Monthly Archives: May 2013

Community Management: To Infinity and Beyond!

This final week of #cmgrclass has circulated around the future of community management. Considering the exceptional growth this field has seen over the past few years, it’s reasonable to assume that its growth will only excel in the years to come. As recently as 2009, people like Dawn Foster were giving talks entitled “Online Community Manager: Yes, It’s Really a Job”. Now, only 4 years later, this career path has taken a commanding and fertile root in companies worldwide.

While the future growth of community management is all but guaranteed, the field itself continues to evolve as the full potential and benefits of well-crafted community management is realized.

In her post Community Manager Job Description, A Definitive Guide, Erin Bury shares how she went from not knowing what the job title “community manager” meant back in 2008, to becoming gainfully deployed as one, and then gives, as a title implies, a definitive guide to what she perceives is the role of a community manager.

In broad terms, Bury defines the role of a community manager as “the face of a company, managing communications in both directions. This digital-savvy employee is responsible for all communications, PR, social media, events, and content creation, among other things.”

Prefacing the list with a brief disclaimer that each and every day as a community manager is different, here are the items she found crucial to the job:

1. Content creation

2. Social media marketing

3. Events and event planning

4. Public relations

5. Customer relations

6. Communications/marketing strategy

7. Analytics

8. Business development


Taking it a step further, Rachel Caggiano and Matt Kelly do a bit of community manager forecasting in their post Rebranding the Community Manager – The 7 Skills of a Community Director. The concepts presented in their post build on a foundation of Bury’s definition, and go on to state how it’s currently changing and speculate how it will continue to evolve.

They found that “today’s community manager needs to be a fan segmentations specialist, an ad and content targeting expert, a crisis radar technician, and a leader of multiple content creators across the organization. A real business director with the necessary gravitas to get the most out of the community, as well as the brand, to really drive value,” and dub this highly skilled individual as something new but in so many ways the same…the Community Director.




This graphic from Ogilvy details the 7 skills of a community director as detailed by Caggiano and Kelly, which is a career path that I best understand to be a community manager with a really productive growth hormone. Whether this is where the future of community management, or, ummm, community directorship, will take is remains to be seen, but the fact remains that the future of community [insert productive noun here] remains bright.

Scaling, Prioritizing and Community Management

This week’s topic for #CMGRclass was about scaling your online community. Richard Millington, in Buzzing Communities, talks about when a community grows, the community manager may become overwhelmed with tasks that one person cannot complete on their own.

RIchard Millington, founder of FeverBee

Richard Millington, founder of FeverBee

Community managers have tons of responsibility, and once it becomes to much for one person, Millington suggests recruiting members of your online community to help so that you can focus on more important things. On his website, he has written a post about 11 Processes for Scaling Online Communities. Examples of these processes include:

  • Recruiting, training, managing and motivating volunteers
  • Encouraging members to submit their own news
  • Teaching volunteers how to recruit and train other volunteers
  • Allowing members to create their own groups, events, and discussions

There are pros and cons to scaling your online community. Some things to consider are:


-Allows the community manager to focus on more important things such as technical problems, strategy and analytics.

-Gives your community members a sense of responsibility

-Allows your community members to be more involved in their online community

-Community members can come up with their own content/discussion topics that are of interest to them

-By having more community members as moderators, you can make sure only the best content circulates within your community


-Giving too much responsibility to community members can be overwhelming to them

-Scaling your online community often changes the community manager’s job description; How does the community manager’s role change as the community grows?

-You need to make sure that your community members can be trusted and are responsible

-Community members essentially are just volunteers. The community manager will need to make sure to bestow responsibility to members who will take the job just as seriously as the CM

-The community manager will need to find a balance between giving away enough responsibility without loosing control of the community and its members

Scaling your community, might not be a good fit for you as a community manager or for your community at its current stage. What can you do instead? PRIORITIZE.

Scaling, Prioritizing and Community Management

The laundry list of things that a community manager has to do seems endless, and it is. But making sure that you get the right tasks completed first makes all the difference. Richard Millington  also has a post about what tasks community managers should prioritize.

Here are a few things that a community manager should focus on to make their lives easier:

  1. content calendarCreating, updating and following your content calendar
  2. Write/draft content in advance so you’re not scrambling the day before or the day of
  3. Create a weekly, monthly, yearly strategy to make sure you are reaching your goals
  4. Develop your community (e.g. holding events, contacting key members, reaching out to potential new members, etc.)
  5. Measuring your community and collecting/analyzing data about them
  6. Plan ahead as much as possible

Have you been successful in scaling your online community? What is holding you back? Do you have tasks to be added to this list to keep you on track? Please share what you find helpful in prioritizing your community manager work.

Data: The Secret Ingredient to Successful Online Communities

In the 10th ProCommunity podcast entitled “How to Use Data for Better Online Community Management” Josh Paul interviews Rich Millington, founder of FeverBee and the Pillar Summit, on some of the tactics that have made him a frontrunner in the still-emerging field of community management.  And if you read the title of that podcast, you being the astute and educated reader you are, may have surmised that one of the secret ingredients to Millington’s success has been his knowledge, use, and championship of, DATA!

Of his work helping companies and community managers become the all-stars that lie right under the cusp of glory, Millington had this to say:

“The approach we always recommend is the data-driven approach. We think it’s absolutely of paramount importance to make sure that you are viewing your data and you are getting that information so you can see what really matter. We make sure community managers are tracking their data so they know where they are now, then they track the data so they know where to go next. “

For Millington, data is a yellow brick road that leads to effective work instead of characters missing very important characteristics, green profits instead of an emerald city.

I could not agree more with Millington if I was charmed with an imperio curse and told to do so. Apparently there are a few authors/community managers out there who share my enthusiasm, sans-weird-harry-potter-spell-or-otherwise.

Thomas Kim, Product Manager of Social Technologies as Rio SEO, wrote a piece entitled How Big Data Powers Community Managemet for WOMMA. He stringently believes that as social media grows, and company departments that manage social media strategies and community management demand increasingly heftier shares of the overall budget, the burden of justifying that funding lies with those who work in social. The data is necessary for countless reasons, but especially for providing evidence of the worth of social campaigns that may have few measurable deliverables.

“Discrete and clear objectives that help to define a deliberate strategy for social media, or marketing actions that support it, often begin and end with the collection and interpretation of big data,” says Kim.

This brings me to my closing point, which is DATA NEVER LIES. Except when its tampered with. But hopefully that not being the case, data can offer clarity of purpose and of past performance that no self-evaluation, quarterly review or consumer survey could ever touch. Looking at the data will tell you what topics your community is most receptive to, what time of the day is the best to break news or rekindle a conversation in embers. Data will give you the pulse, blood pressure, and temperature of everything that is your community. And for that, I claim data is not going anywhere, it is merely going to become more important in all aspects of life and business, and considerably so in community management.

Online Medical Communities: A Prescription for Success?

In this next-to-last week of #CMGRclass, students learned about scaling an online community.  In PatientsLikeMe: An Online Community of Patients, Sunil Gupta and Jason Riis discuss PatientsLikeMe, an online platform “for patients to share their personal experiences with a disease, find other patients like them, and learn from each other.”  Co-founded by MIT engineers Jamie Howard, Ben Heyward, and Jeff Cole in 2004, PatientsLikeMe (PLM) was an offshoot of Jamie’s non-profit biotechnology company, ALS Therapy Development Institute; both were in direct response to Jamie and Ben’s brother’s Stephen’s ALS diagnosis in 1998.

PatientsLikeMe was formally launched in 2006 and quickly grew to a size of over 80,000 registered patients in 19 communities – including 50,000 belonging to the largest communities dedicated to multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, and mood disorders – by 2010.  By the end of that year, the company found itself at a crossroads.  The site had received an increasing number of patient requests for new communities focused on other medical conditions: in 2010 alone, over 5,000 requests were submitted for more than 1,000 conditions.

Up until that point, PatientsLikeMe had grown in a very regulated manner the number of conditions for which it had patient communities.  Communities were built one at a time and were dedicated to only one condition.  As Gupta and Riis quoted PLM chief marketing officer David Williams, “Since our communities currently work in silos, we do not provide a full picture to even our existing members who suffer from multiple conditions.”

Going forward, the team was considering the development of a General Platform (GP) to allow PLM to grow beyond its status as a “niche player” in its space.  However, while there was tremendous growth potential, there were also substantial risks.  The team realized that other conditions having larger patient bases and similar classification,  measurements, or medications would allow it to grow its member base and revenue stream.  (PLM was, and remains, a free site; its revenue is derived from the sale of aggregated health data to for- and non-profit businesses including pharmaceutical makers and universities.)  The team also acknowledged that the number of future enrollments, degree of member engagement on the site, and cost of new member acquisition were unknown.

PatientsLikeMe - AboutPatientsLikeMe went on to roll out the GP in April of 2011, welcoming all patients with any condition to join the site.  Its new platform is more holistic; rather than grouping patients by a single medical condition for which a community is formed, patients enter data on their current and past conditions, symptoms, treatments, and quality of life, and can interact on the site with patients having other conditions.  (PLM advises users that it is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.)  In a recent interview with Fortune, the Heywood brothers revealed that PLM has over 200,000 users and encompasses over 1,500 medical conditions.


I was fascinated with those numbers and recalled a figure from Gupta’s and Riis’ case study.  In Exhibit 9, the authors cite PLM company documents identifying a sample of possible new PLM Communities.  Lupus, along with other inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, were the top of the list of conditions for which patients requested a community, based on the number of requests received in 2010.  I myself have lupus, and while I’ve visited a few online communities dedicated to lupus from time to time, I had never heard of PatientsLikeMe – but I was intrigued.

Patients Like Me - LogoSo, this week I visited PatientsLikeMe and created a profile – so completely, in fact, that I was eligible for a free t-shirt.  (Incentivizing valued community members, anyone?)  I learned that PLM has four very compelling core values (trust, openness, transparency, and the “Wow! factor”) and endeavors to achieve them via three primary patient services (learn, connect, and track).  In addition, I discovered that PLM aggregates patient data to inform medical research and pharmaceutical studies and has published over 30 peer-reviewed research studies.  Wow, indeed.

My time with PatientsLikeMe has been too brief to comment on whether PLM has successfully managed its rapid growth across its site.  However, I am extremely impressed with how PLM supplements the traditional online medical forum with a hands-on approach to monitoring one’s own medical condition(s).

Have you or someone you care about ever used a medical-related online community?  Was it useful in learning about treatment options, coping with a condition, or better informing the patient’s conversation with his or her doctor?

(Images taken by author via screen capture.  Featured image from PatientsLikeMeOnCall.)

Community Moderation Fun!

After about 11 weeks of class, my turn has finally come to pass for moderation of our Google+ community. The subject of this week was community scaling to ensure its manageability, which is a very important topic because it has implications on the level of success that you will have with the growth of the community. Prior to moderating the community, I read chapter 4 in Richard Millington’s “Buzzing Communities” book per the recommendations of the syllabus. I must say that the content was spot on for how you should generally approach community moderation.

Image from

Image from

Importance of Community Moderation

Originally community moderators were seen as those that simply removed unneeded or unwanted content from a forum – such as spam, inappropriate posts, excessive language and unproductive conflict. Community moderation has changed over the years to include stimulating conversations, resolving conflict and keeping the community active through posts. Communities that aren’t active can result in the death of the community, a Community Manager must ensure that their participants are actually participating in the discussion. Here are a few ways that I found a Community Manager can stimulate activity:

  • Personal posts that are somewhat entertaining, but appropriate
  • Pose questions to the community that will allow them to post personal experiences in the industry
  • Post your own experiences as it applies to the conversation

These are only some of the tasks that I believe a Community Manager has while moderating a community discussion. I personally used these approaches during my time posting on our CMGR Google+ community group. The most important of the 3 listed above is posting your own experiences at it applies to the conversation. My experiences are unique and can’t be found in an online article or book, hence I think this is the best way to convey an idea or concept and influence a discussion.

Experience this week

Despite my various posts, I haven’t seen a lot of activity from my classmates. The most activity I have seen thus far was from a presentation by Patrick O’Keefe that was an entertaining take on what NOT to do when managing a community. Lacking activity can be a real problem because it can turn away potential new users of your community.

Several things that were mentioned in the book such as creating guidelines and monitoring spam really doesn’t apply to our scenario due to the exclusivity of CMGR Class. The community is limited to students that are enrolled in the class, thus eliminating the need for constant monitoring of posts to ensure there are no conflicts or inappropriate posts. Everyone will follow the guidelines that were defined in the syllabus and the repercussion for disobeying is a low or failing grade for IST620.

Overall, this week was good, but I just wish we had more activity from the class. Honestly, I think the nice weather may have had something to do with the lack of posts… just a thought…

Scaling a Community: Alot Like Rightsizing

There are a lot of conversation these days, in business, social, and even governmental circles, about the benefits of “rightsizing.”

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph

From the count of workers on a payroll, to the number of needed legislators, to the expanse of your house or car, to managing the calories you consume at McDonald’s drive-through, individuals, as well as society, perceive significant benefits in keeping things to certain size.

Rightsizing, or “The simple joy of just enough,” is something Diana Beam, of Keeping in Touch Solutions, writes about on her blog. “Comfort in life requires proper sizing,” she advises.

These same concepts can be applied to efforts to scale (grow) online communities.

From their nascent stages to their maturing ones, “rightsizing,” managing the growth and size of online communities is crucial to their success or failure. This scaling is maintaining communities online, our readings this week show.

Here’s how  Julian Stodd, a learning and development professional in the e-learning field, calls it, in his “Julian Stodd’s Learning Blog:

Childhood's Favorites and Fairy Stories, Project Gutenberg etext 19993

Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories, Project Gutenberg etext 19993

“Bigger is not always better. There’s a scale at which things become abstract, at which they lose their immediacy, and it’s highly significant when we look at the strange world of online communities.”

The truth is, Stodd says, “most people maintain meaningful relationships with about 100 people.”

Some people maintain a larger circle, he says, “but the reality is that you can’t develop an endless number of meaningful social relationships, at work, in the pub or online. There comes a point at which you are just broadcasting to the masses.

“You might get to 200, but not 20,000,” Stodd says.

Richard Millington, author of “Buzzing Communities,” reports the same beliefs. He cites how changes in the size and scale of a community results in changes in the activities undertaken by an online community.

“You gradually shift to macro-level activities. Activity keeps rising, but the number of newcomers which become regulars declines.

The level of personal contact, which was so essential in keeping a member active, is unsustainable over the long term (or non-scalable).

You can’t maintain active relationships with 500 people. Millington cites these four elements of scaling:

1) Social scaling processes – actions performed by people (volunteers, insider groups, rituals, and habits).

2) Technological processes — notifications, automation, and physically handling the increased load without breaking

3) Business/Organizational processes – how the organization interacts and integrated with the community (feedback loops, investing, and growing the community team).

4) Personal processes – how you handle growth personally (how you allocate your time, acquire skills, take yourself out of processes.

The author says that scaling needs to begin in the establishment phase of the community lifecycle, and that community managers need to:

  • Recruit volunteers very early
  • Coach them to build relationships with newcomers
  • Keep the newcomer rate high as you move on to new things.
  • Create a ritual for regular members to welcome newcomers every Friday, or a habit of Provie a unique welcome when responding to someone’s first post.The goal, Millington says, “is to maintain the same level of contact and quality whilst you move to manage processes and not individuals.”

And, he offers 11 processes as practical steps that are technical, administrative and personnel-oriented as the means for community managers to succeed in scaling communities.

Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Institution

If they are healthy and vibrant, online communities are destined to grow.

That growth can occur when the community is curated and cultivated by a responsive, smart, aware community manager who has recruited delegates to help with various tasks, so that the right work gets done as the community scales.

Like the Native American drum circle as a metaphor, communities that successfully scale have these elements: proper people in the right roles who are interacting and working harmoniously together; common and well-understood goals; processes that facilitate functions; and tasks that fulfill the key actors’ interests, while providing satisfaction for the audience as a whole.


Your #CMGR Career Starts Here

It’s hard to believe it, but #CMGRClass is almost over, and so is my time as a graduate student here at SU. That means I’m about to don my big boy britches and start my career – and I’m aiming at community management. There’s a lot about the field that is attractive to me, mainly in the mix of creative and technical know-how, but also in working with people. I don’t have any offers just yet, meaning this week’s topic and reading was a long-awaited and welcome finale.

Since about January, I’ve been gearing up for graduation and my job search, mainly by taking a look at my repertoire of skills and figuring out how to market myself. I’m a designer, an IT consultant, a social media strategist and community manager, a creative thinker, a go-getter, and a total nerd (in a good way). That might look like career chop suey, but I think it reveals the nature of my skills – I’m a creative problem solver, with a technical mind. And if anything would prepare me for community management, I think it’s that.


This week’s Mashable article covers 10 tips for the aspiring community manager (read: me), and seems to be a pretty solid list of things to do to both figure out if the role is right for you, and to make sure you’ve got a good start on your professional life. The points were all good, but one really hit home for me, because they’re where I need work most; my critiques of myself put in writing by somebody else.

9. Think Like an Entrepreneur and Be Quick to Adapt

I wish I could say that was me. I’m a flexible guy, I’m not too hard-headed, but springing to action isn’t my forte. I can get stuck in my head, where I’m still weighing options and trying to apply logic, rather than putting one foot forward and going from there. But knowing is half the battle, right? If I know my faults, I can work to correct them.


Another article we read this week, from Social Fresh, was practically a big pat on the back though. Covering the job description and hiring criteria of a community manager, I felt like I fit right in. This is my dream job out of school, I love social media and tech, I really want to flex my creative muscle and do some awesome work, and here were nine items which describe me – not quite to the letter, but close enough that I put on a big stupid grin while reading. It’s kismet, I’m convinced.

So if you’ve checked all the lists and read all the blog posts, and you’re convinced it’s your destiny to be a community manager, what’s next? Well, you’re right where I am, and I’ll tell you it’s the “fun part.” Find employers you’d love to work for, reach out to them, apply to their open positions, or just send them a tweet. Get your resume in their hands and your name on their minds. Find a notable community manager you’ve been following or have chatted with, send them a Vsnap just to say hey and ask if they’re hiring at all. Take the initiative to put yourself out there – a good community manager doesn’t just sit in the shadows. Be social, be proactive, and always be cheerful, and you and I will get out dream job soon enough.

It’s been a lot of fun, class! What’s your favorite #CMGRClass moment of the semester? What have you got planned for this summer?

Community Scaling: The Answer is Within

One of the most invigorating things about successful online communities is that they grow. A community manager has the opportunity to guide and shape the malleable, lifelike entity that is an online community that draws in members like moths to a flame. And if that manager is successful, the members become engrossed in the community, generating more content, driving conversations, and pulling in even more members.

While a successful online community is what all community managers strive for, exceptional growth can land the community manager in a sticky situation: being in over her head.

There may come a point that the time needed to respond to every e-mail and tweet, monitor discussion boards, write blog posts, and maintain the platform, exceed the working hours in a day. It is when this pinnacle is reached that the practice of scaling a community becomes a necessity.

Rich Millington, founder of online community consulting firm FeverBee Limited, addresses some of the challenges of scaling a community in his post 11 Processes for Scaling Online Communities. The processes he suggests are logical and put a heavy premium on the need for responsible, dedicated community members to pick up a shovel and do some heavy lifting.

In his post Scaling the Management of Your Online Community (SXSW Interactive 2013 Proposal) Patrick O’Keefe of iFroggy Network states that “As an online community grows, it has different needs.” He then goes on to pose 5 questions about the challenges of scaling an online community.

As luck should have it, many of Millington’s 11 processes can satisfy some of O’Keefe’s questions.

O’Keefe Question 3: With greater contributions comes a greater burden on moderation. How can you scale your moderation team, and your policies, to ensure they are fairly and evenly applied to members?

Answered by Millington Processes #2 and #6:

#2: Rewriting guidelines if they are violated too frequently.

Here, Millington advocates for a more navigable community. Stringent or confusing guidelines may result in well-intentioned community members unintentionally violating guidelines, which subsequently takes more time out of the community manager’s day and dilutes the quality of content within the community.

#6: Ensure members can identify and remove bad posts.

The concept of instilling this great power in members can be nerve wracking for managers and insanely empowering for members. While the ability to delegate some of the community moderation to members can be a life saver in scaling a community, the members entrusted with this power should be fully vetted.

O’Keefe Question #4: How does the community manager role change as a community grows?

Answered by Milllington Process #1: Recruit, train, manage and motivate volunteers.

While pretty much all of Millington’s processes are applicable here, this first provides the overarching gist of the idea. When a community grows, a community manager has to find a way to delegate some of the responsibilities of managing that community, which can be achieved through empowered and enthusiastic community volunteers. While this by no means indicates that the community manager hands off enough responsibility to become detached from the essence and daily conversations of the community, handing down some responsibilities to volunteers can allow for a larger community that maintains its quality.

O’Keefe Question #5: What can you do to tap into the power of your growing membership to help you scale your management of the community?

Answered by Millington Processes #1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. So essentially, the majority of Millington’s processes will satisfy the realization of this question.

#1: Recruit, train, manage and motivate volunteers.

#3: Encourage members to submit their own news.

#4: Setup a community e-mail address which several volunteers can access and reply to.

#5: Teach volunteers to recruit and train other volunteers.

#6: Ensure members can identify and remove bad posts.

#7: Automate members inviting their friends.

#8: Let members apply to run various forum categories.

#9: Allow members to create their own groups, initiate events, start live-discussions with scheduled VIPs they have persuaded to participate.

After assessing O’Keefe’s questions alongside Millington’s suggestions, it seems the answer to good community scaling lies with the members of the community.

As Millington states in his book Buzzing Communities, “Community volunteers are the most effective means of scaling an online community.”