In my experience working as community manager of HuffPost Live and the lessons I’ve learned from launching a new community, I know it’s about the people. That may sound idealistic, but it actually works. Here are five tips to building a community that I’ve found successful and will work whether the communities are internal or external, online or offline. (Note: for internal communities, “brand” represents your company and “community” represents your employees)

1. Listen more than you talk

Many people think community management is social media marketing. While community management includes some marketing, the main distinction is that social media marketing is the bulldozer and community management is a magnet. No community member cares about you or your message. They care about themselves and what it means to them. When we listen, and let our community know we are hearing them, we draw them in and keep them coming back.

2. Be proactive more than reactive

The community manager is in a unique position. They are the voice and ears of the brand and the community. By identifying a situation before it becomes a situation, you can prevent a crisis and deliver an experience beyond expectation. You see a shift while others are only seeing a trend. In short, proactive = productive.

3. Help beyond your brand

The pressure to drive results gets us so focused on all our actions to help the brand. When we let our community know that we are there for them, they do the same for you. 

4. Build one person at a time

We all hear about big data, but every number represents a person. We are all pushed to see growth and big numbers when it comes to followers, likes and engagement. What we are missing is this: community management is about building. Any way you look at it, we all build our community one person at a time. When you find the individual who can make a big impact, it’s worth way more than any number of “likes.” These individuals may be small in number, but deliver big results.

5. Look beyond your community

When I used to fish with my uncle, he’d always predict the best spot to fish based upon time of day, depth of the water and type of fish we were trying to catch. He also understood that if the fish weren’t biting there, we’d have to find a new spot. The same thing goes for building a community. We have to always look for new “spots” to find community members. Our existing community will have attrition. If we never look beyond our existing community, it will never grow. Think of other communities you can align with, research to find new and emerging influencers in your market, and always keep an eye out for new ideas in unusual places.

In no way am I proposing this list is comprehensive, but they are five tips that have worked for me when building communities. What have you found to be key for you when building communities?