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.”

3 comments for “The Evolution of Online Communities: Understanding Community Management in the Modern Day

  1. February 11, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Nancy! Thanks for checking out our class! We definitely couldn’t have imagined starting this course out without a small history lesson, even though I think we only hit the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been following your work for awhile, and I hadn’t seen these photos on Flickr. So very involved, but I love it. Thank you for sharing.

  2. February 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Oops, meant to also link to the context of those photos, the Community 2.0 conference in 2008

  3. February 6, 2013 at 9:21 am

    A few years ago I tried to draw a timeline of online community. Part 1 is here:

    I was really glad to see you use the context for your course… the cycles of what repeats (with variation), what evolves and what stays constant has always been a useful point of reference for me. Thanks!

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