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Creating A Community Manager Role In Your Business

The Community Manager role is unlike any other position in the technology and online world. Rather than managing hardware or software, products, services or content …

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The Community Manager role is unlike any other technological and online position. Rather than managing hardware or software, products, services, or content, the Community Manager manages behaviors and interactions among the members – readers, clients, prospects, and analysts; whomever your community is designed to engage.

Creating a community is all about the members — which means it’s about managing people. More specifically, successful community management is about guiding those aspects of the interpersonal interactions that lead to greater engagement — both the number of interactions between members (member-to-member) and between the member and the community or company (Company/Community-to-member). There has been a lot of demand for community managers of late, and I have been called upon to share my thoughts on what a community manager role really encompasses.

The Community Manager is the CEO of the community — the Chief Engagement Officer. However, unlike most CEOs, the Community Manager cannot demand that members engage with each other or the site. Instead, the Community Manager has to achieve the community’s engagement goals through indirect means by focusing the members’ attention on areas within the community where they can interact with each other and with features and content on the site.

The Community Manager may have membership, site traffic, and revenue growth goals. But underlying all of those metrics is the difficult-to-measure member engagement metric — the quantity and quality of the interactions among members and with site content and features.

Even though most online communities are built on a sophisticated technology platform, the skills and techniques used by the Community Manager to develop and sustain user engagement depend more on a keen appreciation of human behavior — online and off-line — and a willingness to attract, engage and delight members than on any highly specialized technical knowledge.

The Community Manager role shares some skill sets and activities with a wide range of job roles, including:

  • Coach-career, life or even Little League
  • Concierge
  • Conference or meeting planner
  • Customer service manager
  • Education & training manager
  • Knowledge center manager
  • Marketing communications manager
  • Matchmaker
  • Membership chairman for an organization, club, or association
  • Newsletter editor/publisher
  • Producer/editor for a TV, radio, newspaper, or magazine
  • Product manager
  • Professional meeting facilitator
  • Referee
  • Social psychologist

This long list of jobs should help broaden the ways Community Manager thinks about their role and suggest various approaches to managing a professional networking community. The various activities included in a Community Manager job description can help determine the best ways to respond to the needs and issues that arise within the community. For example:

Does a member need customer service or content to help solve a problem?
Would more members become involved through a debate or by joining a collaboration project?
Does meeting a growth target require a marketing approach or a little matchmaking?
Should an issue within the community be resolved by coaching or a referee?

The various roles also suggest opportunities to build on existing skills and experiences and add new ones to the Community Manager’s repertoire.

Community Manager Engagement Strategies

  • There are three broad categories of member engagement activity:
  • Connecting with other members
  • Contributing content (user-generated content or UGC)
  • Interacting with site content and other features

Within these three categories are several different actions or features on the site. The Community Manager has an important role to play by encouraging member participation in each of them. Without going into the specific procedures needed to accomplish each task, here’s an outline of ways the Community Manager can support engagement.

Connecting With Other Members

  • Welcome and announce new members to the site
  • Encourage new members to share something about themselves with the membership
  • Point new members to areas of connection with existing members (alumni, geography, industry)
  • Announce new special interest groups within the community
  • Invite members to participate in community planning and governance activities
  • Find members who attend major offline, face-to-face events and invite them to connect with each other online
  • Identify members willing to “mentor” other members on the best ways to use the site and other online tools

Contributing Content

  • Solicit information from new members on areas of greatest interest and then guide them to those areas. If the area is unavailable, encourage the new member to post a Q&A, start a forum topic or launch a special interest group.
  • Encourage participation in Q& As by highlighting unanswered questions and calling upon members to help a peer

Interacting With The Site

  • Highlight articles, polls, blogs, and other content and solicit
  • comments or ratings from members on the home page to direct traffic and encourage involvement
  • Find points of connection between content on the site and members, and (sparingly!) ask for direct feedback on relevance
  • Involve members in planning content, events, and other site content activities

These member engagement examples are part of the Community Manager’s day-to-day activities. The basis for community management success is creating, encouraging, stimulating, guiding, or managing interactions among community members. When people come first, all win!