vent, period.
If you see that a conversation is getting out of control -- or even if you suspect it's moving in that direction -- it's truly OK to not engage. While I firmly believe every comment or post deserves your attention, sometimes your attention will have to come in the form of removing someone from your community.