Archive for June, 2011
There’s been lots of talk recently about the future of Community Management, what skills are needed, whether we’ll remain the “jack of all trades” and where we fit in terms of organisational structure. Some really valid comments have been made by various people and the #cmgrchat this week made some great points but I wonder, is it actually time for us to take a stand?
Not wanting to sound off but I applied to the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK recently and submitted my CV in a hope to gain Member level recognition based on my experience and qualifications. The response I got was less than satisfying and I got the distinct impression they just didn’t understand that what I was doing as a Community Manager could be argued as an emerging Marketing discipline. I do a bit of Brand Management and Customer Retention, I develop strategy for how to market to a specific audience and how to engage with them, I feed back into other elements of the business and I help shape marketing plans external to the community to bring people into it. I’d say those are pretty key areas of marketing and sure, I might not use the marketing mix in the same way but in other areas I’m probably a step ahead, certainly in understanding the audience.
In the UK there’s the CIM (mentioned above), CIPR for PR Professionals, ILM as the Intitute of Leadership and Management so what about us as CMs? Given nobody seems to be able to decide where we sit in an organisation and whether we are an extension to marketing, customer service or somewhere in between is it time for us to create our own space and “club”? One of the biggest challenges would be to agree on what being a Community Manager is all about but in the same way the other disciplines do I think we can be quite general and through that generalisation we end up being specific. As an example, for me I’d say “actively interacting and engaging with an audience to drive contribution and participation” would be one of the cornerstones of what being a CM is all about.
Community Management as a whole is gaining more recognition and is something companies are starting to release they need, but what about us at the sharp end? Fight or flight.
As I’ve moved further down the route of being a Community Manager I’ve noticed a change in not only the way I consume information but in how I participate in communities online. In the past I would have been a Killer when playing games (Bartle Test) and a Contributor in communities but that was when it was all a bit of fun and I was involved in fan communities. Now that I’m managing branded communities on behalf of large corporates my attitude has changed.
I don’t now feel the urge to participate in other communities outside of my daily community management duties or feel I have the time. Don’t get my wrong, I still consume lots of information but I’ve noticed I definitely comment less and will search for information rather than jumping straight in and asking a question. In terms of the 1-9-90 rule where we as CMs try to get people moving from the 90% into the 9% and if we are lucky into the 1% I’ve found I’ve gone the other way.
Is this a natural part of being a CM where being knee-deep in interactions and striving to gain more from users ends up meaning we start to shun the very thing we do on a daily basis? I’m undecided and I think it probably comes down to a case-by-case basis. For me though, being more involved and having greater understanding has meant I’m now more selective in the communities that I join and the ones I interact in. Is this something we need to be aware of when creating Community Strategy? As people become more aware, experienced and choosey about where and how they interact do we as CMs need to step up a level and offer an experience that blows them away?
Influence is important and having groups of key influencers in your community can be of great benefit to a community manager but influence is still a by-product of participation. I’m now working with a target audience of 6-12 yr olds and due to that the types of interaction that will be enabled are limited and this in turn restricts the ability to gain reputation and therefore influence.
Influence will be dictated by participation in this new community; getting onto the leaderboards, completing the weekly challenges and getting the associated rewards and bragging rights. For other communities you can only identify key influencers based on their participation and contribution. If nobody in your community participates in discussion, comments on content, suggests new things or gets involved in a general sense well there are 2 issues; 1) You won’t really have a community and 2) you won’t have anyone to then class them as an influencer.
So, the focus needs to be on participation in communities before we can find those influencers. Look at ways to lower the barriers to entry so that users can participate on their own terms without having to jump through a million hoops first (unless you are creating an elitist / exclusive community). I’ll be looking to build an influencer / power group based on participation in my new community and that’s going to be an interesting challenge in itself.
Not the best title in the world for a Community Management post but hopefully the contents of the post will make sense. Mashable recently posted a story of 10 people that had lost their jobs from making some very silly contributions on Social Networks and it got me thinking. If someone can lose their job by tweeting something inappropriate where is the line for community managers?
Are there examples of CMs losing their jobs because they’ve made an inappropriate comment inside their communities or is there normally no mechanism to report them / no visibility internally? If people have lost their jobs who makes the decision, the users or the business? What happens if there’s a conflict between the two with the users expecting the CM to be “part of the crowd” and interact in a certain way but that’s not what the business is looking for?
Communities change and evolve over time as new users enter and old ones start to migrate elsewhere so is there a need for CMs to “sell in” to a business that they need to have the freedom to communicate in the way the community expects them to rather than the way the business wants them to? This of course being in a bid to drive further interaction and contribution from the audience as they feel comfortable that the CM is “one of them”.
I’m sure there could be much debate around this and I’d be interested to hear what people think.