Community Management 1985 to 2013


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A retrospective, from the perspective of a long time industry insider, of how the online community management industry - predominantly in the UK - developed between 1985 and today.

Highlights include:

* the BBC's first steps into online community
* the specialisation of community management roles
* the first (?) multi-domain community management tool
* what twitter might have looked like back in 2001
* how the BBC upped it's game and "joined the conversation"
* and a few slides on what the industry needs to stay ahead

Please note that some models shown are (C) Edelman and others. Also, some images were used under (CC) licenses. These items remain under the conditions set by their owners. All text is available for reuse under a CC attribution license. The entire presentation, or portions, can be shown in front of audiences without permission.

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Community Management 1985 to 2013

  1. 1. A Potted History ofCommunity Management Robin Hamman, Director, Edelman Digital(cc)  Bush)ck:  h,p://
  2. 2. 2Whilst the focus of my presentation today is going to be the past, I wanted to start with a quickintroduction to the work I’m doing today. In 2010, after around a dozen years professionalexperience, I joined Edelman Digital as a Director. Since then, our London practice has grownfrom around 30 people to 84. Around half of our revenue comes from community management andrelated activities such as strategy development, social media monitoring, content planning andproduction, and measurement. The other half comes from design and build activities.We’re the EMEA hub of a global Communications business. Our typical social media engagementoperates across multiple markets, with our colleagues in other markets delivering tactically totheir audiences.We’re based in Victoria and are nearly always recruiting for a range of roles...
  3. 3. RESEARCH PLAN • Insights & Intelligence • Social Business Planning • Social Conversation Analysis • Organisational Design • Influencer Identification • Policy & Governance • Survey & Focus Groups • Technology & Workflow ANALYSE• Conversation Analysis TRANSFORM• Social Media & Brand Monitoring• Listening Programs • Strategy OUR SERVICES• Measurement Framework • Education & Certification • Program Planning & Integration CREATE & DEVELOP COUNSEL ENGAGE • Design & Development • Online Engagement Counsel • Community Management • Mobile/Tablet App Dev • Issues Management • Online Influencer Engagement • Digital/Social Advertising • Crisis Preparedness • Social Search Optimisation • Digital Creative Content • Technical DevelopmentWe’re pleased - I’m pleased - at our ability to deliver end to end across the digital and socialmedia spectrum. Some of what we do is what you might expect a leading PR agency to do, some of itperhaps unexpected.
  4. 4. THE DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM Web, social, mobile, search—our philosophy is to look at the bigger picture and how it all integrates. Mobile Properties Internal Properties (Intranets etc.) CORPORATE External Websites External Social Networks social sharing search engines BRAND WEBSITES MULTIBRAND WEBSITES BRANDS MULTIBRAND BLOGGER RICH MEDIA OUTREACH BLOGS CORPORATE WEBSITES PARTNERSHIPS ADS BANNER ADS Owned + Paid + Earned EarnedWe take a holistic view of our client’s requirements, connecting their business strategy withinternal and external facing activities supported by processes, platforms, and tactics developedand deployed on a case by case basis. It’s like one big puzzle that we try to understand beforepiecing together a programme of activities that pull it all together.
  5. 5. SOCIAL BUSINESS PLANNING Our proprietary methodology is designed to help complex organisations navigate social at scale. ORG & GOVERNANCE STRATEGY Organisational Design Vision Governance & Control Business Objectives Culture & Leadership PLATFORMS Roadmap PEOPLE PROCESS ECOSYSTEM MEASUREMENT Audience Key Performance Indicators Engagement Analytics & Methodology RiskOne area I personally find really exciting is social business planning. When I worked at theDachis Group, in a previous role, we actually had clients come in asking us to transform theirbusiness using social technologies - usually a mix of internal collaborative platforms andpublicly facing initiatives. At Edelman, we tend to stumble across businesses where digital andsocial media have exposed challenges caused by the siloed nature of business functions. It’s atthat point, we do what we can to fix them - from devising new processes and introducing newplatforms, to running purposeful planning exercises aimed at enabling more sweeping change. Wecall that latter social business planning, and have developed a methodology for it.
  6. 6. GLOBAL SOCIAL ARCHITECTURE GLOBAL MEETS LOCAL Edelman Client Global organisations need to Global Global integrate social at scale both regionally and globally. Central We call this “Glocal”—putting a Platform social architecture in place that allows a business or brand to Best Marketing scale content and engagement Practices Assets efforts, centralise and coordinate calendars, and standardise KPI’s, social enterprise technologies etc. Local Training Cascade Local Markets Modules Docs MarketsI mentioned that our typical social media engagement involves our London practice being the “hub”with spokes in a number of markets, based on client requirements. This is a really simplifiedview of what this look like. Basically, in London, we create content calendars and engagementstrategies, which are then delivered, in a coordinated way, by our people in each of the markets.For one client that’s 45+ markets globally, whilst for others it can be a handful of markets or,in a small number of instances, a single market.
  7. 7. 2.5M FANS 12MFANS 9M FANS LYNX SHELL PUMA 10M 250K MOBILE APP 250K FANS FANS DOWNLOADSWe’ve had huge success in developing and implementing social media strategies for our clients -the numbers here are a few months old, with some of these tallies having doubled since we createdthe original graphic. We’ve also got a lot better at measurement and reporting - gone are thedays when clients are impressed with fans and followers alone. Now they want to understandtrends, know whether fans and followers are worth more than non-fans in terms of revenue overtime, whether they’ve achieved cost reductions by deflecting customer care inquiries, whetherthey’ve been able to identify and recruit a high value candidate through social media, etc.We’ve come, and the community management industry has come, a very very long way...
  8. 8. (cc) Crazybarefootpoet:The Electronic Frontier along came the internet - the Electronic Frontier. Described by some as the modern day WildWest: full of opportunity, but also largely lawless, unregulated, and uncontrollable... theirwords, not mine.
  9. 9. PRE-INTERNET OF THE 80’S M1 ATD (attention, tone, dial) 6929348 CONNECT 1200 Login: >Cybersoc Password: >****** Welcome to Koala Country!!!!!There’s no doubt we’ve come a LONG way. In 1985, as a 12 year old who lived at the back of a cornfield, I set up my first BBS. Back then there was, fairly obviously, no internet. New BBSservices were advertised in computing magazines, on notes pinned to bulletin boards at computerretailers, at computer clubs, and of course on other BBS’s.My Apple IIe had two 5 1/4 inch floppy drives, one for the OS and the other for any programmes Imight have wanted to run. If you took a hole punch to the edge of the disk, you could use bothsides.To gain access to a BBS, you connected your phone line to a modem, entered a set of command lineinstructions, and waited to be prompted for a password. Some of the services required payment -which, back then, meant sending a cheque by post to the owner’s home and waiting for it to clearthe bank.My BBS mostly contained “cracked” versions of software for download, but users could also createa profile (a few lines of text), leave messages in each other’s mailboxes, and post publicmessages on a sort of message board.
  10. 10. THE INTERNET 1995In 1991, I went away to university where, in my dorm room and at computer labs sprinkled aroundcampus, I could access the internet. Back then, it was largely a text based experience.Shown here is an IRC chat interface and a newsgroup. There were, along with these and text basedweb pages - the Lynx browser had recently been developed - a number of universities offeringbulletin board like systems.My friends and I quickly found a use for these services - finding people who could make, or wereinterested in buying, fake ID cards to get into bars around campus. We didn’t make much money,and the risk was enormous - I count myself lucky we didn’t get caught.
  11. 11. WALLED GARDENS: MID-90’SThe Autumn of 1995 was when online community became a significant part of my life again. I usedthe University of Essex campus network to Telnet into AOL and, during it’s short life, eWorld(Apple’s first stab at creating a branded online community, which had a more graphically basedinterface than any proceeding service).As a student of Sociology, I realised that this new world, which at the time had not attractedmuch social scientific scrutiny, was a fascinating mirror of the offline world. People createdidentities, trust was formed despite the lack of visual or audible queues, connections blossomedinto meaningful friendships, and built communities were built not based on the accidents oflocation and time, but around specific interests.There was a strong split amongst the academic community as to whether this was a positive ornegative development.On the pro-side were people like Howard Rheingold, Sandy Stone, Barry Wellman, Stewart Brand...who enthused about the way that “virtual communities” enabled participants to find meaning and asense of belonging in spaces that transcended the barriers of distance and time. Many, but notall, of these people had played a role in The Well, a community I dabbled in myself at somestage.There were many on the negative side, including a group of researchers in Pittsburgh who, withmuch fanfare, published the results of a study suggesting that use of the internet makes peoplefeel sad and lonely.
  12. 12. EARLY DAYS AT THE BBC Lizzie JacksonBy 1998, I’d become friends with Howard Rheingold who, when invited to give a talk about onlinecommunity at the BBC, got me invited along as his guest. At the end of his presentation, a senioreditor asked, “This all sounds great in a sort of left coast liberal World, but would somethinglike this work here in the much more reserved UK and, if so, where would we find someone to helpus do this?”. Howard pointed to me, sitting in the front row, probably wearing a hastilypurchased and poorly fitting suit for the first time in my life, and recommended they speak tome. At the end of the event, Lizzie Jackson, a former radio producer who had been working for afew month’s on the BBC’s message board (I think The Archers and EastEnders were the only one’s atthe time), walked up and invited me to come to Bush House the following week to begin work as theBBC’s first Community Producer.
  13. 13. Within a year, together we were able to work our way around a range of editorial policy and legalissues, put professional moderation in place, and develop and roll out a message board trainingsession. In late 1999, I led the launch of the BBC’s first web chat - for which we invited HowardRheingold and the newly appointed “E-Minister”, Patricia Hewitt, as our guests.
  14. 14. COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT AS A SPECIALITY (cc)TerryGeorge: message boards and chat through editorial policy was a daunting task. At the time, veryfew editors felt comfortable with the idea of audiences members, who may or may not be usingtheir real names, posting their comments on of their first concerns was as to whether the use of usernames would somehow “cheapen” theBBC’s content. On radio and television, whenever an audience member was invited on air, theiridentity was verified and their full real name used in the broadcast. Editorial Policy initiallywanted us to have the same policy online, with postal verification that users were actually whothey said, and lived at the physical address they’d used during sign up. It took weeks ofmeetings to sort that one out - our argument was that although a screen name might not be thesame as a user’s legal identity, it was something they invested time and effort in building areputation for, and therefore was just as “real” as their given name.We had to work closely with the legal department to work through many of the potential issues -not just libel, copyright and data protection, but also the duty of care potentially owed tothose with vulnerabilities, harassment, the legal requirement to “remain neutral” during anelection, and other issues.To manage the BBC’s communities, we came up with two distinctly different roles - moderators, whopolice the community, and “hosts”, who were there to build engaging discussions. Our firstmoderation team was in the basement of Bush House, in a department called Information andArchives. Basically, staff were on a rota to moderate in between servicing requests for programmematerial and research insights. Hosts were almost exclusively editorial staff, either from aprogramme brand website or the programme itself.We developed a comprehensive training course for moderators and hosts, and rolled that out acrossthe Corporation as more and more programmes launched message boards. We also developed a trainingcourse for web chats - some of which were essential audience interviews with an expert or
  15. 15. 1ST MULTI-DOMAIN MODERATION TOOL?I left the BBC for a while and joined Granada Broadband, ITV’s digital operation. Jasmine Malik,one of the founders of Tempero, was already there, growing audience communities for CoronationStreet, Emmerdale, ITV Football, and the first edition of PopStars (won that year by Hear Say).Dominic Sparkes, the other founder of Tempero, became our boss at some point in time.Although we’d been quite successful at building up a moderation team - mostly mothers who wantedto stay at home to raise their kids, teachers, and postgraduate students - we began looking forefficiencies and found one with the conceptualisation and build of what may very well have beenthe first multi-domain community management tool, the “super moderation tool”, which allowed usto basically hoover up the moderation queues of multiple message boards, across multiple sites,for a single view. The tool also allowed us to allow moderators to rota on and off certaincommunities when and as required.Once we’d built the tool, we realised we had around 50% more capacity than before, so beganselling community management services to partners (Boots, for example) and third parties.
  16. 16. “TWITTER” IN 2001 /join #soho /nick Cybersoc /list /me waves helloAfter a couple years at Granada, I took a gamble and joined TalkCast, which was essentially anonline niche publishing start-up that had been created by former bosses of the Sun’s free ISP, We reportedly blew through over £45 million - and this is a company that neveremployed more than 140 people - in 15 months. Amongst our services were blogs - although wedidn’t call them that - that focused on specific target audiences including ex-pats fromAustralia and the Gay community.We also launched what may very well have been the first true multi-platform mobile chat service,Textr. The service was essentially an SMS gateway bolted onto a customised IRC server. Userscould participate via text message (£2.50 per message), WAP or a web based java interface.Although we had high hopes for the service, end of the month bill shock meant we had horrificuser churn. The top use case, we found in our analysis of the chat logs, was hooking up on Fridaynight when bars shut.
  17. 17. BBC INVESTS HEAVILY IN COMMUNITY Tayfun King - “iPresenter” BBCi Studio, Bush House, 2002 Jordan Launches BBCi Studio · first purpose built live chat studio in the UK open to public interaction · is one of very few buildings in the UK to have interactivity built into the architecture via "thru glass" technology. · will initially run up to 12 Live Chats and 12 Chatrooms each week · 2.5 miles of video and audio cables, 250 inches of state of the art plasma screens · encompasses the record breaking Live Chat team which recently logged 14,000 unique users for a single event featuring Louis TherouxThe role of the BBC in laying the foundations for the UK’s online community industry really can’tbe under-stated.We were the first major international broadcaster to invest significantly in developing anddelivering community management training, and about the only one in the UK doing it.We created, in the form of our moderation contract, which was re-tendered every two to threeyears, the cash cow account that furthered the fortunes of a number of UK based moderationproviders.And we invested heavily in services and technologies that pushed the boundaries of what we coulddo - the BBCi Chat Studio, which was rumoured at the time to have cost well over £1 million, wasjust one example of this. A year before that, I had access to two “streaming boxes”, stripped downWindows NT machines that could stream live video during web chats and which cost, I was told,around £35,000 each.We also had developers working on next generation community management tools - message boardsoftware that allowed us to identify new users, or past trouble makers, for further scrutiny, forexample, whilst allowing trusted users to publish live to the website without interruption.BBC Press Release, Sept. 2002:
  18. 18. “JOINING THE CONVERSATION” 18In 2007, the BBC started to pay attention to what bloggers had to say - primarily, that our actsof content and engagement were not isolated events that only took place on, but thatthere were similar conversations we should be a part of on third party social networking andcontent sharing websites. Ben Hammersley was sent off to Turkey to blog, flickr, youtube and tweethis away across the country as is voted in elections.Jeff Jarvis, and others, were invited in for talks....
  19. 19. OPENING THE FLOODGATESAt first, Editorial Policy was nervous. Managing online communities on third party servicesseemed risky, and brands - and the moderation industry - we’re only just beginning to do this.I recall one discussion with Editorial Policy in which they told us that we couldn’t possiblyembed flickr images and YouTube videos on due to copyright reasons. I came up with theargument that the embed code simply created windows on content elsewhere, a bit like knocking awhole in the wall to get a better view. Much to my surprise, this argument won the day, and wewere allowed to take baby steps into the world of managing communities on third party services.
  20. 20. (cc) Acrib (Original by Monocle), back to the present... and a quick look at the future.
  21. 21. BEING STRATEGIC Management is now an understood necessity: An industry that de-risks socialcommunications for brands and organisations, whilst helping ensure that, through buildingaudience engagement and participation, there’s demonstrable ROI...
  22. 22. DEMONSTRATING ROI driving awareness employee engagement increasing share of voice in search results using insights to improve delivery engaging partners reducing costs deflecting customer care inquiries enhancing loyalty building trust increasing sales conversations nurturing advocacy managing risk increasing click throughsAnd now that we’re a grown up industry, we need to get grown up about the metrics we report toclients. We must move beyond mere tally’s of fans and followers, retweets and likes, and look forother measurable outcomes - tied to strategic business objectives - where we can demonstrate thevalue of our activities.
  23. 23. EMERGING COMPETITION?There may be, however, new competition in a business that we’ve had pretty much to ourselves forsome time: the Advertising industry is bound to start taking notice of brand spending in socialmedia.Research suggests that social advertising works - with one analysis showing USD $3 revenue forevery $1 spent on Facebook based campaigns: by WeAreSocial and SocialBakers has, worryingly for the community management industry,suggested that as few as 12% of a brand’s Facebook fans will see an particular update in theiractivity feed: does this mean for the community management industry? Ads are set to play a much moreimportant role in building fan bases and engagement. Where Facebook goes, others are likely tofollow.Infographic:
  24. 24. Robin Hamman Director Edelman Digital @Cybersoc robinhamman ???I’m convinced that there are many great opportunities for community managers - not just to toilaway, pushing content and building engagement, but also at making their capabilities ascommunicators and connectors essential to clients and employers.It’s an exciting time to be involved in the industry.