I’m often asked: “why do I need a community manager?” I
usually answer with a question: “How many successful projects do you know
without anyone in charge of its success?”
Communities are no different than any other complex
initiative that touches just about every part of your business. At the same
time, they are drastically different from any other initiative because success
of a community is based on strength of relationships between its members –
and relationships take a long time to build.
While your community may self-organize and be engaged, your community
will never reach its full potential without a fearless leader who ensures community health. More companies are realizing this than ever before,
and the larger the commitment to community management, the larger the value
realized, as the State
of Community Management 2013 report notes.
Of course, the business value of any community is measured
against the business goals it was set to address and varies greatly across
types of communities. While engagement itself is not business value, it is a necessary intermediate goal without
which your community will never reach business value. But just in case you
wanted some numbers… The SOCM report has shown that active community management
can shift the 90-9-1 rule of engagement (90% lurkers, 9% curators, and 1%
creators) to an average of 55-30-15 (and 17-57-26 in outstanding communities).
What’s the big
Although strategies and tactics vary greatly across
communities and companies, all communities have something in common. If the
goal of a community is, generally speaking, to help people with a shared
purpose come together and create something meaningful, then the job of a
community manager is to facilitate an environment where people can
to do so. What gets people to work together?
In a world where knowledge becomes obsolete faster than ever before, holding on
to information isn’t the competitive advantage – sharing and learning is.
However, sharing – especially sharing tacit knowledge – only happens when
trust between the parties, says John
Hagel – one of my inspirations on the topic.
purpose: Individuals brought together in a community must have a common set
of beliefs and goals. Why are they in this community? How can the community
help them meet their personal and professional goals? A good community manager will design the
community to enable connection based on a shared purpose.
(what’s in it for me?): A community is a healthy ecosystem of consuming and
contributing – readers (a nicer way of saying “lurkers”) and contributors. There has to be great content to
consume and people to create this great content. People are inherently
self-interested, and will contribute to a shared space when the value they
receive is greater than what they put in. You can’t just tell people to create
stuff – but a good community manager designs around members’ WIIFMs.
ownership: To actively contribute to a community, people must also feel
like they own a part of it. A good community manager knows how to design and
build community with community from the very beginning and to uphold these
serendipity: A community is magic because it helps people not only find
answers to what they know they don’t know – but also, discover something (or
someone) that they don’t know they don’t know. Serendipity is a powerful
concept, and is where good ideas come from. The community manager will design the
conditions for people to serendipitously discover people and content.
Why does this matter? Because everything a community manager
does will be aimed at enabling the conditions that support trust, shared
purpose and ownership, WIIFM and serendipity.
What does a community
manager actually do?
So what does a community manager actually do
to ensure the conditions for the community to thrive? Specific strategies and
tactics will differ greatly across community types (internal vs. external,
B2B vs. B2C, high-touch vs. low-touch), where the community team reports, and its
in the maturity cycle. However, in general terms, all community managers do
some version of the following:
- Identifies community’s and members’ goals and
ensures that they continue to be met
- Sets strategy and measures impact
- Ensures stickiness by making it a valuable
resource and a part of people’s jobs – not another place competing for their
- Advocates for and furthers interests of
the community to company, and vice versa
- Nurtures and develops community champions who
share ownership of the community and act as the extended community team
- Works as a cross-functional “hub” to support the
- Ensures that each group that touches the
community has ownership of their part of the process
- Promotes conditions shared ownership and purpose
- In external communities, think through
recruitment, vetting and exit, as well as member journey between communities
- In internal communities, work with the C-suite
to create an overall vision and department-specific/team-specific visions and
- Fosters trust by upholding terms of service and
takes action when necessary
- Uses human systems and technology systems to
help people meet, connect and build trusted relationships
- Technology: social intelligence and discovery,
ease of navigations, user profiles
- Human systems: “welcoming” committee, group of
community champions to steer and ignite the conversation
- Promotes engagement, ensures a cadence of
events, blending online and offline
- Encourages storytelling by promoting existing
stories and community “heroes,” making it easy to share, asking really good
questions and getting out of the way
- Makes sure that the “what if’s” never happen by
promoting productivity and limiting destructive behavior
If you’re in the planning phases of your community
initiative, make sure to resource the human side of it from the beginning.
Unlike a traditional technology project, you can’t just “set it and forget it”
– communities need daily commitment and attention. If your community is already
underway without a community manager, I’d strongly advise you to account for it
in your next budget. Even if an FTE isn’t an option right now, there still
needs to be someone in charge of its success, who gets measured on it.
Now that you know what a community manager does, how do you
hire one? What are the skills and innate characteristics to look
for? How many community managers do you
need and how do you structure your team? We’ll be uncovering this in future
posts. In the meantime, check out more tips on how to build communities that
Photo via: Jacob Pilich