One of the more interesting, but challenging, aspects of my job is community management. Effective managers do not view their community as tied to a specific technology or network, but rather as a group of users who share principles and interests. In order to build an engaged community, managers must be on top of all the latest trends and best practices in the space. This requires continuous education through frequent research across the Web and conversations among peers.
Leading the charge of education to community managers is the Community Roundtable and its founders Rachel Happe and Jim Strorer. Over each of the past three years, the CR has produced the State of Community Management Report. This report offers insights and research from the group and sheds light onto the general health and status of the space.
The 2012 State of Community Management report is a good read overall but had five underlying themes that really stood out to me.
Evolution – communities are not built overnight. They grow in both adoption and maturity over time. This report breaks community maturity into four separate stages. It also offers tips for community managers to get from one stage to the next. This report can also be used by future community managers to show executives the long-term commitment needed to get a community off the ground and on its way to success.
I’ve got friends in all places – to have a successful community, a community manager will have to have friends in both high and low places. The first place for community managers to look for friends is also one of the more unlikely places – the legal department. While lawyers might seem scary and always willing to say no, they can be one of a community manager’s best allies as they can not only dispel executive fears, but can also offer guidance on how community related issues have played out in the legal space. They are also good friends to have in terms of keeping you above board (especially important for regulated industries and publicly held companies). Some other areas to look can be product managers, communications executives or the IT department.
Users, not platform define your community – while there are various areas for communities to form and live, the technology does not define your community. Facebook, blogs, forums and company-hosted communities are great and vary in price and user experience, but none of them really matter unless you have users willing to cohabitate in a community around a company’s brand. It is up to community managers to remember this and leverage input from community members as the group evolves. Users need to feel like they are vested in the group to continue to participate in it.
Internal recruiting – in a perfect world, a lone community manager could handle all facets of a community. In the real world this is not possible and the more successful the community becomes, the more others in the company will want to get involved. The best thing to do is take a deep breath and realize that while this may be scary, community managers can set the tone for others to get involved with the community and its members. One easy way is to set training and testing for employees before they are given the OK to jump into participation.
Measurement is important – as with all things in companies, measurement is truly important. With that said it is also important for community managers to keep measurements concise and in a format that executives can understand as this will help avoid alienating them. It is also important to keep in mind that while measurement is great, do not expect too much too fast because community growth and adoption does take time (sometimes years).
Check out the report embedded below if you are a community manager, aspiring community manager or an executive trying to figure out if there is a value in having a customer community.