ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community
Edited By Marshall Kirkpatrick
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 1
Table of Contents
Framing the issues and describing the parts of the report.
the BasIcs 7
Our answers to the first questions companies ask about online community.
“do startups need communIty managers?” 12
A long blog post that kick started our interest in the topic, based on
interviews and feedback from more than 50 people in the field.
A discussion of the different ways to look at the Return on Investment from
community management; understand the nature of the job by knowing
what your company will get out of it.
JoB descrIptIon 34
An exploration of different ways that people describe the work.
the marketIng/engagement Balance 48
Is community management marketing, customer service, or something
dealIng WIth challengIng communIty memBers 58
It’s a part of every community manager’s job.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 2
Mathew Ingram on the Toronto Globe and Mail’s Big Media Community
Lucia Willow on Managing Community at Pandora
Dawn Foster on Managing Developer Communities
Connie Bensen on B2B Community Management
addItIonal resources 74
The Best Podcasts, Online Groups and Public Events for Community
Big thanks to the research team that helped with this report: Nisha Chittal,
Doug Coleman, Tim Hattenberger, Rennie Wiswall and Nate DiNiro
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 3
We live in a very disruptive period in history. The
World Wide Web is a mere 20 years old and even
younger technology now makes it easy for mil-
lions of people to publish their thoughts online.
With that huge influx of voices, ears, and eyes onto the Web have come
major changes in the way people do business. Entertainment, education,
shopping, and customer service are still based on many of the timeless
principles they always have been, but the new social context online has led
to fundamental changes we’re just beginning to understand.
What’s now being called Social Media -- a cluster of technology types that
make it easier than ever for everyday people to have their say online -- has
created different expectations, consequences, and possibilities in the world
As occurs during any major economic change, new types of jobs are being
created. One of the most common we’re seeing emerge right now is a
position called Online Community Manager. Scores of people are being
hired to specialize in interfacing with online communities for businesses
and other organizations large and small.
Practitioners: Kevin Micalizzi, Mathew Ingram, Kellie Parker, John Cass, Kelly Rusk, Justin Thorp
The job is part customer service, part marketing, part public relations, and
part Web savvy. Some of the required skills are timeless, and some are
very new and unique to the Web. In the following guide, you’ll read how
community managers are touching every part of the businesses they work
Many questions remain unanswered. There is no clear consensus on
job descriptions, return on investment, the appropriate balance between
marketing and customer service, or the best way to deal with troublesome
community members. The people formerly known as “customers” now
play a different role in almost every business, and so new business roles
are emerging in response.
You may be a community manager. Just as likely, you may work at or run
a company that has a community manager or is considering adding one to
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the team. Either way, we trust that the resources in this guide will prove
valuable to you, no matter what your level of experience.
In this guide, you’ll find some of the best advice, perspectives, data points,
talking points, and other kernels of emerging wisdom available about online
community management. In compiling this report, we looked at hundreds
of articles on the topic, chose the very best ones, selected the most salient
highlights from those articles, and then wove them into a coherent narrative
that explores the big questions in the field. Not all of the sources we cite
agree with each other on the topics they discuss, we’ve tried to include
diverse and conflicting points of view. Along with curated selections
from around the web, we also share our own professional advice, having
practiced in and studied the field.
We begin with the basics: our most information-rich answers to the most
common questions that companies ask. Questions like, “Should we have a
page on Facebook?” And, “Should we have a company blog?”
Next, you’ll find a reprint of a ReadWriteWeb article titled “Do Startups
Need Community Managers?” We wrote that article based on interviews
with more than 40 different people in a wide variety of positions at
companies large and small. We’ve selected the 10 most valuable
responses from readers of the article to reprint here.
The bulk of the guide comes in the next section, a four-part exploration
of return on investment, job description, the marketing/customer service
balance, and dealing with challenging community members. These
sections are made up of selected highlights from varying and sometimes
conflicting perspectives, mixed in with our own explanations and advice.
Next, you’ll find four extended interviews with successful community
managers from four different kinds of companies: one from a very large
traditional media organization (Toronto’s Globe and Mail), another from
a large consumer tech company (Pandora Radio), a manager of various
software developer communities (including Intel), and a B2B service
The final part of the written section of this guide is a collection of additional
resources we think you’ll find valuable: the podcasts that every community
manager should listen to, the best Facebook group for community
managers to connect through, and a list of some of the most important
community management industry events to attend.
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the OnlIne Part Of thIs GuIde
In addition to the written part of this guide that you hold in your hand or
PDF reader, we’ve also assembled a collection of dynamic online resources
that will keep delivering value well into the future.
Now that you’ve purchased the
guide, you should have received a
password to log in to the Community
Management Aggregator. It’s at http://
aggregator.php and the password is
There, you’ll find an automatically
updated selection of the most talked-
about articles being published by
the sources that we cite in the first
half of the report. (If you’re familiar
with Techmeme.com, we think of this
section as a little “Techmeme about
Aggregated: The Hottest Blog Posts in
If you don’t want to visit this page daily, you can subscribe to the articles
by email or RSS.
We’ve also included a search box where you can search the full archive of
all of these top sources we’ve listed. Think of this as a dynamic reference
book made up of the written wisdom of top sources in the field.
Finally, you’ll find links to profiles on Twitter and the most recent messages
there from our selected top sources in the field and some important
community managers worth following. This is a great way to jump into the
conversation that is taking place on a daily basis.
Informed support is one of the most important resources a community
manager can use to meet the challenges of this work. We hope the written
part of this guide will help companies and community managers become
better informed, and that the online part will provide peer support and
ongoing professional development.
Thanks for purchasing the ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community
Management. We think the resources here will help pay for themselves
many times over.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 6
Step 1: The Basics
Companies can ask a handful of questions these
days as they start thinking about engaging in
online community management. Questions like,
“Should our company be on Facebook?” and
“Should our company have a blog?” Before
we dive into some of the deeper strategic
considerations, we offer our advice below on
some of these initial tactical questions. We’ve
tried to pack as much advice into as little space
as possible with these recommendations.
defInItIOns: What Is an OnlIne cOmmunIty
“My definition of a community manager is simply: A community manager
is the voice of the company externally and the voice of the customers
-Community Management Consultant Connie Bensen
“A community manager is someone who communicates with a company’s
users/customers, development team and executives, and other
stakeholders in order to clarify and amplify the work of all parties. They
probably provide customer service, highlight best use cases of a product,
make first contact in some potential business partnerships, and increase
the public visibility of the company they work for.”
-from our article “Do Startups Need Community Managers?” reprinted in
full later in this report.
QuestIOn: dO We need a fOrum sectIOn On
Our recommendation: Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on how much
your customers have to say. If you are in a business in which you can
realistically expect a lot of communication directly with your company or
between your customers on your site, then an on-site forum would be good
If you expect less conversation directly with your customers on your site, or
if the primary reason they would communicate with you would be to solve
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relatively infrequent problems or offer occasional suggestions, then you
might be better served with a service like GetSatisfaction or UserVoice.
QuestIOn: dOes Our cOmPany need a blOG?
Our recommendation: Probably, yes. It’s a rare company that wouldn’t
see a net benefit from including a section on its website that is easy for
approved team members to update, to offer company news to the public,
to engage in public discussion about that news, and to offer various
methods of subscription to that news. That’s what a blog is, fundamentally.
A blog can be a great marketing outlet, but it can also be a simple matter
of customer and media relations.
We recommend installing WordPress.org on your company’s server if it can
handle PHP. Some companies don’t like dealing with PHP, and so you’ll
have to find another solution. Installing a blog on your company’s own site,
instead of hosting it elsewhere, is the preferred solution because its value
to the company is thus maximized and maintained.
You may choose to “moderate” comments on your blog or require your
explicit permission before comments appear on the site. But it is preferable
to allow comments to appear automatically, and to use Akismet for spam
control, and to keep a close eye on email notifications of new comments.
This leeway may not be possible for some companies, but it is consistent
with the spirit of free communication that social media is based on.
Your company blog could include both company news and your thoughts
about other industry matters. Linking to other blogs in your field is an
essential practice if you aim to use your blog to bring in new customers.
You can find the best blogs in your field by using the methods described
in our article “Comparing Six Ways to Find the Best Blogs in Any Niche.”
More sophisticated advice can be found in our article “How to Create a
Social Media Cheat Sheet on Any Topic.”
One reason you may not want to have a company blog is because of the
time commitment. If you can’t post to your blog at least once every week
or two -- preferably far more often than that, and definitely during public
crises -- then not having a blog at all is probably better. Showing up for
a conversation and then being completely absent only makes you look
If you can live up to that minimal commitment, then you should have a
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QuestIOn: shOuld Our cOmPany sPend tIme
Our recommendation: Without a doubt, you should. To the untrained
eye, Twitter may seem like a waste of time. It certainly did to us before
we started using it. In fact, every community manager we talked to in
researching this report said that Twitter was delivering important value to
their work, and some very successful community managers told us it was
the single most effective venue in which to engage with the public.
Twitter is a very easy way for people to communicate publicly and for you
to communicate with them.
We recommend that you register one account on Twitter with your
company’s name and that at least one of your employees engage with the
public using an account under their own name but identify themselves as
working at the company in his or her account description.
You could publish your company’s blog feed through the company’s official
Twitter account, but engaging with people directly as well is a good idea.
We recommend finding people relevant to your industry by searching on
Twitter directory sites like Twellow and Tweeplz with relevant keywords.
You’ll be surprised who in your industry is available to follow and converse
with. We also recommend running the usernames of key industry people
through a service called Mailana, where you’ll discover the people they
converse with publicly the most. Start by following 20 to 40 people who
you discover this way, and you’ll quickly find value in the service. We
recommend using the desktop application Tweetdeck to monitor your
conversations on Twitter.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 9
Two good resources to assist in maximizing the ROI of company use of
Twitter are Laura Fitton, a consultant in the field, and the XYZ Guide to
QuestIOn: shOuld Our cOmPany have a
Presence On facebOOk?
Our recommendation: Be careful how much time you put into Facebook.
Some companies have created company pages or customer support
groups on the site and have seen a lot of results. Many other companies
have not. Lines of communication are not as clear on Facebook as they
are by email, on Twitter, and on blogs. Customers are less accessible on
AllFacebook.com and Forester analyst Jeremiah Owyang’s Web-Strategist
blog are two good places to learn about best practices in making effective
use of Facebook. Given the size of the site, though, it’s surprisingly
difficult to derive value from it. It is much slower than Twitter. The absence
of site-wide keyword search and other limitations imposed by privacy
requirements make it a challenging environment for companies to operate
That said, there is a worthwhile Facebook group for community managers.
People in the field can share support with each other there, and
conversation is relatively active. That resource is included in the Further
Resources section of this report.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 10
QuestIOn: What else shOuld I be dOInG?
Our recommendation: One of the other key methods of engagement with
the online community but outside of your own website is monitoring RSS
feeds for search terms like your company and product names. If you’re
not familiar with RSS, it’s a lot like Google Alerts but more powerful and
delivered to a dedicated application (or inside Outlook). See the video
“RSS in Plain English” to get a good short introduction to the concept, and
see subsequent recommendations in this report for details on what RSS
feeds to subscribe to.
QuestIOn: shOuld I hIre sOmeOne tO be Our
Our recommendation: Community manager is one of the hottest job titles
that people are being hired for online right now. It’s not a bad idea to hire
someone to specialize in these responsibilities. You may have someone in
marketing or customer service who can do community work half-time, and
we discuss issues with that strategy in this report as well.
If you decide to hire a full-time community manager, you can get a good
one for $5000 to $7000 per month. You may be able to find a good one for
less, and you can certainly find some who expect to be paid more. We offer
detailed numbers on compensation elsewhere in this report.
If your company can afford to, it would also serve you well to hire an
established consultant in online community management for a short time to
help your community staff get started.
Those are some of our recommendations in response to some of the most
common questions about community management online. Now let’s look a
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Do Startup Companies Need Community Managers?
You know what little startup companies need these
days? They need to hire more people! It may be a
frightening thought, but in an increasingly social world,
being social is becoming an important full-time job.
“Community Manager” is a position being hired for at
a good number of large corporations (see Jeremiah
Owyang’s growing list of people with that kind of
job) but what about smaller companies? We asked a
number of people what they think, and the following
discussion offers some great things to think about,
both pros and cons.
• Many people believe this is one of the first positions a company should fill,
• Leaving community work to your PR agency can mean it gets neglected
• Dedicated specialists are more effective than company founders or many
traditional marketing people
• Companies based on user generated content need to recognize that users
are their most valuable asset
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What Is a cOmmunIty manaGer?
A community manager (CM) can do many things (see below), but the
most succinct definition of the role that we can offer is this. A community
manager is someone who communicates with a company’s users/
customers, development team and executives, and other stakeholders
in order to clarify and amplify the work of all parties. They often provide
customer service, highlight best-usage cases of a product, make first
contact in some potential business partnerships, and increase the public
visibility of the company they work for.
True believers can’t emphasize the importance of the role enough. John
Mark Walker, the Community Manager at CollabNet articulates this
“ “I firmly believe that the community manager should be one of
the first hires, right after a solid engineering group and before
you invest in corporate marketing people.”
Not everyone sees it that way, something that causes substantial distress
for people in the supply chain who are advocates of the CM role. “Start
ups and all companies that exist online need to be looking at a community
manager as a salaried position,” says Dylan Boyd of eROI.
“ “We have been working with big brands, and it kills me when
they just give ‘social media’ to someone who already has 10
other roles... At Omma Social last month in NYC, that topic
came up, asking all the people in the room from big brands
if they had a community manager. 90% of them did not and
are still trying to find out how to spec out a job description in
order to hire for it.”
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dIssenters: cOmmunIty manaGement dOes
nOt need tO be a full tIme JOb
Others think community management doesn’t need to be a full-time job.
“Community management is essentially a public relationship issue, so
whoever picks up that gauntlet is on point for representing their company
to the rest of us,” consultant Peat Bakke told us. “It doesn’t have to be
a specific person or a full-time job, but it is part of starting and running
a business, almost by definition: if you’re in business, you’re doing
community management whether you like it or not.”
Some would go so far as to call an explicit community manager position a
bad idea in the early days of a startup. Darius A Monsef IV, Executive Editor
& Creator, COLOURlovers.com told us he thinks that in the early days,
founders need to be in the thick of managing their own communities.
Jonas Anderson voiced concern about community managers being caught
between loyalties to the company and its users, while being tripped up by
employer non-disclosure agreements. (Others though, such as former BBC
blog producer Robin Hamman, point out that having a community manager
can greatly reduce legal risk when a company engages extensively with its
Startup founder Sachin Agarwal splits his time between community and
other work. Though he wishes he had more time for this kind of work, a full
timer isn’t necessary, he says.
“ Our Contact Us page encourages people to ask each other and
post on other sites before coming to us. We’re happy to help,
but I’d wager that other users know how to get the most out of
our site better than even we do.
Similarly, Twine’s Candice Nobles says that after some consideration
was given to the position, her company found that its users have been
incredibly self-organized and self-regulating so far.
While these thoughts may be valid, consultant Dawn Foster emphasized
that for some companies - making one person ultimately responsible for
community work can be essential.
For startups where community is a critical element of the
product or service,” she told us, “I think that a community
manager should be an early hire. Without a community
manager, the frantic pace of the startup environment can
mean that the community gets neglected simply because no
single person is tasked with being responsible for it. This
neglect could result in failure for the startup if the community
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can fOunders manaGe theIr cOmmunItIes?
We talk to a lot of CEOs on the phone here at ReadWriteWeb and we’ll
try to be polite in answering this question. Andraz Tori, CTO at Zemanta
answers this question diplomatically.
“The [community manager] role can be played
by one of the founders early on, but as the proj-
ect grows, you need a person who knows how
to listen,” he told us. “Founders have a vision
and might be a bit stubborn about what their
product represents and offers (that’s why they
are founders). Someone a bit more distanced
might be much better community manager
Andraz Tori since he has a lot more empathy for users and
their problems and can relay that to developers
and managers. And vice versa.”
Pete Burgeson, director of marketing for online marketplace crowdSPRING
says that a good community manager can help raise the voice of the users
“ We want to be able to build a platform for our community
to have a voice, showcase their talent, and become as active
in speaking for crowdSPRING as we are in speaking for
Still others believe that users may not want to talk to the founder or a
community manager, but rather someone with tech chops and focus. “I
think a startup should put a developer in the community as opposed to a
‘community manager’”, Rob Diana told us.
“ Even though the developer may not be as good a
communicator as a marketing guy, he or she has a different
type of understanding of what people want.
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What dOes a cOmmunIty manaGer dO?
There are many ways that a community manager can benefit a startup
company, and they often vary from company to company. Eva Schweber,
co-founder of CubeSpace says:
“It depends on the community and what needs to
be managed... the style and distractability of the
folks in the startup, how they like to collaborate
with peers, and how they define their peers.”
It’s a complicated job, but one that can help bring cohesiveness to the life
of a company. “Any opportunity to interact with the community forces one
to think about the product/feature considerations and ramifications of one
choice over another,” says Nagaraju Bandaru of SmartWebBlog.
“ In many ways, the community manager is the evangelist
for the company’s products and the voice of the customer in
internal discussions. It’s critical to react to online discussions
with skill, consistency, and aptitude; The role is hard to
understand from the outside but impossible to miss once a
startup is in execution mode.
This coherent communication can have business development benefits
as well. This seems to us to be one of the most important benefits of the
position. Graeme Thickins, VP of Marketing at doapp explains:
“ Their world includes the online community that represents
both prospective customers/users, as well as strategic partner
companies, possible future investors, future employees, and
more. Perhaps thinking in terms of a ‘listening manager’
would help a lot of startup founders better come to grips with
what this job is all about.
Carol Leaman from AideRSS says investing in a community manager
position has helped her company “gain maximum benefit from our early
adopters and growing base of users, as it’s a key link between them and
our development team. Not having someone on this full-time would impede
our growth and success. We consider ourselves fortunate to have both
realized this need early and to have found an amazing Community Manager
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 16
to fill the role.”
Does it have to be one person in particular? AideRSS’s Melanie Baker
explains that specialization is as appropriate for this role as it is for others.
“While especially at startups there’s a shortage of bodies and it’s all hands
on deck, not all hands are best suited to all activities,” she said.
“ No one would want me writing code, and I wouldn’t
necessarily want just anyone talking to frustrated users,
for example. It’s also a totally hybrid role. My background
involves marketing, Web, QA, and writing, and I use all of it
as a community manager. Someone with a more specialized
background can certainly learn what it takes but might have
a hard time wrapping his or her head around the customer
service, marketing, business analysis, tech support, software
testing, documentation, and journalist needs of the role.
“You need someone who understands the fundamental distinction that
while you want to grow your user base, a user base does not equal a
community,” Baker said. “The best success involves growing the former
while making every effort to evolve it into the latter. Because communities
grow themselves organically a lot more easily than user bases do.”
Isn’t it ultimately about marketing? Kim Bardakian, Sr. Communications
Manager, at the wonderful music site Pandora put it this way:
“ Pandora just created this position about four months ago and
it’s been INVALUABLE to our company in such a short time!
It’s opened a whole new world of communications for us!
Lucia Willow fills that role for us, and she’s great. With the
iPhone/Pandora launch on Friday, the Twitter network and
followers were making tons of buzz! It was very exciting.
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Is cOmmunIty manaGement the neW Pr?
Hutch Carpenter points to an example of community management leading
to extensive new media press coverage and saving money on PR.
Others see PR evolving towards a community management type of role in
this increasingly social world.
“ I particularly liked the reference to PR as ‘public
relationships,’” interjected Kathleen Mazzocco ClearPR. “[That]
conveys the directness and transparency of today’s new PR.
How can it not be, given the open conversations going on?
That’s why community managers are the critical new PR
PR has long had a bad rap, though, and if PR pros are going to get into
social media (they are already here in large quantities), then there may be
some challenges to their ability to play a community management role.
“ The idea of a ‘community manager’ is a good one as long as
that person has the freedom to discuss the negatives as well
as the positives of the company’s efforts,” says Dave Allen of
Nemo Design. “If we consider all the aspects of social media as
PR 2.0, then I would argue that it is a very important position,
given that companies would hardly have gone without PR 1.0.
I posted a top 10 list of what the activities might be like here of
what you might call a ‘community manager.’
(Disclosure: the author has a consulting relationship with Nemo)
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 18
Is thIs WOrth PayInG fOr?
Why would a busy little startup spend precious money on this kind of role?
“ While a community manager isn’t the same as a traditional
PR role, ideally they should work together,” says Meredith
from A Little Clarity. “Startups are in a blur; often they’re
being run by engineers with VCs looking over their shoulders
-- they don’t know from community managers; so there should
be some accountability, and that’s the tricky part. Do you
measure connections? Responsiveness? Transparent ‘public
relationships’? Whatever it is that your company will value,
get it out there and agree on it, because one thing startups
don’t always have is time to do it right after getting burned.
You want tangible? Semantic web researcher Yihong Ding will give you
tangible! He says that community managers are tasked with tending to the
most precious asset that many startups have staked their future on: user
“ As we know, most Web 2.0 companies are built on user-
generated content,” he told us. “Philosophically, user-
generated content is embodied human mind. This embodied
mind is generally the fundamental asset of the company.
Maintaining a proper community so that users may embody
their mind with high quality is thus a central issue for the
growth of the company. The duty of community managers is
to supervise and maintain the high-quality production of the
fundamental mind asset used by the company. Therefore, I
would say that community manager is a critical job title for
most of the Web 2.0 companies.
We agree with Yihong. User data and community content are the
foundation that Web 2.0-style innovation and company valuations rest on.
Failing to tend meaningfully to those assets is foolish.
Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation. We hope readers
will contribute their thoughts in comments below.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 19
Selected Comments in Response to Our Post
1. My definition of a community manager is simply: A community manager
is the voice of the company externally and the voice of the customers
internally. The value lies in the community manager serving as a hub and
having the ability to personally connect with the customers (humanize the
company), and serving with all departments internally (development, PR,
marketiing, customer service, tech support, etc).
Posted by: Connie Bensen
2. I didn’t really understand what a community manager did, then I hired a
really good one. I think its a bit like other forms of PR and marketing: soft,
often intangible, full of bullsh!t arstists, but when you see it done well, it all
Posted by: Paul Deane
3. My two cents: At the very beginning, when the startup consists only of
founders, you can select CM out of them. If you don’t have a person that
can pull it (meaning someone with marketing, PR, and BDM skills) your
startup is going to be in trouble anyway; it means you have only engineers
on the team.
Another issue: CM is not a PR 2.0: it’s CRM 2.0; back in the day, CRM
was about getting input from one customer, processing it, and giving
output. Now, as customers sort of manage themselves in a group (thus
forming communities), you have to manage the community, not individual
customers. And as business and products are becoming more interactive
(towards customers), it’s a read/write relationship: customers are changing
businesses (by proposing features, blocking the cancellation of other
features, criticizing, and praising).
Posted by: Marcin Grodzicki
4. Whether or not a startup needs a community manager is an excellent
question, especially as companies struggle with how much social media
they should be using. Having done community management/development
a time or two, whether a startup has one definitely depends on the startup.
Can the startup get by with just a blog, where the content creator is
engaged in the comments? Do they really need a Twitter account if their
customers might not be there (and, believe me, a whole lot of people aren’t
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 20
even on Twitter)? When the types of social media needed by a business
are figured out, then they can figure out if they need a community manager,
and if that community manager should be part-time or full-time.
But if the startup is clueless about what’s needed in social media, a
consultant who can manage community for them for awhile could also
work. The consultant can help them get an idea about what the startup
needs first with social media, so that they’re not overloaded and stressed
about keeping up with everything, then fill in on the management, if that’s
part of a services package. As things grow, the consultant can, and
probably should, train someone internally or help find a dedicated CM for
the amount of time necessary to do the job.
As for PR people handling community... yikes! I’ve seen that one backfire a
bit. Community management is a task better suited to folks who know how
to listen and respond, not just dole out the company message.
Posted by: Tish Grier
5. I said a long time ago, I would only leave freelancing if my dream job came
along. That is, a job incorporating blogging with social networking and
talking with people all day. This happened a month ago when I was hired
by BlogTalkRadio to be their Community Manager.
I think whether or not a business needs a full-time CM all depends on the
company. At BTR, we have thousands of radio shows, thousands of hosts,
and thousands of listeners. That’s a lot of people to bring together. It only
makes sense to bring a full-time CM on board.
In addition to handling the blog, my job is to promote the segments,
promote BTR, promote the hosts, and bring the community together. I
listen to hosts and offer tips for bringing traffic to their segments. I talk with
listeners to learn how to make their BTR experience more user-friendly, and
I help the BTR team find solutions that benefit everyone involved. I also
encourage bloggers to start their own radio shows, which is as simple as
owning a phone.
Do all businesses need a CM? I’m not sure. I think any company with a
heavy Web presence would do well to have someone to spread the word
and find out what makes its audience or client base happy. CM’s establish
personal relationships and are more invested in the product or service than
your usual publicist for hire. Plus, we know the social networks, we know
the Web, and we know the bloggers. BlogTalkRadio wouldn’t have hired me
if I was just Joe off the street. Being a pro blogger and being able to speak
with other bloggers put me ahead of the other candidates.
I don’t know that all businesses need CMs. For businesses with a heavy
Web presence, however, it’s in their best interest to at least look into it.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 21
Posted by: Deborah Ng
6. Something important that is very important yet often overlooked in my
Expect your CM not just to socialize/evangelize, but to show up with
feature requests and bug reports. Give them the ability to be heard
and considered. CM is a social role, yes, but the point of those social
interactions is to collect valuable feedback and translate it into actions.
On the flipside, a good CM takes the time to understand the dev team’s
priorities and timelines and works WITH them to find the best ways to
implement new features.
Thanks again for a great article (and the great comments!)
Posted by: Thaumata from A.viary
7. I look at community managers as the faces of the corporation. People don’t
interact with companies, they interact with people who work at companies.
And these people have personalities (hopefully).
I manage Intel’s Open Port, a site that congregates several technical
communities. Each community, organized by different product segments
like PCs or Servers, is managed by a technical expert who can interact on
the same level with their community. Community members in this sense
do not want marketing talking heads managing their communities, but real
engineers they can connect with and ask questions.
Since it is the person that counts, one of the greatest challenges I believe is
finding a dynamic enough personality to engage your community; someone
who is also technical enough to speak on the same level as the community.
In essence, he or she needs some level of street cred.
Posted by: Kelly Feller
8. We’re admittedly not a commercial startup (we’re an NPO) but it’s become
apparent that for our kind of organization this kind of position is crucial. We
have a lot of things we do that could be seen as more traditional products
- I’m not worried about them as much. We see the role of the community
manager is to actually foster community, to bring these people together.
This might be users for these more conventional ‘products’ (which is likely
to be the focus for a new startup with one product).
But there is also community as product. A lot of the ideas we have are
simple ones like, “wouldn’t it be valuable if we had a certain group of
people talking about a certain thing in a certain way.” In this case, the
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 22
role of the community manager is about actually forming this community,
keeping it healthy and valuable for all of the constituents. It’s some of the
key elements of Liza’s comments, but replace users with people.
For us, these people might be academics, industry leaders, or even
students. For a commercial entity this is just as important, but it might be
easier to overlook. Someone who buys a product or signs on for a service
is already invested in some way, and they could be an active part of a
community around that product. A really great community manager could
bring other people in to that community and expand it, focus the direction,
and make it a community around the things that are behind that product.
Posted by: Matthew Hockenberry
9. Very interesting concept. Since VCs and startups seem today to be more
interested in audience than a real business model; it seems like a smart
move to have a community manager.
In the long run, I think what really matters though is how you can harness
the potential of the community. IMHO, that is what differentiate a
successful project from a fashionable project. Can you find the lead users
(cf. definition at the end) in your community ? Can you use crowd-sourcing
as a competitive advantage ? Is your community strongly connected?
Tightly-coupled to your project? etc...
But in the end, as said before, it’s based on the objectives of each startup
and its current position in its development phases.
From Wikipedia :
Lead user is a term developed by Eric von Hippel in 1986. His definition for
lead user is:
1. Lead users face needs that will be general in a marketplace ‚Äì but face
them months or years before the bulk of that marketplace encounters
2. Lead users are positioned to benefit significantly by obtaining a solution
to those needs.
More at http://web.mit.edu/evhippel/www/
Posted by: Utopiah
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 23
10. Community Managers play different roles for different companies. It’s
an evolutionary process, and it’s being defined as more community
managers appear. On a daily basis, I work closely with an external advisory
board, community members, my sales, marketing, and PR teams... I also
execute on a lot of partnerships, cross-promotion opportunities, program
development and oversight...
The jobs are endless... but the role is fluid.
Community managers do not replace any more traditional roles - we add
value to existing ones.
My two cents,
~ Janetti Chon
Community Manager, Web 2.0 Expo
Posted by: Janetti Chon
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 24
What’s the return on investment (ROI) for
online community management? That’s a very
important question for a number of reasons. First,
it’s a question that advocates for community
management are almost always asked by those
holding the purse strings at their workplace.
Secondly, engaging with the question helps
illuminate the nature of the job.
• Many of the benefits of community are intangible
• There are hard number studies available, from Cisco’s 2004 finding
that “43% of visits to online support forums are in lieu of opening up
a support case through standard methods” through Dell’s tale of $1
million in sales through Twitter last year
• Community managers should establish methods to measure their
own impact on other departments’ bottom lines
• For every person you interact with publicly, far more watch that inter-
action and are impacted
• Community management can be another form of networking, deliv-
ering the same kinds of value that conference attendance, presenta-
tions and related activities deliver
If you read one link from this section: Jeremiah Owyang’s “Com-
munity Managers Must Deliver ROI: Commandments For Surviving a
Recession” http://www web-strategist com/blog/2009/01/28/commu-
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 25
the fleshIness Of cOmmunIty
Some people believe that ROI is impossible to measure in community
management because the benefits of community are intangible. We
disagree with this argument, but it’s a worthwhile position to consider.
Consultant Jason Falls, for example, says
that ROI is the wrong question to ask about
social media in general. In an article titled
“What is the ROI for Social Media1”, Falls
argues that evaluating ROI in social media
in general is like trying to “assign multiple
choice scoring to an essay question... trying
to put numeric quantities around human
Aggregated: The Hottest Blog interactions and conversations, which are
Posts in Community Management
Falls quotes the well-known PR pro Katie Paine:
“ Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring
engagement is, ‘Are we getting what we want out of the
conversation?’ And, as stubborn as it sounds, Mr. CEO, you
don’t get money out of a conversation.
yOu’ll knOW It When yOu see It
Of course, such perspectives have an important element of truth to them.
Once good community management is in effect, the intangible benefits
it delivers make the effective returns easily evident, even if they aren’t
quantifiable. In other words, once it’s working, you’ll have no doubt it’s
worth is. For example, Pandora community manager Lucia Willow told us
that Pandora users regularly email her moving stories and photos depicting
the impact that the music recommendation service has had on their lives.
She shares those in full staff meetings and posts the photos on the office
refrigerator. That’s a powerful staff motivator.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 26
Dave Hersch of Jive Software puts it this way :
“ Trying to determine if the savings and revenue increase are
worth the expense is like trying to measure whether the view
from atop Everest is worth the climb: it’s exceedingly hard to
measure, and it should be painfully obvious.
here are the numbers ”
Trying to quantify a well-run community may be “a fool’s exercise,” as Dave
Hersch argues, but there are some pretty compelling numbers available if
you’d like to be one of those fools.
In 2007, Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer at enterprise online
community vendor Lithium, gathered together the most compelling
publicly available statistics on the ROI of community that you’ll find
anywhere. Some of the highlights include:
• A Cisco study in 2004 found that 43% of visits to online support
forum are in lieu of opening up a support case through standard
• Cost per interaction in customer support averages $12 via the contact
center versus $0.25 via self-service options. (Forrester, 2006 )
• Jupiter Research reported in 2006 that customers report good
experiences in forums more than twice as often as they do via calls or
• Ebay found in 2006 that participants in online communities spend
54% more than non-community users.
Those numbers are a few years old, but we find that they paint a picture
that’s still true to the experience of community managers now. The blogs
on the Lithium company site , where Cothrel (who aggregated those
studies) works, are an excellent resource to learn more about corporate
“Managing Support Forums,” The Association of Support Professionals (ASP), 2004
“Support transactions according to complexity and cost” (table), Forrester Research, 2006
“Online Support Forums: Evaluating Opportunity for Community-Based Support,” Jupiter Research, June 21,
“Do Customer Communities Pay Off?” René Algesheimer and Paul M. Dholakia, Harvard Business Review, Nov.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 27
real WOrld case studIes
What does ROI look like for community managers in the wild? One
great place to start getting an idea is analyst Peter Kim’s list of over 300
corporate social media campaigns .
Dell Computers is one of the best examples of a company that has made a
major investment in online community and claims to have found immediate
financial benefits. The juiciest story is that Dell says it has generated more
than $1 million in sales by publishing discount alerts through its Twitter
account. We’re not sure how “community engaged” that is, but it’s certainly
going where people already are and delivering value to them. According to
a recent Financial Times profile of the company’s efforts, the company’s
VP of Communities and Conversation Bob Pearson has 45 people
working for him. The core of the crew searches for dissatisfied customers
complaining around the Web and tries to reach out to them to resolve
things. The company has 80 Twitter accounts, 20 Facebook pages and a
high profile user-voted suggestion and feedback site called IdeaStorm.
Zappos, Whole Foods, and WineLibrary.tv are other examples of
companies that have generated revenue directly from the communities
they’ve built up on Twitter. ReadWriteWeb recently wrote about a Gartner
report on four distinct ways that companies are using Twitter in particular.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 28
buIld yOur OWn rOI case study
Dell’s tracking of Twitter-driven sales is the type of thing that just about
anyone could do. Jeremiah Owyang offers this advice .
“ Community Managers should start to measure how clicks from
the community directly impact e-commerce, go to product
pages (perhaps if you’re B2B) or to affiliate marketing to
demonstrate how community interaction increases revenue.
If you can demonstrate this (like Dell’s million dollar sales in
Twitter) tout it loudly to management.
Lithium’s Cothrel offers some great tips along the same lines that could
work well for some companies.
“Ask the people who run your company’s customer surveys to
add a question about community use. That will allow you to see
how community users compare to those who haven’t used the
community. And/or, run a survey yourself in your community and
ask about your users’ purchase and support history. Use this data
to tell a story about how every registration, every visit, every view,
and every post to your community adds something to the bottom
“Begin to figure out how you can do a real ROI analysis in the
future. That means tying community data to customer data and/or
other web data — meaning you’ll need to forge some partnerships
with the people in your organization who own that data. In some
organizations, there’s someone who can take the email addresses
from your registration database and give you back all sorts of
useful info about the value of your community members. That would
be a good thing to do. Better would be to have that information
continuously by integrating your community with those other
systems. But you gotta start somewhere!”
Left in comments at http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/01/28/community-managers-must-deliver-roi-
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 29
Does the work of a community manager have to remain active in order
for a community to make a tangible difference to the bottom line? Tom
Humbarger studied the numbers before and after one community he
managed cut the budget for a community manager position. He concluded
that “active management contributes significantly to the health of a
professional community.” Comparing the period of active vs. inactive
management: membership growth slowed significantly, a fall-off of more
than 63% on a week-to-week basis. Number of visits dropped 60%,
number of pages viewed per visit drops 22%, and time on site decreased
communIty WIth It might not be intuitively clear to
non-participants that a company
representative’s consistent high-
tom humBarger quality engagement in community
(also known as with and without
is necessary to reap the benefits
active community management)
of community, but for community
managers, the relationships they are
Membership growth: Down 63%
building make it very clear. Those
week to week
relationships would go cold without
Website visits: Down 60%
The above should provide you with
Page views per visit: Down 22%
some of the type of data you can
use, some methods to capture
Time on site: Down 33%
it, and some evidence that your
active engagement is required to
capture those benefits. The fact
of the matter is, though, that the non-financial benefits of community
management are potentially much more important.
yOur WOrld Is a staGe
The number of participants, much less visibly active participants, in
most online communities is almost always tiny compared to a successful
company’s total number of customers. It would be easy to feel frustrated
by this, to feel like the resources spent engaging with these communities
aren’t worth it. We discuss engagement and marketing more in a later
section of this report, but in terms of ROI, some clear tangible benefits
come out of management of the subset of customers you’ll find in an
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 30
Squeaky wheels get the grease, so it may feel like there’s an even smaller
number of people yet that a community manager is interacting with
regularly. Michael Mace of Rubicon Consulting points out that a much
larger group of silent community members are watching those interactions,
and that’s where a lot of the payoff will come from.
“Because most Web users are voyeurs
more than contributors, you should
think of an online discussion as
theater; it’s a performance in which
the community leader(s) interact with
a small group of contributors for the
education and amusement of the rest
of us. All the Web’s a stage, but we’re
not all players in it... This means
companies that turn away from Web
communities because they’re populated
by only enthusiasts are missing the
point. You’ve mistaken your fellow
actors for the audience. Take care of
the active participants in a community,
and the audience will watch and
That said, even the relatively small number of people you will likely engage
with in an online community can offer a lot of value to a company.
custOmer cOmPlaInts yIeld PrOduct
Sometimes in a small business, the long list of customer complaints can
feel like a distraction from getting work done and moving forward with
development plans. In a post on the Dell community board, Dell staff
member “Robert P.” argues that close communication with customers
about the constraints they face can lead to product development
opportunities to solve those problems. Dell’s social media efforts aren’t
just a way to “push a message” on community members, Robert writes,
but a way to find problems that can only be solved by innovation, product
development, and sales. It almost sounds obvious when he says that “an
innovative business model helps you do the job [of solving customers’
problems] in a new, novel way that will make the business more agile and
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 31
cOmmunIty manaGers can delIver value
frOm cOmmunItIes tO Other dePartments
Product development insights are just one of many tangible things that a
community manager can take to other departments. Community managers
should prioritize building connections with other departments because
failing to do so would leave clear value untapped. Community management
expert Bill Johnston puts it well in a conversation on Jeremiah Owyang’s
blog . “Reach out to other departments. Online communities offer value
to almost every department in the organization, from HR (recruiting), to
support (call avoidance), to marketing (awareness/reach), to the product
team (feedback, customer-led innovation). Now is the time to reach out to
other teams and create cross-organizational ties, and involve other teams
in community-building and engagement activities.”
Almost all of the community
From a communIty managers we talked to for this
manager to report brought up one or more
other departments of these same benefits. By
helping to hire the most active
Customer support: Call avoidance community members, community
managers can deliver tangible
Product development: Feedback, value to HR; a well-managed
customer led innovation community captures and reuses
troubleshooting knowledge and
Marketing: Awareness, research sees active members coming to
each others’ aid, thus decreasing
HR: Recruiting support costs for the company,
the same rOI as many Of the mOst
tradItIOnal busIness actIvItIes
Participating in communities like social networks can deliver value to a
whole network of different departments inside any company. That makes
the community manager an important person. It also puts them in a key
position to foster a social network-type consciousness within the company.
More on that later.
But there’s one more traditional business deliverable that can come from
community management. We’re talking about “networking” -- like you’d
do in any business setting, but amplified by the space-busting powers of
online social media.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 32
Business communication trainer Heidi Miller tells an illustrative story about
how this works, in an article titled “Social Media Isn’t Marketing - It’s
[PR consultant Michael Sommermeyer] was making the case that, while
updating your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or what-have-you status isn’t
a marketing strategy, it is an excellent way to expand your network and
make connections you wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. He relates
the story of Jeremy Epstein, who through a relatively random social media
connection, discovered that the person he’d been corresponding with was
the Chief Privacy Officer at AOL, a great business connection for him.
“So in this sense, no, social media isn’t marketing. It’s networking.
It’s the equivalent of going to those Chamber of Commerce events
and getting to know your fellow business people. It’s the equivalent
of joining your national trade organization so you can get to know,
mentor, and connect with people in your industry. It’s the equivalent
of throwing a cocktail party at the industry’s big yearly trade show
so you can meet, connect, and converse with associates, prospects,
and partners from all over the world.”
It’s also a lot less expensive than many of those activities, though some
people do it all day long. While social networking can never fully replace
face-to-face networking, it can capture a lot of the same value at a fraction
of the cost of travel and conference attendance, and it’s much easier to
schedule. There’s literally no way you could network in person the way
you can online. People knew that was going to happen at the beginning
of the Web, but then for several years there weren’t people doing business
in online social networks. Now there are... many people. Thus, from a
business development perspective as well, the return on investment of a
good online community manager’s job seems clear.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 33
What Kinds of Animals Are These?
What’s the difference between community
management and more traditional positions like
customer service and marketing? That depends
on who you ask. There isn’t much consensus.
Most people agree, though, that online community
management incorporates some of both of these
types of work. It also presents unique challenges
and opportunities because of the newly public
nature of conversations, the variety of people now
able to discuss things publicly, the scale of the
Web, and the speed of communication.
• Social media is different than anything that’s happened before be-
cause of several unique qualities of the internet
• Community management takes a particular kind of personality: a
mixture of passion and compassion
• This is a demanding job with long, hard hours and high public ex-
• Skill in working with social media tools is important
• Management assumptions need to be questioned
• Good community management will change the business it’s per-
• There are established norms for pay (we list them below)
If you read one link in this section: Interview with consultant Nancy
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 34
thIngs that make socIal Community manager and expert
medIa dIFFerent: on the field Connie Benson
bristled when we used the
Communication is public, im- marketing word “campaigns”
pacting passive site visitors, in our interview with her. She
search traffic and others believes community management
should tilt away from marketing,
Blogs will challenge you towards customer service
and thus achieve what could
Customers can help each other be called “passive business
development.” As the innovators
Conversation happens much behind the popular forum site
faster GetSatisfaction.com said in their
slogan for a recent conference:
Use cases are public, customers “Customer service is the new
create content marketing.” That means that
making your existing customers
Your claims are verifiable by happy, in a public way, is the best
Google kind of marketing you can have.
“ the Ideal communIty manager personalIty:
“Passionate, but without letting it get out of control.
Thick-skinned, but not cruel or insensitive. Driven, but
still interested in helping others. Personable, but always
professional.” - Dan Gray
Marketing consultant Rick Turoczy says it’s a matter of skill sets and
authenticity. “I think community management is better handled by
customer service for the majority of companies,” he told us. “Most
marketing people don’t get it. They’re broadcast only. The best
community managers I’ve ever worked with (including before the days of
social media) were always in customer service or professional services.”
While such high-minded ideals are, well, ideal, marketing and community
management will probably always have a close, if at times uncomfortable,
relationship. Some of the more “marketing” type of work that community
managers do includes the creation of original content, highlighting
selected customer-created content, and engaging in conversations off-
site on blogs, Twitter, etc. about the company and issues relevant to its
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 35
If you’re looking for an explicit example of a job description, Connie
Benson has posted a good long one that was adapted from Mark
Andreeson’s company Ning.
brInGInG data back tO the mOthershIP
Even the customer service/marketing dichotomy can’t capture everything
a community manager does, however. Jeremiah Owyang discusses
another important part of the work - bringing customer feedback to the
development and management teams.
“Community managers are responsible for gathering the
requirements of the community in a responsible way and
presenting it to product teams. This may involve formal product
requirements methods from surveys to focus groups, to facilitating
the relationships between product teams and customers. The
opportunities to build better products and services through this real-
time live focus group are ripe; in many cases, customer communities
have been waiting for a chance to give feedback.”
Owyang draws back and spells out the big picture in a couple of different
“ “We’ve found there are five major objectives found in any
social computing effort: Listening, Talking, Energizing,
Supporting, and Embracing.”
Elsewhere, Owyang puts it in another way that’s helpful. In nearly all
the many community manager job descriptions he’s seen, there are four
common responsibilities rolled up into the job: “1) a community advocate
2) brand evangelist 3) savvy communication skills, shapes editorial 4)
gathers community input for future product and services.”
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 36
FlIckr’s ten poInts to lIve By
1. Engage your community.
2. Enforce decorum.
3. Take responsibility for failures.
4. Step back and let the community support
itself where appropriate.
5. Give freely.
6. Be patient.
7. Hire fans.
8. Stay calm.
9. Be flexible but focus on what matters.
10. Be visible.
From Flickr Community Manager Heather Champ
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 37
the fun dOesn’t stOP
Those are some nice job descriptions, but even a list of responsibilities
can fall short of describing the less tangible parts of the position. Deb Ng
reminds us that while community management may not be a 24/7 job, it’s
not best done as a 9-to-5 job either.
“What happens to your community on the weekend? Do you just leave it
and come back on Monday spending a frenzied day trying to catch up, or
do you drop by here and there on the weekend just checking to make sure
the joint hasn’t been taken over by trolls?....Rather than have a frustrated
community, it’s probably in your best interest to make sure there’s some
sort of presence during the non-business hours.”
Community management may be your day job, but most of the people
in your communities will have different jobs and will be active in your
community outside of regular work hours. Given that, it’s surprising how
much interaction in online communities does go on during regular business
What does the work look like day to day and night to night? Check out
long-time gaming community manager Sanya M. Weathers’ epic post titled,
“Why Does it Take So Long to Answer Simple Questions? ” Weathers’
weaves together anecdotes from industry colleagues to tell the story of a
single all-too-typical day in the life of a gaming community manager. It’s a
lot of work.
We would summarize the most important parts of the story Weathers
writes, but it’s the non-stop insanity she describes that makes it so
remarkable. There really aren’t any parts of it that are more important than
others; you should read the whole thing. May your business have as many
demands on your time as successful online game companies have on their
The Online Community Research Network asked hundreds of
community managers what the most important factors are in
establishing and maintaining a community’s culture .
The top three responses (in order) were:
Quality, up-to-date content.
Have a clear objective/value statement.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 38
keePInG It In PersPectIve
Jeremiah Owyang sounds a rallying cry : you are not alone, work smart,
and remember your priorities.
“There are thousands of other community managers who are
pushing the membrane of the corporation to reach to customers;
the list grows longer every day... Start by focusing on objectives,
chart a road map, assemble the right team, and plan to be flexible...
Above all, remember that control is in the hands of the members, so
put their needs first, build trust, and become an active part of the
The importance of remembering that no community manager is alone
cannot be overstated. As long-time open-source community manager
Stormy Peters told Dawn Foster in a recent podcast interview that going
out of your way to connect with others in the same field can be very
helpful. See our list of resources in the final section of this report for ways
to connect with other community managers.
Okay, but how long is this going to take? How long will it take to build a
sustainable community? Mary Lou Roberts writes that even with the help
of professional consultants and outsourcing, community management
requires a meaningful investment of time and resources. Her estimates, in
fact, seem low to us.
“It takes three to six months of serious effort to build a sustainable
community. It’s not a silver bullet, and good consultants help
managers understand that and have patience. Monitoring does
seem to be a real issue. [LiveWorld.com’s Brian Person] says they
usually monitor communities for their customers. They require
the customer to invest at least 10 hours each week in community
management. This is not an activity to just be outsourced and then
wash your (corporate) hands of the operations. It’s your brand;
continuous involvement is necessary even if you hire management
We think that 10 hours a week for three to six months sounds like the kind
of strategy that would only work with the help of outside consultants doing
much of the work. If you can afford such consultants, it’s probably a good
idea to hire a more affordable full-time community manager to do the work
after they’ve left.
ReadWriteWeb Premium Report 2009 page 39
let’s Get hIP tO the scene
Much like a good consultant, a community manager is going to help the
company understand the real benefits of participating in the community.
FutureLab’s Matt Rhodes writes that a community manager should
“advocate [for] the community within the organization [as well as for] the
organization within the community. You translate what goes on in the
community and make it relevant for the organization and different people
within it. You can explain to a CEO why the community is important and
show the value they can personally get.”
In order to do that, Rhodes says that you “need to be a trusted and
transparent source within the community. I see too many communities
where the community manager is face-less, has a generic name, and
never really interacts with members. Honesty and transparency are really
important online, and your community manager should be a member of the
community like any other.”
hOW tO nOt lOse yOur mInd
How do you keep one foot in the basics of your business, and the other
foot in the world of early adopters, with all it has to offer? Social media
“true believers” run the risk of going off the deep end and losing the ability
to communicate with their co-workers who are trying to run a business. On
the other hand, focusing on the business interests too much in the short
term can mean losing out on the emergent value of online community.
Connie Bensen offers the following advice .
“Identify and offer solutions for breaking down barriers between
customers and corporate. This includes identifying needs that aren’t
being met from the customer’s perspective and being involved in the
discussion as to whether the needs are valid, if they can be met, and
if they will benefit the organization as a whole.”
Paying attention to unmet needs that surface through the channel of online
community, then taking part in corporate conversations about which of
those needs or concerns are valid and require a response, will help keep
one foot in the traditional business world and its concerns. Bensen goes
on to explain the second half of the process:
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“Be available to staff across the company to assist them in
identifying and using online tools if it can help them achieve their
goals related to their position. Teach, guide, encourage them, and
provide support if they are new to Web 2.0 tools and culture... Stay
up to date on new tools, best practices, and how other organizations
and companies are using them, so that the company can continue to
be an early adopter of these technologies.”
hOW tO lIsten tO the Internet
Much of social media is all about
We recommend that you subscribe listening to what people have to
to search feeds for your company’s say, and community management
name and your competitors on the is no different. You’ll want to
following sites, as a minimum: make sure you are comfortable
with an RSS reader and use it to
1. Multi-media search with EveryZ- subscribe to persistent searches
ing (see http://bit.ly/everyzing for for your company name, your
example). competitors, and related
2. Blog search with Icerocket, keywords. Once you set up
Google Blogsearch. those searches, Connie Benson
3.Microblogging search via search. says there’s some simple
twitter.com and twingly.com. logic to think through when you
4.News search with Yahoo! News compare the conversation going
and Topix.net. on online about your competitors
5.Social media search with Friend- to the conversation about your
Feed (see http://bit.ly/searchfriend- own company.
feed for example).
6.Google web search RSS (see If the brand has more
http://bit.ly/googlealertsrss for conversation around it, then:
instructions). Doesn’t the brand want to
maintain its lead online?
If a competitor has more conversations around it, then:
Shouldn’t the brand get busy and consider its strategy?
If neither the brand nor competitors have any conversations around
Shouldn’t the brand get a head start on its competition?
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What are you going to do with the information you find through those
monitoring feeds and other sources? We discuss engagement with
your community in the next section of this report, but a key part of the
job description is reporting the information that you glean to company
management. Jeremiah Owyang has a great framework for reporting back
that he suggests .
During incidents, the community manager should report in real-time to key
stakeholders. Secondly, they should provide weekly updates that can be
quickly scanned in 30 seconds. Each month, they should provide a detailed
report, and initiate a 30- to 60-minute meeting with key stakeholders to
chrIs Brogan’s recommended crIterIa For
evaluatIon oF communIty managers16
• Responsiveness to communications with the community: less than
24 hours max.
• Number of QUALITY blog posts read and shared via Google Reader.
• Number of meaningful comments left on appropriate blogs, videos,
and other media per month.
• Overall quality of her Twitter stream (maybe a 60/30/10 mix of
industry-related / personal @ comments / and off-topic).
• Engagement on our blog/community/network. (Number of
subscribers, number of comments, number of links out to other blogs
from our community site).
• Number of quality blog posts and linking posts (probably a 40/60
split between original and linked, though some would argue for 30/70).
• Eventually, number of links from other sites to our blogs and media.
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the exIstentIal dIlemmas Of cOmmunIty
So this job is a grind and a juggling act. What’s the best attitude to aim
for in dealing with it all, as a company representative participating in an
online community? Dion Hinchcliffe offers some good perspective : it’s
about humility and mutual respect.
“Making sure the community has truly free rein to serve itself —
even if it ends up recommending competitor’s products in some
cases or becoming a venting zone for customer’s complaints — is
essential for the community to thrive through open conversation,
honesty, trust, and candor. This back-seat position can be a
very difficult thing for some organizations to accept, much less
encourage, but the best organizations manage to do this with
humility and a sense of mutual respect.”
If you’re ready to get “touchy feely,”
(and this is “community” we’re talking
about, so that makes sense) then it’s a
good idea to check in about our most
basic assumptions about the position.
Consultant Nancy White, who is one
of the smartest and most experienced
people in this field, asserts that the
term “community management” might
not be as appropriate as “network
facilitation.” She beautifully articulates
some things to consider when framing
the job of community management.
“Are we talking about communities, or are we embarking on the era
of network facilitation? When we move to the network, a couple
of things happen. The notion of managing becomes even more of
an illusion than managing that herd of cats called ‘community.’ ...
Instead we are talking about scanning for things important for our
organizations: conversations about us, niches or needs we can fill,
feedback and suggestions for improving what we do. It is filtering
and redirecting those messages to where they can do good. It is a
little bit like listening to the universe.
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