Spring14 Semester Starts Monday January 13!

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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?

Technology and Online Communities: Relationship for Success

Throughout my career I’ve had to constantly adjust to newer technologies and adopt new methodologies to complete an assignment in the workplace. I’ve also been required to do the opposite; learn an older piece of tech to support an existing process. This week I want to concentrate on the reliance that online communities have with technology and how newer technologies can significantly change the way people interact within the community.

Online communities are significantly impacted by the software that is supporting them. According to Preece, Maloney-Krichmar and Abras in “History and Emergence of Online Communities”, online communities can vary greatly depending on their purpose, size, duration of existence and the software environment that supports them. Originally, communities were limited to such technologies as List-servers and e-mail (originating back in the ‘70s), but with the constant innovation in technology, users now have the ability to easily communicate with potentially millions of people across the world.

This relationship between technology and online communities is mutually beneficial and enables technology to further advance through the collaboration of developers, designers and other IT professionals. One of the greatest examples in the use of online communities to further the development of software is the open source movement. Open Source software development relies heavily on volunteers that have experience with creating and testing various forms of programs. These can range from Operating Systems such as Linux to Web Browsers (Mozilla Firefox).

During his address at OSCON 2012, David Eaves described the importance of online communities to the development of open sourced software. David concentrated on the aspects of “Social Capital” and bug resolution, both of which are important to the creation of a quality software product that is free for users. Social capital is value that is generated through the online community that supports your software product by testing and reporting various bugs they find. These communities also add direct value through developing the product itself.

I found David’s address interesting because it showed how communities can be tracked and monitored to improve the continuing development of a product. He detailed a unique tool that shows how many members of the community reported bugs, added fixes, and was active on the various support forums that they host. The importance that these members have on the innovation of a product is quite astounding and can be seen not only in the open source sector, but in proprietary solutions as well.

Oddly enough, Microsoft has developed a large community of developers through their Microsoft Developer’s Network (MSDN) service and has begun to embrace open source-like methodologies with some of their own proprietary technologies. An example of this is Microsoft’s “Openness” service, which supports multiple open source technologies such as PHP, Drupal, Python and Java. The company has also migrated some of their solutions to an open source platform, such as the Entity Framework, allowing developers to see the source code and modify it as necessary in an effort for various improvements in the architecture.

Overall, I think it’s important to remember that technological innovation and online communities have a mutually beneficial relationship that will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.

Industry and Internal Innovation

Taken by Paul B. http://www.flickr.com/photos/eastbeach/8350954405/in/photostream/

Taken by Paul B. http://www.flickr.com/photos/eastbeach/8350954405/in/photostream/

It’s no surprise that online communities foster innovation in industry (and if it is you should take a few minutes and give this journal article entitled Online Communities and Open Innovation a quick read). Since the creation of the internet’s first message board, online communities have acted as a forum for exchange of thoughts where ideas created by one user were perpetuated and grown by others in remote locations. But this, of course, is old news. The story of community-oriented betterment of ideas and innovations by online user groups has been told and retold as online communities have flourished. Stackoverflow.com has aided programmers everywhere, Wikipedia has quite effectively hijacked the locks that used to be held by the gatekeepers of information, and niche-oriented professional communities are popping up left and right to lend the benefits of online collaboration.

What has yet to be fully vetted, however, is the manner in which these online communities will change the way industries and larger companies grow and innovate. According to the paper mentioned earlier, companies are attempting to piggyback onto some of these online communities to foster innovation in their own organizations. The paper also establishes that the two main themes crucial to proper management of these online communities are governance and symbolic value creation.

The issue here, is that in the examples offered, the application of these ideas is on communities that are not necessarily supposed to be governed by some despotic higher power, or create value for a specific cause other than organic innovation. Or in other words, not only is the work being designed around the technology, but the work is being designed around technology not necessarily intended for that use. On the industry level, the model of work being designed around technology as opposed to technology being designed around work is the end-all of innovation, motivation, and ultimately, success.

In order for innovation and community development to truly benefit a company, the technology must be developed around the work, and more importantly, the users completing that work.

As a quick example I’d like to reference the Pitney Bowes Employee Innovation program. In their White Paper study, Pitney Bowes identified the five characteristics of successful employee innovation as follows:

  1. Cultivate two-way conversations
  2. Tackle today’s business challenges
  3. Actively engage at all levels
  4. Foster diversity and inclusion
  5. Design to fit your culture

And after these characteristics, they leveraged them to create their innovative workforce. Seeking to lift the innovative capabilities of their employees to the next level, Pitney Bowes developed an internal social community called IdeaNet. This internal online community encouraged all employees within the company, from the C-suite right down to the entry-level assistants, to take part in idea challenges, while providing unparalleled avenues of communication between users and unfettered access to any innovative tool or informative document possible

Organic online communities should be left to be just that: organic. A company truly looking to foster its own innovation output should take a leaf of out Pitney Bowes’ book and build their technology around their work, and most importantly, their users.


Bulletin Boards and Discussion Forums: Then and Now

In History and Emergence of Online Communities (2003), Jenny Preece, Diane Maloney-Krichmar, and Chadia Abras define an online community as “a group of people who interact in a virtual environment.”  In an earlier publication (2000) Preece et al. offer an online community’s key characteristics: they have a purpose, are supported by technology, and are guided by norms and policies.  The authors go on to differentiate communities by whether their participants are co-present in time (asynchronous or synchronous).

In this post, I’d like to explore one type of asynchronous technology: online bulletin boards and their modern-day cousins, discussion forums.  First, some basics: how do they work?  A moderator (community manager) is constantly present, often in the background, to enforce adherence to the board’s or forum’s policies and ensure appropriate etiquette.  While it’s possible to view posts without logging in to a site, registration is required to contribute to a discussion or post a question.  Posts are grouped into threads to organize responses to the original poster’s (or OP’s) question.  Each site typically has a frequently asked questions page outlining its rules of the road.

The Truth Is Out There

My first introduction to online communities was through a friend with whom I watched a television show, The X-Files.  In 1997 the show was in its heyday, and bulletin boards dedicated to the show abounded.  Its underlying mythology stymied new and die-hard fans alike, and “the boards” were the place to dissect (often ad nauseum) the previous week’s episode and speculate on upcoming eps.  I never posted, but voraciously read others’ threads on the plot twists of the week.  (Yes, I was a lurker.)

  • Have a purpose?  These bulletin boards allowed fans of the X-Files (X-Philes) to congregate online to discuss the show.
  • Supported by technology?  Yes: asynchronous bulletin board.
  • Guided by norms and policies?  The X-Files bulletin boards had moderators and site etiquette and also featured inside references to the show, including an extensive set of acronyms.

As the internet evolved, so did forums.  Instead of being standalone destinations rendered in text, they were often embedded into websites dedicated to work and leisure topics.  I tend to refer to forums when I have a specific question which would benefit from collective intelligence.  Just like in the X-Files days, I lurk more than actively participate, but I have used them to post threads about health questions, automobile issues, and technology questions.

Trust (Almost) Everyone

MacOS X Hints ForumFor example, five years ago after I applied an update on my iBook, I experienced a technical problem.  I searched online for assistance but without any luck.  So, I took a breath, posted a thread on the Macworld MacOS X Hints forum, and waited for a reply.  Within 12 hours three different users had posted responses.  (Discussion forums may be categorized as asynchronous, but with users scattered across the globe, oftentimes the OP doesn’t have to wait long for a reply.)

MacOS X Hints Forum

  • Have a purpose?  Have a question?  There’s most likely an online discussion forum dedicated to that topic.
  • Supported by technology?  Yes: asynchronous discussion forum.
  • Guided by norms and policies?  When posting my Mac question, I searched (and re-searched) the discussion forum, not wanting to break a cardinal rule of posting a question that had been previously answered in another thread.  Forum participants were friendly,  informative, and encouraging.

Online bulletin boards and discussion forums are still very much present in internet culture, although their user interfaces have evolved as their supporting websites have done the same.  Although they might not be the sexiest technology, discussion forums still serve a valuable purpose, whether the participant is a consumer or contributor.

What do you think?  Have you ever used an online discussion forum?  If so, when and for what?

Community Relations Past and Present



Our initial course readings have caused me to think about what contributes to the development, cohesiveness, and maintenance of an online community. My questions include:

  • What makes a diverse range of people want to spend time together online?
  • What elements truly bond them?
  • How does a community manager maintain their interest?
  • How do connecting bonds serve the community itself, or an organization that has developed the community via ongoing conversations and outgrowths?

I’ve related these new concepts to my earlier work of one-on-one, face-to-face, individual and group community-building and advocacy, functions that comprised “community relations” for the organization where I once worked.

Community Relations is typically part of an organization’s public relations, and my varied efforts then had definitive goals:

  • We sought improved understanding
  • We hoped to gain friends (and “acceptance”)
  • We sought better relationships than what existed

One of these CR initiatives was “Community Appreciation Day,” a block party event of vendors, crafters, food trucks, music and dancers (and the perceived chance to build good will and provide recognition through an official celebration of affinity and mutual recognition).

Today, a new technology showed me a much more effective and efficient way to convey that same type of sentiment online. VSnap has instituted a weekly “thank you,” using its 60-second video technology to reach members of its community. The effort was sincere, convincing, and it was easy to see how it could replace other efforts.  Click here for the thank you blog to find out more.

So it seems my work then was somewhat akin to that of online community managers, in developing and sustaining affinity groups or communities. It’s a discipline that’s played by ear, person by person, towards an end goal.  But it’s not easy or simple work. This infographic  depicts the many hats and the multi-faceted elements that go into the complex array of tasks involved in online community management work:




So what really makes a community of diverse folks want to “hang?”

Our course readings provide some answers:


When the online community is connected to an enterprise, the opportunity to provide consumer feedback may be enticing. For an enterprise, obtaining ideas from the community that embraces its products/services may also be a smart idea. The advantage that businesses can obtain from consumer input, through open source communities, is described in this article from Taylor and Francis online.


 The opportunity to belong to an interest group (sociability) attracts participants. In Grace Lau’s article on World of Warcraft, Lau cites elements that WoW creator Wegner says are ingrained in that community of practice: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire.

Lau says, “Communities of practice describes the kinds of learning networks that people build over time in pursuit of a common goal.” Learning opportunities are in themselves an attraction for online grouping. According to Lau, Wegner cited these elements as evidence that a community of practice exists:

  1. Sustained mutual relationships – harmonious or conflictual
  2. Shared ways of engaging in doing things together
  3. Rapid flow of information and propagation of innovation
  4. Absence of introductory preambles
  5. Very quick setup of a problem to be discussed
  6. Substantial overlap in participants’ descriptions of who belongs
  7. Knowing what others know, what they can do, and how they can contribute to an enterprise
  8. Mutually defining identities
  9. Ability to assess the appropriateness of actions and products
  10. Specific tools, representations, and other artifacts
  11. Local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowing laughter
  12. Jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as the ease of producing new ones
  13. Certain styles recognized as displaying membership
  14. Shared discourse reflecting a certain perspective on the world.

Do you believe that your organization can support a community of learning, and therefore an online community of practice?

How can your organization benefit from developing a virtual community of interested consumers and advocates?




How Games Make Communities Sticky

Blog1_GamesInspired by the Preece and Lau readings this week, I took some time to reflect on my own involvement with online gaming communities, especially the one I helped form in high school. Back in the day, I spent a good many evening hours playing Counter Strike: Source, an online team-based first person shooter. What started as a casual weeknight activity for me grew into a very involved and structured commitment, as I found a place to interact online with my peers.

In 2004, I found myself regularly playing on a 24/7 “Assault” server – Assault being the name of the particular map, the only map used on that server – where I came to know a few of the other regulars. Over time, we went from casual playing buddies, to forming a clan, starting our own server and forums, and bringing more people into our group. As the co-founder and second in command of our team, I helped form our community of teammates and friends from the ground up, by moderating our online activities, encouraging teamwork and fair play, collecting payments from our clan members to support the servers, and so on. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was a community manager, through and through.

This reflection has made me aware of how both technology and games themselves had an influence on how the community functioned. The game server, the forums, and even our Teamspeak server, all provided centralized locations for synchronous and asynchronous interaction. We were brought together by our love of Counter Strike, but we found we had a lot of other interests in common. I ended up going to design school, and tutored two of our members in design concepts, setting up image-creation contests for nothing more than bragging rights. We would also simply join into the Teamspeak server, used primarily for strategic chatter during competitions, just to casually talk when few of us were playing. Technology facilitated a level of bonding and understanding over great distances; while most of us were in the EST time zone, not all of us were American. We had effectively built an international, albeit English-speaking, community from scratch, based on interest alone.


Jane McGonigal presents at TED on how games can “fix” reality.

The value that gaming added, however, is what really intrigues me. Jane McGonigal, game designer and author of Reality Is Broken, has spoken many times on the power of gaming to bring people together. Friendly competition and teamwork in a game tends to build relationships outside of gaming as well, a concept which leads her to recommending “gamifying” activities that aren’t normally seen as games. For instance, her web community Super Better adds gaming aspects, like bad guys and check points, to the act of working on personal goals. Super Better also encourages peer interaction, to have users help each other to get up when they stumble, and support each other to completion. In the same way, though the game wasn’t the sole focal point of our community, it did serve to color our interactions with each other. It allowed us to come together with a common goal, and work together to achieve it, thus building and shaping our relationships with each other. Our teamwork was so strengthened by our high level of interaction that we started competing in amateur gaming leagues, a testament both to our abilities and the confidence inspired by peer reinforcement. In fact, while I’ve moved on to be a member of many other communities, I can’t help but notice most aren’t as tight-knit as the gaming groups I’ve belonged to. I’m not sure if this is because gaming is better at bringing people together, or if it’s simply a factor of group activities being a great bonding agent for communities, but it’s a very noticeable difference in my mind.

What do you think, do games or other synchronous activities make a large difference in community interactions? What are your experiences?

Make Introductions Using Vsnap!

Kelly Lux and I have created two welcome videos using www.vsnap.com for #CMGRclass students and they are in our Google+ #CMGRclass Community Group.

This week, before class starts, we’d like students to do the same.  The 60 second video can be about anything, but it should introduce who students are, where their from, and they should answer the question, “What is Community Management.”  When the video is complete, post the link to your answers in the group!