Daily Archives: February 4, 2013

The Evolution of Online Communities: Understanding Community Management in the Modern Day

photoIn the #cmgrclass Google+ Hangout conducted on January 29, 2013, discussion primarily focused on the evolution of communities over a span of 20 years, comparisons of beginning of community management and the current state of community management, the concept of outsourcing, ways of developing strategies for start-ups and favorite brands, and lastly optimal education for those looking to become a community manager.

Jennifer Pedde asked participants to reflect on the previous week’s reading and discussion concept prevalent in those readings. Carol opened discussion by sharing how participation architecture was a thought-provoking concept in understanding what type of community was she trying to create participation in. Due to the high volume of Internet users, community membership and diversity has impacted communities negatively. There’s literally a community for every human interest. People have been engaging in online communities long before they were even aware that this industry existed. Examples such as AOL chat rooms, moderated forums on news sites, and blog comments were presented as mediums in which we were members of online community and were oblivious to it. Kelly Lux admitted to participating in an online forum for new moms during her pregnancy, which she described as “so new” and “addictive”—the ability to speak with people in real-time using a digital platform for the first time.

Years later, how do you increase online traffic and keep the attention of an audience when there are such a variety of communities available to join? How do you keep people engaged? Listening is an essential role in cultivating authentic relationships with community members and ensuring their satisfaction. Maintaining audience engagement also largely depends on the goals of the community; does it serve as a forum or a customer service help chat center? There are many factors that determine approaches to audience retention.

Community managers starting out in small companies may be wondering how to attract and establish membership. Is outsourcing problematic? Jennifer Pedde says despite her constant disapproval, outsourcing can be a good fit for big companies, i.e. Coca Cola. Conversely, for start-ups it will likely not be financially feasible to outsource. Community managers will execute much of the work single-handedly. So, what are the beginning stages of strategy development? Suggestions include: finding out if the brand currently has an online presence (if it does, what needs improving), discovering which digital platforms are the best fit for the overall outcome, and creating content that align with company goals and what they intend to gain from the community in terms of experience. Although this may sound simple, Kelly Lux questioned whether or not there’s an optimal education for current and up and coming community managers. In addition, can anyone be a community manager or is it innate and cannot be taught? #cmgrclass came to the general consensus that community management involves a genuine desire and passion for interacting with people. That’s a core value is being a successful community manager, the rest can be taught by enrolling in a course or as the old saying goes, “experience is the best teacher.”

Social Media Manager vs Community Manager

Social Media is not Community Management (says Justin Isaf in his article You may not actually be a Community Manager).

This topic has been dissected and discussed in numerous articles that we have read this week.  It has been interesting to see how these roles have evolved as you consider articles from two years ago to ones written more recently.

So What are They?

I see it as content versus relationships;  internal vs external; large audience vs small group of people with a common interest.

Social media managers have a multi functional role, touching on so many areas including marketing, PR, communications, analytics.  Their reach extends more externally – or to people outside of the community.  It’s a bit easier to measure the success of social media with metrics (# of users).  They are leading the effort company wide to be social and engaged, leading the way to expand to new platforms, and leading the growth of the channel.

Community managers understand the member base, help the flow of information between members, provide a good user experience.  Their reach is more internal – or to people who already have an interest.  Measuring the success of community management is a little more challenging (how engaged are users).  They are managing the members, conversations, educating  and engaging users.

These roles are similar:

  • Content creation
  • Conversing with followers
  • Responding to comments, reposting comments,
  • Measuring and reporting
  • Strategy to grow engagement and conversation
  • Passion for the brand
  • Need a sense of humor and to be a people person

Yet they are different:

Social Media Managers…

  • Talk to lots of people
  • Brand – talk to everyone, personalize the brand, create an audience, manage perception outside of the community
  • Utilize Social Media platforms – they manage all the networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Handle complaints.  Implement Crisis Management
  • Need to be technology savvy
  • Grow the channel & target market
  • Promote events and communications

Community Managers….

  • Get people talking
  • May use social media to converse with the community (or they can create their own platform for connectivity)
  • Develop and moderate conversations; encourage topics for discussion; join the conversation
  • Listen!!!
  • Grow the network
  • Create events/conferences/meetups relevant to the community

The key is to understand what each role does, what the skills are necessary for the role and what you want to accomplish.  Some examples of traits you may seek in either role:

10 Qualities of an Effective Community Manager

6 Must Have Attributes of Social Media Managers

 Do you see the difference between a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager?  Is there a need for both?