Tag Archives: community management

The Community Manager in 2012

Yesterday marked the third occurrence of “Community Manager Appreciation Day.” Started in 2010 by Jeremiah Owyang, the “holiday” may seem a bit self-congratulatory, but it’s certainly proof that the community manager role is here to stay.

Check out this great infographic from Social Fresh for the current state of the profession.

Social Fresh is also offering a white paper for download on the subject at that link.

Where does the community manager role stand at your company currently? Is it an agency role or in-house? How do you see the position changing with time?

Hope you had a happy #CMAD!

Which department should own social media?

Many presentations from Monday’s primer discussed the involvement of various departments in the launch of online communities. The speakers were community managers who had the benefit of working across departments while staying faithful to the communities they served. They limit marketing messages, engage the proper resources when necessary, set up guidelines and manage the health of the community. Companies instinctively think that marketing and communications should own social media, largely because it is seen as another channel to convey the marketing message. However, I heard today that many believe that companies should limit marketing involvement in social media in order to foster the relationship without appearing disingenuous. If you don’t have the resources for a community manager who do you think is best suited to own and cultivate the user relationship?

What does an online community manager do?

Dawn Foster, a Community 2.0 guest blogger, has a great presentation on what community managers are and what they do. Take a second to look at the presentation. There’s also a great analysis of it at the Web Worker Daily blog.

How to Maintain a Successful Community

This is the third and final post in my corporate community series this week. The previous posts covered planning and getting started with your corporate community, and this installment continues the discussion with tips about what to do and what to avoid doing if you want to have a successful corporate community. While some of these tips are specific to corporate communities, most of them also apply to other types of communities as well.

The are many ways for a company to encourage or discourage participation in their community just by the way employees behave in the community, the way the community is facilitated, and how the infrastructure is maintained. There are a few things you can do to help ensure that the community successful, while other activities are likely to drive the community away. This post will cover both the do’s and don’ts along with some tips for maintaining a successful community.

What makes a community work

Being open and transparent. Being as open and transparent as possible will improve trust within the community. It often helps to explain the ‘why’ behind some of your decisions to avoid being seen as closed or defensive. In general people are more understanding, especially about difficult topics if you can explain why the company responds in a certain way.

A company who listens (to good and bad). It is easy to listen and respond when people say nice things about you or your company, but you should also be responding when people complain or provide negative feedback. The key is to respond constructively with something helpful: a suggestion, information about upcoming changes, or just a simple thank you.

Actively engaged in the community. The company should not dominate the community, but they should be actively participating by creating new content, responding to feedback, and in general being visible in the community.

Encouraging new members. Whenever possible, welcome new members of the community, especially if they are particularly actively in the community.

Making it easy for people to participate. Reduce the barriers to entry for people to participate and make it as easy as possible to join the community. Allowing people to view content before joining and a simple sign-up form with very few required fields can go a long way toward reducing the barriers to participation.

Integration into other relevant areas of the site. In most cases, it is simple to pull information from your community into static areas of your website. This makes your static website seem less static, and it drives more people to your community when they see a piece of content that they are interested in reading. For example, if you have a static page describing your efforts in sustainability, you could pull the 5 most recent blog posts or discussions from the sustainability section of your community into a sidebar on the static page.

What to avoid

Community is lip service. People can tell when a company creates a community to give the appearance of listening, while not really considering it a serious endeavor. If you aren’t serious about engaging with your community, then you might be better off not spending the effort to create one.

Pushing marketing messages. When pushing marketing messages out to the community members takes precedence over 2-way conversations and collaboration, you will start to see your community disappear. A community is about conversations between people, and you can talk about your products, but it should be done in a relevant and conversational tone, instead of sounding like a pitch or advertisement.

Deleting the negative. You should be responding to criticism, not deleting it. Again, communities are about conversation. If people feel like you are putting duct tape over their mouths when they express anything negative about the company, these people will simply leave their negative comments somewhere else on the internet where it is likely more people will see the criticism and not hear your side of the story.

Barriers to collaboration. Community software, configuration, or policies can often create barriers to collaboration. Configure the software to make it easy for people to find content and sign up for the community. Your policies should create guidelines for use that help keep the community healthy without being so heavy handed that people aren’t interested in participating. Flickr’s community guidelines are a good example of how to write guidelines that are simple and even fun to read.

Neglected communities. Nobody wants to participate in a corporate community where no one in the company monitors or responds to questions or feedback. There are too many of these floating around the internet, so make sure that you have the resources to give your community care and feeding over the life of the community.

No community is perfect

You need to keep in mind that no community will ever be perfect: things will go wrong; your community software will have bugs; and people will get defensive or irate. In addition to the internal factors in the community, there are external influences that can creep into the community. Companies have PR nightmares that drive people into the community in droves to complain, but in great communities, the company responds effectively, addresses the issue, and works to resolve it quickly. When you have one of these crisis situations, keep the focus on summarizing and fixing, instead of blaming and justifying. Maintain open communication channels and deal with these imperfections and issues as quickly and openly as possible.

What are your favorite tips to help companies have great communities?

If you are interested in reading more of my content, you can find it on the Fast Wonder Blog.

Corporate Communities Part 2: Getting Started

The first part of this three part series of posts about corporate communities covered Planning for your corporate community, and now we move on to a few things to think about when you are getting started with your community. While there is a fair amount of overlap between planning and getting started, the planning section covered setting goals / objectives and fitting the community into the company’s overall strategy. This post continues this train of thought to talk about how you achieve those goals, measure success, decide to join or build, and put resources in place to make the community successful.

What are your plans for achieving your goals and how will you measure success?

Now that you have some goals for what you want to accomplish with your community, you need to figure out some specific steps required to achieve your goals along with the metrics you will use to measure whether or not you have been successful. The metrics that you select will depend on your specific goals, but common community metrics include page views or visits, new member sign ups, and participation (new posts or replies). It is easy to go overboard and measure everything; however, I recommend that you pick a couple (no more than 4 or 5) of the most important measurements to use to report to management on your success. You should have an analytics package or reporting tools that allow you to drill down for more details that you can use to help troubleshoot issues and understand the data, but use these as background materials for your team.

Do you need to build new or can you join an existing community?

This is the reality check portion of the process. If you can join an existing community and get the same or similar benefits for your organization without investing all of the resources to create something new, you should seriously consider joining rather than building. You should also look around your organization to see if you have any existing communities or other infrastructure that you can reuse instead of installing yet another piece of community software.

Do you have the resources (people and financing) to maintain it long-term?

Building a new community is a big effort. It is not one of those projects that you complete and move onto the next one. Building the community and installing the software is the first step, and the real work comes in after the launch of the community. You will need to have people on board and ready to manage the day to day responsibilities from a community perspective and to administer and maintain the software. For a small community this could be a single person, but for a large corporate community, it usually takes a team of people.

You should also plan for frequent upgrades and adjustments to the community, especially right after the launch. You will find bugs in the software, areas of the community that the users find difficult to use for whatever reason, and other things that you will need to adjust once you have people actually using the community. Your organization should be ready to handle these ongoing costs and resource commitments over the life of the community. Nothing is worse than wasting time and money on something that won’t be maintained long enough to achieve your goals.

While this certainly isn’t everything that you need to consider when starting a new community, hopefully, it will get you started on the right path. For more information, you might also want to read some of Jeremiah Owyang’s posts about community platforms or some of the online community research that Bill Johnston is doing at ForumOne.

The next and final installment of this 3 part series will cover how to maintain a successful community with some hints about what to do (and what not to do).

If you are interested in reading more of my content, you can find it on the Fast Wonder Blog.