We hope you’ve had a chance to digest the smorgasbord of tit-bits we served up last week in the first part of our summary of the Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management report. With a bit of luck, your appetite for the plato segundo will be peaking just about…now – so we’ll jump straight in to the next course.
Last week’s post focused on ‘Community as a state of mind’ – the need for organizations to internalize the idea of ‘community-mindedness’ in order to succeed in social business.
But successful social initiatives of course also require coherent, individualized strategies – and a clear understanding of what a successful community will look like when you get there. As you’d expect, the report drills deep into pretty much every aspect of launching, managing and sustaining a social initiative, including understanding the role of the community manager; and the kinds of expertise and attributes to look for, when hiring for the role.
This, then, is our précis of the most inspired thinking in these areas – no small undertaking, since the report bullet-points its recommendations with admirable brevity, and every one’s a jewel. As previously, then, we urge you to delve deep into the full report – but for the very pressed of time, here’s a brief inventory of some of the treasures which lie within.
Educate for Strategy
Community Roundtable members report that their biggest challenge is in “educating internal stakeholders about the dynamics of community structures, what is realistic, and what is required to deploy them effectively”. Here are some of the report’s strategic standouts:
It’s a them thing, not a you thing Please don’t build your community around your brand.
Know your target member and understand participation rates Build for what you’ve got, and for what you want: scale, size, sex – all impact participation.
Fresh ground is the most fruitful Look for untapped markets, or topics that aren’t overexposed.
Then seed and feed for growth Seed your community with content, and feed it with interaction.
Build around trust Members won’t contribute without it. To maintain trust and community integrity, build another pool for marketing and sales leads. “Protect the fish from the sharks.”
Understand value Even members who don’t participate in transactions are adding value: by driving awareness, building content, and keeping things moving.
This is not a race Communities are all about long term relationships – and many take 2-3 years to get results.
So think long term. Communities create stickiness which translates into customer retention – and don’t forget the total lifetime value of the customer.
Social media & community aren’t interchangeable Use social media to extend your community, not as an alternative to it. By the same token, if more traditional channels like email still work for you, fine – supplement with community.
Design-in your desired culture Positive activities can be encouraged, and negative ones, like trolling, discouraged, through the design of the user interface. Remember too that men & women engage differently – design with your target group in mind.
There’s always more to learn For your community to evolve and develop with the market, so must you.
With these strategic building blocks in place, what’s next? A deeper and more nuanced understanding of the community management discipline.
“We believe community managers make a big difference in encouraging and supporting cultural change – acting as field guides to this new information terrain for employees, customers, and partners who are either not interested or do not know how to engage or are worried about what they can or cannot do.”
Get to grips with an emergent discipline
There’s still a considerable amount of confusion – and, occasionally, jockeying for position – around the role of community manager. The title is sometimes claimed, (officially or unofficially), by those who:
• manage Facebook and Twitter channels within a PR/comms environment
• work exclusively within online gaming
• manage customer support forums
• run internal communities of practice
• apply a generalized community approach to their executive responsibilities
And that’s just fine – they’re all correct to do so. But, at a senior level, community management – defined in the report as “the discipline of ensuring productive communities’ – includes the following responsibilities:
“Define ideal scope, desired outcomes, and necessary boundaries
Ensure participants receive more value then they contribute
Promote, encourage, and reward productive behaviors
Discourage and limit destructive behaviors
Facilitate constructive disagreement and conflict
Advocate for the community and its members
Monitor, measure, and report
Marshal internal advocates, resources, & support
Manage tools and member experience”
“The best emerging leadership in community management are individuals who understand the following
1. Human behavior and motivations
2. The community management discipline
4. Their organization”
In other words, we’re likely to be talking about senior managers, directors, or VP level individuals who are immersed in an organization’s culture, and understand its needs and limitations; individuals with the ability to implement cultural change by leveraging internal relationships; and a firm grasp of social tools and methodologies.
“No free lunch. Members were in agreement that many companies want to hire a manager level title and salary with director responsibility”.
When hiring a community manager for a specific social initiative, the report pitches some cracking advice:
Attributes differ from expertise: you’re looking for both. Attributes include a desire to be helpful; conciseness and credibility; influence, and the capacitiy to persuade; humour, curiosity, and fearlessness – all deployed with diplomacy and patience; Expertise is strategic business acumen, deployed through exceptional communication and interpersonal skills.
Prioritise culture fit Neither attributes or expertise will fly unless your community manager is in synch with your company culture.
Keep your eyes peeled Potential candidates are anywhere and everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, conferences, contacts…
Youth – a double-edged sword For sure, young people are open-minded and can be swiftly trained-up – but ensure they‘re also equipped with the judgement to grasp what’s inappropriate, and to escalate where necessary.
In-community hires – yup, another double-edged sword Members report that hires from within the community sometimes lacked business or communication skills. The abilities to communicate effectively in a forum, and in person, are two quite different skills: expertise in the former may not translate into dealing effectively with co-workers. Individuals may privilege their community bonds over company loyalty; or be unable to expand their specific area of in-community expertise to fulfill their additional responsibilities.
In-company hires on the other hand, already understand the company culture and its customers.
“What do you think is wrong with us?” is a smart interview question. The perfect fit will answer from the customer’s viewpoint, and offer solutions.
Finally, when you’ve found a candidate who’ll give your social initiative everything that it needs, be sure to reciprocate.
Give your community manager the authority s/he needs: to run the community; to say what needs saying, to access the source to get the answers they need and get a frank response. Also crucial: the authority to launch organization-level solutions – and to see them through.
Accept and acknowledge that the community manager role can sometimes be an overwhelming one. Partial community-involvement is rarely an option; these guys give their all.
Our final post will shift focus to the report’s best practice recommendations for community managers – so do watch this space.
By Kate Williams, research consultant at eModeration