Archive for September, 2011
As has become a regular theme on the blog, this post provides my thoughts following a really engaging and insightful #DigitalSurrey event where Jon Bishop (@jonin60seconds), Head of Social Media at Paypal UK, gave a presentation about mobile and how Paypal see the future. I’ve already highlighted mobile in a number of other blog posts here but this one takes a slightly different stance and focuses on commerce.
Jon spat out some really interesting figures last night, like the $3.3 Bn being spent on mobile advertising, the number of devices people tend to carry around with them or how a mobile operator in Africa is actually the largest bank on the continent. As a Community Manager increasing levels of interaction via mobile (as long as your community is usable on a mobile device) will be something to look at but the commerce side is definitely something to be aware of.
If your users can now comment in your community AND purchase products from your business while they are “on the move” what impact will this have? Will your community evolve to be a sales channel in itself? Let users converse, read reviews and then click straight through on their mobile and enter the purchase flow? If this is the case, what impact does it have on user support? Will Customer Support need to ditch the phones and emails and man the community site in order to respond to issues?
Lots of questions are raised by this and with both mobile usage and ad spend set to increase chances are it’s going to become an area of increasing value / concern for Community Managers. Is it time to create mobile only communities and develop a whole new strategy of how to deal with time poor consumers who want to flit between interaction and purchase at a moments notice?
As the project that I’m currently working on begins to draw to a close I’ve been looking around at new opportunities and my next steps. While taking a peak here and there a few things have stood out. It may sound like common sense but every business is different and therefore so are the needs of their “community”. Some are starting on the path whilst others may already have established communities but the main thing to remember from a CM point of view; they are all after different things and so are the users.
There’s still a big debate about “what is community management?” and there’s also the continued search for the holy grail of how to successfully build an online community and then sustain it. While people generally are quite similar in terms of mindsets and a certain level of psychology can be applied to elements of community building and management there are also far too many differences. CMs should work to principles rather than specifics because every community is different and so are the needs of the business and the user. CMs need to be flexible and be able to work within different types of boundaries whilst still attempting to leap over the fence every now and again.
One size doesn’t fit all and neither will one “guide”. We as human beings are the sum of our experiences (I heard someone mention that somewhere, they have a point) and if a community is the sum of the people inside it then by definition they will always be different from the next. Your business needs to be agile to cope with changing needs from your community but you as a CM need to be flexible to meet the needs of your users and your business.
Like many things in this life (reputation, investment portfolio, inheritance) a community can take years to build and there is definitely a good mix of blood, sweat and tears involved in doing so. While it’s great to be able to see the fruits of all that hard work and to have an active community with users grouping themselves together, feeling part of something bigger and better and engaging in dialogue and activities as a Community Manager it’s important to remember one thing.
It can all end in an instant. Whether it’s something you say inside the community, a group of users banding together to cause grief, a misplaced comment from a colleague or a major PR blunder there are many things that can impact a community and cause them to implode. As a CM you’ve always got to be aware and be on your guard for these situations, even when sometimes they are completely out of your control.
Does your company have a corporate policy for how employees interact within your community and is that something you can steer? Does your PR team appreciate how activities outside the business can affect that group of key users you’ve spent the past X number of years gathering together? If the answer to either of these questions is “no” then it might be time to go and have a chat with a few people.