I recently took some time away. Literally three weeks without logging into my forums. And guess what? They were still there when I got back!
Regardless of what you do, what your profession is, what your hobbies are; sometimes, we can get wrapped up a little too much where we think something needs us every single day and cannot live without us. “I can’t leave – what might happen?!”
This is one of the reasons you want to have moderators or staff members of some kind because a smart staff member is golden at these times. If you don’t have one, it’s likely that your community is fairly small and might be OK without you for a while. Or, if you’d like, you could ask a trusted friend to watch the place for you. Just like you’d ask for someone to check in on your pets and make sure they are taken care of while you are away, you can do the same thing for your online community.
What did I come back to? Well, yes, hundreds and hundreds of new posts, public and in the staff forums, private messages and e-mails. But, beyond that, were my communities in ruin? Were all of the posts spam? Had numerous members left? No, no and no. Things were fine. Things were functioning. They could do without me for a while.
In a way, that’s good community management. If you have to be at your community at all times for it to work well, you should really go do something else because you are going to end up sapping all the joy out of this job (or hobby).
Good community management is setting up a structure that can function without you. Let me define what I mean by function. Work, grow, survive, thrive even. My moderators took care of the vast majority of violations that happened while I was away and that’s how it should be. They were equipped to deal with most everything and they did. Yeah, I had to ban people when I got back, but they neutralized all the threats and took care of business.
Let me be clear, too. I’m not advocating absentee management. To the contrary, everyone who knows my management style knows how hands on I am, how driven I am by the smallest details. I’m not talking about abandonment or sudden disappearance, I’m talking about a break that is planned in advance. My staff knew I’d be away approximately a month before I actually left.
I’m also not saying that the communities were better for me not being there (some might say that… heh). The communities would have been a bit more efficient had I been, sure. But, that’s the trap. Every moment you spend on your community is helping your community grow and become better. But, that doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment actually on it.