A community manager should cultivate positive relationships with top members in the community.
These relationships provide the community manager with a great deal of influence over the community. They also boost activity, provide a feedback mechanism and develop volunteers.
Offline, building a relationship is a relatively simple task. Online, we tend to struggle. We rush it, or play the numbers game.
So here is a very quick guide on building a relationship with a top community member (or anyone).
1) Identify who you want to build a relationship with. Why this person? Judging by their past contributions to the community what do you and they have to gain through a relationship? Your time is limited, so you need to decide who to build a relationship with. Will it be the most prominent? Most active? Most knowledgable? Most experienced? Newest? Why?
2) Review their contributions to the community. Learn a little about them. Where are they from? What are their interests outside of the topic? What contributions to the community have they made in the past? What image of themselves are they trying to construct?
3) Question, compliment, or comment. Ask a relevant question, give them a compliment or make a statement you believe they will have a strong opinion on. All these will be based upon your research. You can't mass-mail this, each approach has to be based upon something specific.
4) Continue the discussion. Ask more questions based upon their responses. Identify a topic of mutual interest. Look for ways you can help them. Endeavour to talk on the phone or participate in something together. Disclose more information about yourself (thoughts, feelings, experiences).
5) Sustain the relationship. Maintain contact. Don't make a connection solely when you need something. Schedule it in your calendar if you like. Find a time every week to continue the relationship.
6) Only ask for something when you have completed the steps above. By far the biggest mistake is approaching someone too early. Wait until you have developed a strong relationship. It's best if you've already helped them do something first.
This works for any type of relationship you want to build in almost any situation.
Remember you should only ask the member to do something that benefits you after you have built a relationship. The benefit is the final step. Too frequently we treat it as the first step.
Don't be reactive to relationship development. Proactively cultivate positive relationships with a large group of members.