Book Review: The Art of Community by Jono Bacon

jono baconThe Art of Community, by Jono Bacon, is an extremely thorough and complex book about building a community.  Bacon is a seasoned community manager and has extensive experience running online communities. Although I found his book to be wordy at times, since he talks a lot about his own work, Bacon has an astonishing amount of community management experience to draw upon. His anecdotes and examples in each chapter are real-life lessons that he has learned throughout his career.

This book has reiterated to me how truly intricate it is to build a community. There is a formula that needs to be followed in order to successfully cultivate and grow relationships with people online. The size and amount of content in The Art of Community is overwhelming, but there is value in each chapter of Bacon’s book.  Two of the many chapters that I found most helpful to me and most relevant to #CMGRclass were Chapter 9 Managing and Tracking Work, and Chapter 13 Hiring a Community Manager.

art of communityThe following are his “golden rules” for tracking and managing your work:

1. Understand outcomes, not numbers

Meaning, think about what you want to understand about your community, not about which numbers you want to see. Numbers are used to help you understand something better

2. Know what not to track

For example, the number of posts is not always what is important, but the content and quality of each post. Community managers need to track things that are interesting, that are useful and that will be meaningful to your community.

3. Avoid data porn

Bacon’s examples are countless analytics, statistical tracking and visualization. The amount of data you have is not as important as the value of the data you have.

4. Know how to read your scores

There is no use in collecting data without being able to know how to effectively read it and put it to use. Community managers also need to be able to communicate these outcomes.

I found these tips from Bacon the most helpful about hiring a community manager:

  • Make sure the community manager can receive feedback from the community and deliver it to the right people at your organization.
  • The community manager should know what parts of the organization he or she should communicate with on a daily or weekly basis.
  • The role of community manager should have a strong focus and strategic priorities that clearly outlines responsibilities.
  • The community manager should focus on building a strong reputation with their community members.
  • Qualities that a community manager should have include: experience with public attention, conflict resolution, technical knowledge, presentation skills. They should also be able to hold unusual working hours and be able to travel.

Overall, I found The Art of Community, by Jono Bacon, very useful. Whether you are building a community from scratch, hiring a community manager for the first time, or just trying to be a better manager for your community, you can learn something from this book.

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