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  • 1. The ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management Edited By Marshall Kirkpatrick May 2009ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 1
  • 2. Table of Contents Introduction 4 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. ROI 25 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 47 Is community management marketing, customer service, or something else? Yes. Dealing With Challenging Community MembeRS 57 It’s a part of every community manager’s job.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 2
  • 3. Interviews 63 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 Managers Big thanks to the research team that helped with this report: Nisha Chittal, Doug Coleman, Tim Hattenberger, Rennie Wiswall, Nate DiNiro and Decisive FlowReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 3
  • 4. Introduction 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 of business. 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 at. 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 toReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 4
  • 5. the team. Either way, we trust that the resources in this guide will prove valuable to you, no matter what your level of experience. What’s Included 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 provider. 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.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 5
  • 6. 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 “trollbopper”. There, you’ll find an automatically Aggregated: The Hottest Blog Posts in Community Management 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, we think of this section as a little “Techmeme about Community Management”.) 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 Guide to Online Community Management page 6
  • 7. 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 Manager? “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.” -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 website? 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 to install. 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 solveReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 7
  • 8. 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 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 worse. If you can live up to that minimal commitment, then you should have a company blog.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 8
  • 9. Question: Should our company spend time on Twitter? 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 Guide to Online Community Management page 9
  • 10. Two good resources to assist in maximizing the ROI of company use of Twitter are Laura Fitton, a consultant in the field, and CommonCraft’s Twitter in Plain English. 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 Facebook. 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 in. 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 Guide to Online Community Management page 10
  • 11. 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 Community Manager? 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 little deeper.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 11
  • 12. Do Startup Companies Need Community Managers?You know what little startup companies need thesedays? They need to hire more people! It may be afrightening thought, but in an increasingly social world,being social is becoming an important full-time job.“Community Manager” is a position being hired for ata good number of large corporations (see JeremiahOwyang’s growing list of people with that kind ofjob) but what about smaller companies? We asked anumber of people what they think, and the followingdiscussion offers some great things to think about,both pros and cons. Section highlights • Many people believe this is one of the first positions a company should fill, full time • 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 assetReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 12
  • 13. 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 perspective well: “ “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.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 13
  • 14. 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, 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 users.) 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 is critical.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management ” page 14
  • 15. 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 themselves. “ 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 ” ourselves. 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.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 15
  • 16. 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.” Eva Schweber 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 ManagerReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 16
  • 17. 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.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 17
  • 18. 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 ” position. 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 Guide to Online Community Management page 18
  • 19. 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 content. “ 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 Guide to Online Community Management page 19
  • 20. Selected Comments in Response to Our Post Originally on ReadWriteWeb in July, 20081. 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 Bensen2. 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 artists, but when you see it done well, it all makes sense. Posted by: Paul Deane3. 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 Grodzicki4. 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’tReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 20
  • 21. 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 Grier5. 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 Guide to Online Community Management page 21
  • 22. Posted by: Deborah Ng6. Something important that is very important yet often overlooked in my experience: 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.viary7. 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 Feller8. 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, theReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 22
  • 23. 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 Hockenberry9. 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. Cheers, Utopiah. 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 them, and 2. Lead users are positioned to benefit significantly by obtaining a solution to those needs. More at Posted by: UtopiahReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 23
  • 24. 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 ChonReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 24
  • 25. ROI 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. section highlights • 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- nity-managers-must-deliver-roi-tips-for-surviving-a-recession/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 25
  • 26. 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 1 “What is the ROI for Social Media ”, 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 Jason Falls, photo from interactions and conversations, which are Shashi Bellamkonda not quantifiable.” 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. 1 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 26
  • 27. 2 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 3 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 4 methods . • Cost per interaction in customer support averages $12 via the contact 5 center versus $0.25 via self-service options. (Forrester, 2006 ) 6 • Jupiter Research(now Forrester) reported in 2006 that customers report good experiences in forums more than twice as often as they do via calls or mail. 7 • 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 8 on the Lithium company site , where Cothrel (who aggregated those studies) works, are an excellent resource to learn more about corporate community management. 2 3 4 5 “Managing Support Forums,” The Association of Support Professionals (ASP), 2004 6 “Support transactions according to complexity and cost” (table), Forrester Research, 2006 “Online Support Forums: Evaluating Opportunity for Community-Based Support,” Jupiter Research, June 21, 2006 7 “Do Customer Communities Pay Off?” René Algesheimer and Paul M. Dholakia, Harvard Business Review, Nov. 2006 8 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 27
  • 28. 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 9 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 10 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 are other examples of companies that have generated revenue directly from the communities 11 they’ve built up on Twitter. ReadWriteWeb recently wrote about a Gartner report on four distinct ways that companies are using Twitter in particular. 9 10 11 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 28
  • 29. Build Your Own ROI Case Study Dell’s tracking of Twitter-driven sales is the type of thing that just about 12 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. 13 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 line. “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!” 12 recession/ 13 Left in comments at tips-for-surviving-a-recession/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 29
  • 30. Ongoing Costs 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 14 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 by 33%. Community With It might not be intuitively clear to non-participants that a company and Without 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 consistent engagement. 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 online community. 14 with-real-data/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 30
  • 31. 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 15 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, Michael Mace and the audience will watch and learn.” 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 Development Opportunities 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 16 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 profitable.” 15 16 innovative.aspxReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 31
  • 32. 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 17 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, etc. 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. 17 recession/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 32
  • 33. Business communication trainer Heidi Miller tells an illustrative story about how this works, in an article titled “Social Media Isn’t Marketing - It’s 18 Networking” [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. 18 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 33
  • 34. 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. SECTION HIGHLIGHTS • 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- pectations • 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- formed for • There are established norms for pay (we list them below) If you read one link in this section: Interview with consultant Nancy White Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 34
  • 35. 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 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 ” 1 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 industry. 1 2 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 35
  • 36. If you’re looking for an explicit example of a job description, Connie 2 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 3 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 ways. “ “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) 4 gathers community input for future product and services.” Flickr’s Ten Points to Live By 1. Engage your community. 6. Be patient. 2. Enforce decorum. 7. Hire fans. 3. Take responsibility for failures. 8. Stay calm. 4. Step back and let the community 9. Be flexible but focus on support itself where appropriate. what matters. 5. Give freely. 10. Be visible. 5 From Flickr Community Manager Heather Champ 3 4 5 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 36
  • 37. The Fun Doesn’t Stop Those are some nice job descriptions, but even a list of responsibilities 6 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 hours. 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, 7 “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 people’s! The Online Community Research Network asked hundreds of community managers what the most important factors are in 8 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. Strong moderation/facilitation. 6 7 8 culture/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 37
  • 38. Keeping it In Perspective 9 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 community.” The importance of remembering that no community manager is alone cannot be overstated. As long-time open-source community manager 10 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 11 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. [’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 services.” 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. 9 10 peters/ 11 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 38
  • 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. 12 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. 13 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: 12 13 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 39
  • 40. “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 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 14 3.Microblogging search via search. says there’s some simple and logic to think through when you 4.News search with Yahoo! News compare the conversation going and on online about your competitors 5.Social media search with Friend- to the conversation about your Feed (see own company. feed for example). 6.Google web search RSS (see If the brand has more 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 them, then: Shouldn’t the brand get a head start on its competition? 14 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 40
  • 41. 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 15 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 discuss changes. 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. 15 recession/ 16 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 41
  • 42. The Existential Dilemmas of Community Managers 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 17 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 18 people in this field, asserts that the term “community management” might not be as appropriate as “network facilitation.” She beautifully articulates Nancy White 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. 17 18 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 42
  • 43. “Instead of managing conflict or spammers in a walled community, we are seeking to make connections between people that advance our organization’s learning and goals. That includes between dis- gruntled people and the people who might address that problem, between ideas, links and content to people who might use them, and between communities that exist within the humus of the network garden. “Instead of spawning or archiving threads, we are tagging and re- mixing. Instead of inviting in or kicking out members, we are map- ping the network of relationships, looking for where to respond, and where to catalyze action.” 19 From an earlier interview with White again: “As I get older, sometimes I wonder if the world ‘help’ is actually a very big trap. So I think by helping make things discussable, by convening, holding space for exploration, we can avoid assuming we know what is best, speaking for others where they did not ask to be spoken for, and assuming that anyone WANTS our help. “So maybe here we are more mirrors than candles, eh? Reflecting what we see and seeing if others see the same thing. Then figuring out what’s next.” We really like the way Nancy White puts it, but we recognize it won’t resonate with everyone. A more straightforward way to look at the relationship between a community manager and a company’s users/ customers is well articulated by ClearSpring Developer Community 20 Manager Justin Thorp . “Your users are the lifeblood of your community. You want to treat them like you’d treat guests in your house. Otherwise, like me, they’re going to make their way to the exits and not come back. One of the benefits of the Web 2.0 era we live in is that there are lots of places I could spend my time.” That’s the kind of plain-spoken, utility-based approach that all parties could probably agree with. That’s language that other people in a company could likely hear from a community manager and agree with. 19 20 21 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 43
  • 44. Community Management is Important Work If you’ve already done some work as a community manager or done any advocating for social media inside an organization, you know that convincing unfamiliar co-workers that these tools and strategies are important can be a big challenge. Sonny Gill wrote a good post titled “What 21 Makes A Great Community Manager,” and new community manager Scott Drummond left a very insightful comment about this challenge there. Drummond argues that community managers are an important internal force for openness. “I’d add that I think CMs are also internal organizational advocates for the art of powerful conversation. I see a large part of my (soon-to-be) role as championing not just THE community, but also championing community as a concept in our own business. I drive excitement about embracing transparency and authentic communications among the development team, the C-level, and all areas of the business. I think it’s potentially an issue if the only person embracing conversations in your business is the community manager. Chris Brogan’s excellent post on the scalability of social media and community communications ( matter-of-scale/) and the comments on that post demonstrate that for social media to be successful at scale, partners need to be brought on board from within the organization as well as from within the community.” The first part of that comment in particular is one of our favorite quotes in this whole guide. We suspect that the best community managers are interested in more than just a job: they are hoping to change the world. One of the areas where one has a key opportunity to do that is in the workplace itself. New Approaches Are Needed for a New Workplace In some ways, though, Drummond’s comments above read like a rookie cop talking about joining the force so that he can rescue kittens from trees. With time, it’s easy to get cynical in this business of community. Social media veteran Heidi Miller has published one of the best podcasts on the 22 subject in years. In one blog post she offers a check-list of “tips” on how to mess up social media. It’s sarcastic of course, but also insightful. Here’s a selection of some of our favorite tips from her list. For your more fearful clients who have an inclination to use social media like it’s a spambot, a list:ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 44
  • 45. “How to frak up social media and guarantee it’s a waste of your time” Treat people in your new social networks as prospects, not friends. Make sure that you constantly bombard them with one-way messages about how great your product is. Be in a hurry to show “results.” Forget that “Connections over time equal trust” (--Tara Hunt); insist on showing immediate sales, hits, and click-throughs from your blog, podcast, Twitter, or Facebook page with no concern for building relationships with your friends and participants. Keep it impersonal; sounds like a corporation. Avoid speaking in a human voice; always “regret any inconvenience we may have caused you,” instead of saying “sorry we messed up.” People love to interact with stale, sterile impersonal corporations, right? Be the same. Never change. Keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t bother to differentiate yourself from your competition; just stick with what you know. Never reach out. Be afraid. Let your fear of loss of control of the conversation cause you to treat social media like traditional media. That’s a great list of ways in which people more familiar with older ways of doing business regularly engage with new online communities. Changing the workplace is much easier said than done. Especially in larger organizations, middle management can be a big stumbling block to advancing the use of community tools with the public, internally, and in places where public and company communication intersect. 23 Karen Monks summarizes an eWeek article on the topic nicely as follows: “In short, it suggests they are not comfortable with the tools and can’t see how it benefits their day-to-day operation. They need education on not only how to use the tools but also to see the results that they bring to the business in terms of savings in time, re-use of information, and creation of new unique artifacts. It seems they may be a rather crucial cog in the wheel. If prominent and respected managers in a business are seen to be participating, it sends a signal to users that this is accepted and supported by the business.” 22 time.html 23 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 45
  • 46. Miki Szikszai offers some great advice for tackling this challenge in discussing Monk’s post. It’s similar to advice that many people offer in talking about promoting adoption of social technologies in general, but Szikszai fashions it well to middle managers in particular. “I think part of the issue with middle management and Enterprise 2.0 take-up occurs because of the way the conversation starts. I observe that middle management is quite often recommended ‘We need a blog/wiki/RSS,’ as opposed to ‘ We need to share information better with our colleagues to make everyone’s life easier’. The most sustainable way to make this stick is to take a user-centered design approach: - Observe the middle managers, - Understand what their problems are, - Get them to participate in creating solutions. Involve them so that they are part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem. Any competent middle manager will always recognize that there is value is learning new stuff. And your analogy about middle management being the trunk is a really good one to use with them! The downside of this is that it takes a LOT of time and energy. Upside is that you get a sustainable result.” A community manager’s job is never done. After a full day of dealing with the community at large, you’re probably going to need to tackle an even more obstinate crowd: the reticent folks on your own company’s staff. It may not be necessary to bring everyone along for the ride, but some minimal amount of meaningful participation is essential. Community Management Jobs: Demographics and Pay The Online Community Research Network did a survey last year of 24 225 people holding CM positions . • A majority were female (55%, vs. male, 45%), • The majority (61%) were 31 to 50 years of age. • Most had more than 5 years of experience, completed a Bachelors degree, and worked 41 to 50 hours per week. • Average salary was $81,000, with a median of $72,500. There were peaks on both the low ($0-$25,000) and high ends (more than $150,000), and then also at $60,000 to $65,000. • Women are earning only 91% of what men are earning; women averaged $77,000, and men averaged $85,000. The average annual salary for all participants was almost $81,000. • Most were satisfied with their jobs, with an average satisfaction score of 4.2 and a median score of 4 (on a scale of 1-5).ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 46
  • 47. Community Management: Maybe Marketing, Not Advertising Is community management marketing? Are there marketing benefits that can come from it? What’s the role of customer “engagement” in it all? These are the questions we tackle in this section of our guide. SECTION HIGHLIGHTS • People prefer to be talked with, not too, numbers and anecdotes say so. • Microsoft has done a particularly good job of engaging their most ef- fective users effectively. • You need to be consistently present, both physically and online, with your users. • Don’t spread yourself too thin on too many social media platforms. If you read one link in this section: Dawn Foster’s Communication Issues and Corporate Blogs communication-issues-and-corporate-blogs/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 47
  • 48. There is reason to be cautious when thinking about marketing and 1 community. Church of the Customer invokes survey data to argue for engagement over advertising in online social networks. “ Advertising doesn’t work on social networks...A survey of 500 Americans found that 62% of them prefer direct and personal communication with a company’s online brand 2 ” representative [over] ads or promotional materials. We’re surprised that the preference for personal communication was that low. The point, though, is that most people don’t like being marketed to as much as they like being able to communicate with a company. That’s especially true with existing customers, as tempting as it may be to keep communicating with them in a “marketing voice.” Gaming community pro Sanya M. Weathers puts it well in a long post of venting and advice titled “Community Management Is, In Fact, Not That 3 Hard…” “The secret to making friends out of board warriors [critics in forums], and lasting for more than eight months on the front line, is sincerity. If you can fake sincerity, you belong on the publishing side of the business. You can’t fake it as a community manager. You have to like the people you’re dealing with or you’ll burn out. You have to BE one of the people you’re supporting or you’ll burn out. (And you need support from the company that employs you or you’ll burn out publicly, but that’s another rant.) I never went to a player or press gathering where I didn’t feel like I’d come home. If you don’t feel that buzz, if you don’t see your friends in the people who traveled miles just to talk to you, get out. You don’t have what it takes.” Those are strong words. While it’s ideal, and probably essential in the gam- ing industry, for community marketers to be “one of us” may not be real- istic for all people in all companies. Good solid community skills can be cross-applied from one context to another. 1 2 campaign=rssfeed&utm_source=mc&utm_medium=textlink 3 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 48
  • 49. Fedora Project community manager Max Spevack, for example, does a 4 great job explaining how to win the trust and respect of community mem- bers with more experience in the field that you’re trying to manage than you have yourself. (Spevack’s wisdom is included in our attached list of the best community management podcasts to listen to.) “ “I don’t hate marketing. I hate poorly thought-out, knee- jerk, disco-era marketing perpetuated by people who don’t understand massively multi-player games. Or the Internet. Oh, and I hate hype-based marketing done without consulting anyone who is actually implementing the features.” ” - Sanya M. Weathers Engaging Your Most Active Users Gaming, open-source projects like Fedora and other large online communities present both their own challenges and unique possibilities for problem resolution. Lessons can be learned from large communities that are applicable anywhere, however. Lawrence Liu shares a great story about managing Microsoft’s SharePoint 5 forums in the early days there . Lawrence found out that the “cost Telligent’s Lawrence Liu per incident” each time a customer (formerly Microsoft). problem was dealt with in the forum was about 90% lower than it was for commercial phone support. That’s a great number to know in his case, and similar savings can probably be found anywhere where customer support can be provided online. For one thing, it’s much faster to read someone’s complaints or questions than it is to listen to them on the phone. In order to extend these savings to a greater number of customer interactions, though, Lawrence Liu knew he needed to scale up the number of people available to respond to issues and questions. His approach was two-part and quite interesting. 4 5 forums.aspxReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 49
  • 50. To draw from his own community to expand the ranks of those who could reply to incidents, Liu “leveraged the MVP (or Most Valuable Professional) program, which is funded by our Customer Support Services organization... [That program] provides MVPs with free stuff (worth thousands of dollars), with invaluable opportunities to speak at Microsoft-hosted conferences and to engage with Microsoft product groups during all phases of the product cycle.” With the help of the MVPs, Liu was able to increase the number of forum incidents that the company responded to substantially over a period of three or four months. That’s just the first part of the story. “But as SharePoint continued to gain momentum in the market, even with the MVPs’ help, the number of unanswered questions in the forums far exceeded answered questions. So, with a single report that showed this growing trend over a few months, I was able to convince my management that the problem was getting worse and that we needed to dedicate some support engineers to monitor the forums and answer questions. And the rest, as they say, is history... It was critical that I had leveraged the MVPs prior to asking my management for support resources because I was able to answer, ‘Yes!’ to the question, ‘Are you sure that the real answer rate isn’t higher because many replies of acceptable answer quality to questions simply aren’t marked as answers?’” To summarize Liu’s story: he incentivized community members to help with community management by offering them opportunities for professional development. Then when the company’s community grew, he was able to tell management that there was a trackable group of community members helping with incident response but who could clearly be shown were being overwhelmed. Thus he was able to secure more resources from the company to spend on community management. That’s a success story that we’d guess any community manager would be envious of. Active users are one of your best assets, and you can never learn too much about how to treat them well. In an interview with OnlineJournalismBlog. 6 com , Angela Connor, Managing Editor of User-Generated Content at North Carolina TV station, offers some good advice on interacting with active users “Acknowledge good work,” she says simply. “As a community manager, it is important to make your members feel valued and appreciated. When you come across a great blog, interesting comment, or great photo, send your compliments to the author, and do it publicly on their profile page or directly on the content. 6 of-wralcom/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 50
  • 51. “Remember, you’re the community leader and your opinion matters a great deal. So don’t be stingy with it. Positive reinforcement goes a long way, and it will make that member feel valued and vested. Once that happens, they’re in for the long haul... Ask for help. As the person responsible for the well-being and growth of the community, it’s easy to feel and operate like an island, putting all of that work on your own shoulders. But as the community grows, so does the number of stakeholders. Use them to your advantage. “Contact your top posters and most involved members and ask them to greet and reach out to new members. Ask them to work on a community-driven FAQ. Tell them what kind of content you’d like to see more of and ask them to help you build it. Not everyone will jump right in, but you may be pleasantly surprised by the level of response.” Tips from On Growing Your Community7 Refine your new user registration and content submission processes. User experience makes a huge difference in “conversion” and retention. There should be new content featured prominently on the site every single day. Use other social platforms. Love bloggers. Engage and respect your current users, and don’t forget to directly communicate with them. Advertise (but be frugal and track results). If you can, get some social media vets on board. They can make sure you don’t make any huge mistakes, and they can connect you to the right people. 7 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 51
  • 52. Responding on site to your most active contributors is a good start, but what does it look like to take this to the next level? Andrew Warner, of event organizing consultancy Mixenergy, discusses the very popular 8 podcast Keith and the Girl as a case study and draws the following lessons. “Keith and Chemda don’t have the budget to pay evangelists, but if they see that someone is creating an event around their show, they sometimes surprise them with free Keith and the Girl merchandise to help them... I keep hearing about the importance of in-person meetings when I interview online community Keith and the Girl, photo: organizers. They make a Web-based Michael Nagle community feel real. Keith and Chemda encourage their listeners to organize meet-ups on their forums... They read every single email they get. Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former evangelist, says to build a community, you have to support your ‘thunder lizards,’ your most passionate people. If someone takes the time to write in, they’re signaling that they’re probably a thunder lizard.” Doing The Legwork to Maintain Connections Encourage your fans and community to organize meet-ups themselves? People often say, “Don’t expect your community to come to you; go to where they already are.” ClearSpring Developer Community Manager Justin 9 Thorp takes that thinking a step further and says it’s time to go offline. And not to the usual places. “Visit your users where they’re at. Don’t force them to go to trade shows. If you’re a company and you want to build community with and have relationships with your users, a trade show is the LAST place you should look. Instead of spending lots and lots of money on a booth, go visit your users where they’re at... I’ve been really impressed by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress and founder of Automattic. He travels around the world to WordCamp, the WordPress user conferences.” 8 9 shows/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 52
  • 53. Even if you don’t have a whole forum full of Microsoft SharePoint users, or a sprawling network of bloggers like WordPress does, a small network inside a user community can help deliver value if it’s strengthened enough. Scientists that study networks in general (outside the Internet) say that a network is strongest when its most connected nodes have the highest number of connections to otherwise unconnected points in that network. As a community manager, you can be the most connected node in the network, but some of the most important value will be delivered by some of the least connected members. 10 Matt Rhodes writes on the FreshNetworks blog about building value, cross-network jumps, and the cycle of value that can be built. “When a brand launches an online community it should be thought of as [a place where the brand’s representatives will be] playing a central role in this ecosystem. Of course it’s not just the community manager who does this, as was shown this week. The growth came from the constant and ongoing growth work that the community management team has been doing. But the final push came when another community member picked up on some of this activity and started to talk about our community on another site. We didn’t ask them to do this, they just thought we were offering something of interest to members of a very well-read forum in the UK. The result was immediate and notable. Overnight, our member- ship base increased five-fold, and by the weekend we had a much larger number of members than we might have expected by the end of a full year of the community. And what was perhaps more im- portant was that these new members joined the conversations and discussions on the site. Increasing number of members is fine, but what we really want to do is increase the value of the community to all members. And this only really happens when people take part.” When you get down to the nitty gritty, personal relationships form. Gaming 11 community manager Dan Gray has this particularly helpful advice to offer : ”Never show (or even remotely imply) favoritism. In the long run, fairness and consistency will be valued a lot higher than making exceptions for people. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do people favors. Occasionally going above and beyond to help out a community member with something specific will demonstrate that you do in fact care and aren’t just a glorified PA [public announcement] system for your company.” 10 11 management/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 53
  • 54. This advice concerns the relationship between a community manager and individual members of the community, but sometimes community members 12 just want to be left alone. That’s okay. Francois Gossieaux argues that “active engagement” is not only the wrong metric to use, it is actively detrimental to the health of communities. Another interesting wrong-headed metric-related finding from the study is that a majority of respondents found that ‘getting people to engage’ was one of the biggest obstacles to making a community work. Now if you have a small community, chances are that you could get a fairly high engagement rate. The larger your community becomes, however, the more its profile will resemble that of large public communities: 1% of hardcore contributors, 10% of active users, and 80 to 90% of lurkers. Now does that mean that the lurkers do not get value from your community? In the case of the customer support community, lurkers who do not contribute could still find the help they need and feel better about you than if they had not found it, and they also save you the cost of a call to the call center. So measuring community effectiveness by measuring engagement is just not a representative metric of community success. Now the real issue with all this is that if you have a community development team that is being measured by those wrong-headed metrics, it will invariably develop bad behaviors in order to maximize these metrics. It could in fact develop community features that stand in the way of success for your communities, or close down communities that are in fact doing really well.” 12 community%E2%80%99s-health%E2%80%A6/ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 54
  • 55. Dawn Foster’s Checklist for Company Blogging13 Can you commit to at least one post per week? (2-3 is better) Do you have people who have interesting things to say and with good writing skills? Is someone available to manage the process and make sure that the blog never gets neglected? It is better not to have a blog than to have a blog that hasn’t been updated in months. Have you included disclaimers in the sidebars for blogs that contain opinions and not official statements? Have you trained your bloggers to think about how their posts might be perceived outside the company? Have you considered a very lightweight set of social media guidelines? 13 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 55
  • 56. Let’s Get Social With Our Media When it comes to external community, the community outside your company’s own website, the options can sometimes seem overwhelming. 14 Janetti Chon, community manager at Tech Web, points out that not all tools need to be used in all situations. It’s quite common for people to aim their energy at online communities where their kind of content gets little traction, and that’s a mistake. Being selective is important. Janetti offers multi-step advice, beginning with: Step 1: Audit all of your brand’s current social media tools. Step 2: Streamline and consolidate. - Develop a social media road map. Brainstorm on the tools that you think have most relevance for the communities you serve. - Eliminate the dead weight. Discontinue all the tools/sites/pages that don’t bring you value based on the time it takes to keep them alive. - Keep in mind that too many avenues of ‘social networking’ can dilute your audience, at least in the beginning. Less is more if you are trying to build a really robust online community because this takes time, energy, and fresh content. If you’ve got limited manpower, focus on a few tools/outlets that you can really own. That’s a good way to wrap up our engagement and marketing section: “Less is more if you are trying to build a really robust online community because this takes time, energy, and fresh content.” 14 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 56
  • 57. About Those Barbarians Community is an emotional thing for everyone. People who love community tend to love it a lot, and people who don’t love it suspect it’s made up of a small number of people who love it so much they are out of touch with business realities and a large number of people who are nasty, anonymous trolls. SECTION HIGHLIGHTS • Consistency is important. • Punishment doesn’t have to be your response to misbehavior. • Setting up guidelines ahead of time, for community members and employees, is important. • Those rules can be very loose, sometimes things work better that way If you read one link in this section: Flickr’s George Oates “Community: From Little Things, Big Things Grow” Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 57
  • 58. There is no need to panic when thinking about disruptive community members. They are much smaller in number than you might think, and there are level-headed strategies for dealing with them. There are also practical reasons to consider taking a relatively hands-off approach to dealing with them. It’s a good idea to prepare a working plan for engaging with unhelpful community members so that you bring some consistency to the task. 1 Alison Michalk discusses this well in the following paragraphs: “Define your rules and responses. Communicate effectively. Will you PM [permanently moderate/ delete] members who misbehave? Will you edit part of their post? Will you note it was edited by Mods? Will you remove it in total? Will you put them on post approval, or ban them? Will you tell other members what happened? Alison Michalk “Moderator consistency is key to good community management. Notifying members of rules being broken might be great in the early stages, but is it sustainable? Decide how breaches will be dealt with, and this will save everyone a lot of time to-ing and fro-ing.” “We have trialled periods where we did not notify anyone, and where we have. Both throw up a lot of response and questions. In sum, I think it is most effective to notify the OP [offending party] but not engage in open discussion with other members. If the member wants, they can answer others.” You might have answers to some of these questions at the tip of your tongue, but consider first that there isn’t consensus on the best way to tackle many of these problems. There’s quite a diversity of opinions, in fact. 1 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 58
  • 59. Holding The Horses For example, are hostile community members a serious threat, properly dealt with only by permanent banishment? Not necessarily. Derek Powazek 2 cites the example of wildly popular site, which uses a probationary system to communicate with noxious users. “My experience, and that of friends and colleagues, suggests that the permanent boot should be your nuclear option, only for when all hope is lost. Here are some other things you can try first… We humans are social creatures, and sometimes just knowing that someone is paying attention will result in better behavior... Why not build a probation feature into your community tools? “While on probation, members should be able to read, but not participate. Tell them that they’re on probation and why. Be kind, but firm: ‘We look forward to having you back in a few days.’ “Administrators of MetaFilter can put a member on probation for a day or a week. During this time, they can read, but not post or comment. ‘Most of the time or more, the response is ‘I’m sorry; I’ll cool it. Things have been tough at work,’ says Matt Haughey. And they go on to be great members.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 59
  • 60. Keep Your Feet on the Ground Taking steps like suspending users is pretty heavy duty; there are smaller decisions that have to be made more regularly about the appropriateness of content posted to community sites. It may be small, but content moderation is not something to take lightly. The Distributed Research Wiki 3 offers some common-sense advice that you may not have considered. “React quickly to reported content. One of the keys is how you react to reported content and also your day-to-day moderation. React quickly to reported content and be seen to take it seriously. That doesn’t mean immediately removing it (we know people abuse this feature), but if the guidelines are applied in a fair and consistent manner and actions are visible, then it reinforces the guidelines and the knowledge that there is someone behind the scenes who will react when called on. Make your moderation actions visible if possible either on the site or, if not possible due to the nature of the UGC [user generated content], ensure they know why something’s been removed; e.g. email response, auto-response, note in the submission itself. If content is removed without a user knowing why (or worse, the user is banned), how will they be able to learn ‘better behavior’ in order to be accepted back into that community?” There are a whole lot of ways to handle content and member moderation online, of course. Probably as many as there are people online doing this kind of work. Martin Reed, for example, takes a more masculine approach than we’d advise in an article titled “Never Forget Who is In Charge of Your 4 Online Community ” He writes: “If your members sense you are a weak leader, they will test you and take an increasing number of liberties to see what they can get away with. Abusive members will become increasingly troublesome as soon as they sense a leader who lacks confidence.” Intel has published some of the most lengthy “Social Media Guide- lines” you’ll find anywhere. Check them out at 2 3 4 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 60
  • 61. Let’s Take a Step Back There are alternative approaches. Community management doesn’t have to be about “being in charge.” Long-time community consultant Nancy 5 White offers a check list of questions to ask yourself . We’ve excerpted some of our favorites below. These aren’t really yes or no questions; they are thinking tools. Guidelines, Rules and Governance Is there a need for rules, agreements, or governance for online interaction? Will there be strong and defined rules, or more general and/or casual guidelines? How will you communicate this to members? Will there be problem resolution processes? How will you share that process? If this is a work team, what processes and agreements will you need? Do members have to agree to a “Terms of Service” or other form of agreement before becoming members? Do you feel like you should lay down the law right away, so that people 6 will relate to each other respectfully? Flickr’s George Oates says that in her experience, quite the opposite is the best strategy. It’s about communication, not strict rules. Flickr has long had one of the most successful models of online community, and the company was acquired for a tidy sum, so take what Oates has to say seriously. ”Given fewer rules, people actually behaved in more creative, co-operative, and collaborative (or competitive, as the case may be) ways... At FlickrHQ we never mediate group dynamics: our members must be left to their own devices. Any time you construct specific rules of engagement, they are instantly open to interpretation and circumvention, and we want our members to negotiate their place with each other, not with The Authority. 5 6 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 61
  • 62. Any community -- online or off -- must start slowly and be nurtured. You cannot ‘just add community’... It takes time and people with great communication skills to set the tone and tend the conversation... Take advantage of what we learned: hire a community manager. Or two. You’ll need a clever communicator with a lot of experience being online to help welcome people and provide ongoing support as your community grows.” That’s some of our favorite advice for dealing with the troubles of an online community. Take a deep breath and lead by example. “ Another Perspective: Don’t be afraid to tell users to ‘get lost’ I know that many of my colleagues and peers will disagree with me here, but I believe there can come a time when you, the community manager, have to enforce your guidelines publicly. I am going to go further by saying that you may even have to use someone as an example for all to witness... This is not Romper Room. I cannot spend all of my time vetting personal arguments and rummaging through abuse reports that were submitted out of sheer spite. I will soon stop vetting and start banning. If you want to be here, act like it. If not, go somewhere else. The Internet is huge. Find your niche. It’s out there. ” 7 -Angela Conner 7 Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 62
  • 63. Interviews Community Management at a Major Media Outlet Mathew Ingram is the Communities Editor at the Toronto-based Globe And Mail, Canada’s biggest newspaper. He’s a mainstream media reporter, but he’s got years of experience blogging and using experimental new services, so he has one foot planted firmly in each world. He’s an active participant in conversations on Twitter about international media and technology; you can connect with him at @mathewi. We talked to him on the phone in February 2009. “The transition from one-way to two-way media is not something that newspapers are used to doing,” he told us. “It’s a big change.” “The earliest version of community we had was comments on news stories. For anyone who runs a blog, you take that for granted; but for us, that was a big step. We were the first newspaper to do that in 2005. It crept up for us; there weren’t that many people commenting. Now we’re getting five, six, seven thousand comments a day. On good or bad days we can get up to ten thousand comments. “I like to call that community 1.0 or 1.5, because they all just sit in a big heap at the bottom of the story. It’s like a petri dish of a community; it’s little micro-organisms that could become community. You see people who reply to each other, good and bad commenters who return, people who assist each other. One thing I want to encourage more is writers responding to comments and using comments as a resource. That’s commenting 2.0, I think. “ “Community is great because it makes people feel good, ” democratizes the process, but also delivers value. “One of our writers wrote a story, and the comments pointed out that she only talked to one guy about one aspect of the story. She said ‘I read the comments and thought F*!@ you. I wrote a story. Go write your own.’ But then she admitted it was true, phoned someone else, and updated the story. For me, that’s a gigantic win for us and for readers as well. That’s where the feedback should be.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 63
  • 64. “I’ve also seen a noticeable change in tone in comments and other interactive forums, like As soon as someone from the paper steps in and makes a comment, the whole tone changes. If you just give people a blank wall and a spray paint can, you get a predictable outcome. But as soon as anyone says we should stick to the topic or knock off the personal attacks, it has a noticeable effect. “ “Comments are the base level of interaction. I’ve been thinking of other ways to enhance that. We’ve got live blog, a wiki project, and hopefully we’ve got groups and forums around a ” particular issue. “One of the biggest things we need to do is identify and encourage members of the community who are thoughtful, intelligent, and produce comments of value -- encouraging them to contribute more, elevating what they do and suppressing some of the noise. I’m hoping our new Web publishing system that lets people vote on comments will help with that. I’m trying to think of more ways to use the volunteer fire department principle. Identify key members, ask them to contribute more, and incentivize them. Making their comments look different, giving them a title, giving them different tools. There’s no way we can moderate all these comments every day, and the only way to do it is take advantage of our community. I think a task or a goal helps a community gel.” We asked Mathew whether and why he thought that comments from newspaper readers tended to be longer and more thoughtful. “I would say that we do get a noticeable number of longer, thoughtful comments. I think it’s because we are a newspaper and a big national newspaper; people still try to step up their game a little in comments. They have a national platform, and they think of this as a letter to the editor. “The biggest issue for us is repeat trolls and crazy people. The problem with open forums of any kind is the ‘Call In Radio Show’ phenomenon: the people who have the time to comment are insane, live in their basements, are on a lot of medication, have conspiracy theories they feel compelled to share with everyone. We can’t block based on IP because of other people, but we just can’t block a person. It’s a game of whack-a-mole; I don’t know how to deal with that. Luckily, it’s not a huge problem. The other end is the letter from the lawyers; we have had to do that in a few cases when people were becoming violent and threatening and crazy. Luckily, it hasn’t been a big issue.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 64
  • 65. Does the Globe use Twitter? It sure does. “I have been using it as a way to connect with people and push out features. You can pull Twitter feeds into We did an Oscar one, an Obama visit, covered a shooting in the subway. I was looking for people commenting on Twitter on those topics, pulling in what people say. I’ve retweeted, approved users, or approved with hashtags. There is a surprising number of everyday people on Twitter; the Mayor of Toronto is on it. But something like that for raw information delivery is always going to be valuable. You may be touching only 1% or .1% of the population, but they are reaching ten times that many people.” Ingram’s closing thoughts on the changing media landscape: “Sometimes you do things, like the policy wiki we set up to get people’s input on serious issues, the first issue we got a lot of input on and the second one we got a lot less input on. It’s the ghost-town phenomenon. Or they are talking about what you want them to talk about but someplace else. You can build a cool night club and tell people about it, but if people don’t want to come, if they want to go to an empty warehouse, then that’s what they are going to do. As a big media entity, we used to have the audience; now you have to win over an audience to pay attention to you. I don’t know how to solve that one either.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 65
  • 66. Community Management at a Consumer Company Lucia Willow is the Community Manager for Pandora, a streaming music recommendation service with 25 million registered users. Pandora doesn’t have its own user forum. Lucia communicates with the site’s users by email and across a lot of other social networking services. Twitter has proven the most effective for her. She’s the #1 most- followed Community Manager on Twitter at @Pandora_radio. She talks about her Photo taken by Jane interaction with users and her use of Twitter in Tyska the following interview. “My work is a combination of customer service and marketing communications. Most of it falls on the side of customer service. I’m part of the listener advocate team. We help people get the most out of Pandora. We help people by having an open dialog, sharing stations, but also answering questions people have about Pandora. The marketing follows. If people see that Pandora is responsive to listener feedback, that’s good communication. People find me genuine and not too salesy, and that seems to be part of why they enjoy my Twitter stream. “ “I’ve worked at Pandora for years but the company didn’t ” create a community manager position until a year ago. “When I took that position, I had some goals, like this many followers on Twitter and conversations on Facebook, but I was the only one who cared about that. When something positive happens, I share the information with the rest of the team, and the value of having someone in this role has been pretty obvious. It’s like participating in an online town hall meeting, but with more listening than talking on my part. “Last I heard, we had 25 million registered users. Some listeners I interact with more on Facebook, etc. and some only interact on our blog. I basically go out and find our listeners online and interact with them, answer their questions, and engage them in a dialog. I used to do daily blog searches and comment on the posts that were very positive or very negative. I report back from our listeners and read specific tweets at staff meetings when all 150 of our employees are there. We answer every listener email we receive, even if someone just emailed to say the word ‘thanks.’ We’re very responsive and we’re proud of that. “We regularly get email from people in their 80s and 90s who say the onlyReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 66
  • 67. reason they use the Internet is to use email and Pandora. They will keep conversations going with us and they will send pictures. We’ve got a photo board in our office where we post photos listeners have sent us. We love that stuff, and share it in company meetings. People regularly seek me out from every department and ask me to ‘tell me more about that person. That’s so intriguing that someone would send us their photo.’ We get emails saying, ‘I’m in the hospital with cancer, and Pandora is the only thing that keeps me going.’ That will motivate you to do your job and keep making Pandora better.” On Using Twitter “For me personally, as a community manager, I spend much of my time on Twitter. I get the most bang for my buck there. I’m also on FriendFeed, Facebook, and Myspace, but I find that Twitter has been the best. I didn’t choose Twitter; it chose me. I had been using Twitter personally, and saw that Obama was using the site. On a whim, I created an account for Pandora. It was obvious that we needed to be on Facebook and Myspace, but Twitter was the runaway hit. First thing in the morning, I scan my email, and then I immediately go to and see what people are saying. I’m always impressed with the quality of questions on Twitter. The stereotype is that it’s mostly early adopters on Twitter, but that’s changed a lot. I communicate with Ministers, studio artists, moms at home, older people. There are more people over 50 or 60 on Twitter than people think. “I used to use the Pandora logo as my Twitter icon. I put a fair amount of thought into that decision, but was always open to other opinions. I liked using the logo, as it stood out in the Twitter stream and it was clear who I worked for and what I was going to talk about. One day, two people in a row made jokes about how boring it was. I switched to a picture of me as a lark, and I got a huge response. I was always open about who I was behind the Twitter stream, but when people see a photo, it’s more clear to them that it’s not a faceless company doing the twittering, but rather a human. “ “I got more messages in response to my changing picture than to anything else. People said, ‘It’s nice to meet you. It’s nice to see the person behind the tweets.’ I imagine that when people want to write hateful things about Pandora, it might make them less likely to do so, seeing a photo of the human they’re ” addressing. “I’ve seen a couple of companies using social media only as a way to push messages to people. My approach is different. I’m a human, and I like the interaction. I like it when people make me laugh. I think a lot about keeping my Twitter stream interesting. I intentionally respond to most customer service messages with private direct messages. If it’s a question that a lot of people have, then I answer back publicly with an @ message. I putReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 67
  • 68. my email out there periodically, as a lot of questions take more than 140 characters. “Companies should know that Twitter and other services like that are an excellent early warning system. Most community managers know that by now. If we launch a new feature or ad and people don’t like it, we’ll get emails about it, but Twitter is much faster. If I see several complaints on Twitter, I communicate that to the team right away. Knowing what our audience likes or doesn’t like is very important to us. “In October, when we wanted people to call their Congressional Representatives to help us with the royalty rate situation, using Twitter and FriendFeed was very satisfying. “People retweeted calls to action, and it’s such a fast way to make that happen. I stayed on FriendFeed all hours of the night because people kept having more questions. People spread that information out beyond FriendFeed. When Congressional action happened, I was able to use social media to spread the news much faster than news websites. The Wall Street Journal, for example, doesn’t update up to the minute, and people spread that info around without updates, but I was able to spread our up-to-the- minute info quickly using social media. One thing that should always be kept in mind: you don’t want to cry wolf. You want to use your network in a responsible and respectful way. “If it weren’t for Twitter and FriendFeed, we would not have had as good a response to our representatives. The users on those sites are a quick and smart group.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 68
  • 69. Community Management for Developer Communities Dawn Foster is a widely known online community and marketing consultant. She tends to work in developer-centric communities, especially open-source ones. We asked Dawn to share some experiences she’s had at various companies that were particularly educational. She told us one unhappy story, one story that started out rough but ended up being resolved well, and one story that was happy right from the start. Her stories resonate well with many of the other developer community managers we’ve heard from in the rest of this report. Dawn can be found at her blog, and on Twitter at @GeekyGirlDawn. The Bad Story: The Company That Hated the Community “I was working for a company that had a community where the community and company were at extreme odds. The relationship was honestly adversarial. People at the company were talking about how stupid the community was, and the community was talking about how unhelpful the company was. They brought me in to help with that, but I probably shouldn’t have. The founders and execs were the ones being hostile! “ “What I learned from that is that no amount of community management skills or work will overcome a situation where company executives don’t like the community. Had these execs been more eager to participate, if it had been people lower in the company causing the problems, then that might have ” worked. “I think you see it more in open-source communities because there is an expectation that you will take code from others, but the founders of a company can be arrogant about other people’s code.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 69
  • 70. A Happier Story: Moving Out of Marketing “I was managing a developer community at another company, while working under marketing. The end result of that was that the people I was working with didn’t understand what I did and why certain things I did were important. Developers are a different beast. They are a lot more technical: you have to deal with source code, bug tracking, and other things you don’t have to deal with in a consumer community. I talked to other people in the company and ended up working under the CTO instead. He understood developers and understood that community work better than marketing ever would. “If you’re talking about a product community, then marketing could be a good fit. Developer communities belong under the technical part of the company. It’s important to look at the goals of the community and put it in the right place, not just put it under marketing. If you treat community management as marketing, you don’t end up with a strong community.” The Happiest Story: Starting From Scratch “The best experience I’ve had as a community manager has been building a brand new community from scratch. That was at Jive. The Clearspace community was new. They wanted a developer community built with the platform.” “ “That was a phenomenal experience, to build from scratch and see it launch quickly. The product was in beta in May. Then we launched the community in July. So many times you’re ” brought in after the community has been defined. “The first thing I did was a lot of content development, including a regular video podcast series, regular developer blog posts by me and others. Having a really heavy focus on content provided by the company worked well for a developer community. We did a lot of developer training-type content. Monthly newsletters worked really well; we featured the things going on in the community and sent it out to all subscribers. “Initially, not having content made us invisible in search engines. But by putting how-to content up, people tend to find you a lot more easily. It’s helpful in getting people up to speed too, since we were asking people to make plugins, etc. Along with a lot of documentation, all of this worked a lot better than just answering questions in forums. There was one person whose full-time job was to write technical documentation for products, and I turned a lot of that into blog posts.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 70
  • 71. B2B Community Management When you say online community management, one of the first names that comes to mind these days for many people is Connie Bensen. Connie is a prolific blogger on the subject and has worked at a wide variety of companies. Most recently she’s become the community manager at Techriggy, a B2B company that sells social media monitoring software. You can find Connie on her personal blog at or on Twitter at @CBensen. Connie started our interview with a horror story about a relationship between management and a community gone wrong. “With my very first community manager position, one of the first things we did was switch the customer forum from one technology platform to another. We were using PHPbb and we switched to BBPress. PHPbb was a little archaic, but it served the customers, so it was fine. Customers were 40- to 50-year-old males so they didn’t need all the flash, and it was comfortable. “The decision was made to switch to BBPress for the wrong reasons. The reviews of BBPress said it was in Alpha. I asked specifically, Can you migrate the users and their profile information, and the management said, ‘That doesn’t matter.’ “ “I have a post recently about being a change agent, and people have commented that I need to be careful and not lose my job. But to that I’ve said, ‘The quickest way to lose a community manager is to quit listening to them. In that case, they never ” listened to the community. “There was so much unhappiness: the community kept asking for the other system back. They even said, ‘You took our smilies away!’ This customer segment of men missed their smilies. The moral is that you need to be cognizant of the needs of the community; it’s not a case of going for the shiny object. In this case, the designer liked to work in that platform. I’m not sure if companies realize how much of an impact they have. They need to remember that customers are #1. My philosophy is that if you build a site, you have an obligation to be present. If you create a presence, you have an obligation to be present.”ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 71
  • 72. Next, Connie shared some thoughts about the relationship between community management and sales and marketing. She articulates well the leading school of thought among some of the smartest social media marketers, though she’s resistant to lump community management in with marketing in general. “Right now, I’m in B2B. I truly believe that if you provide resources and information, then a sale will happen by nature of that relationship. “ “As a community manager, it’s as much my work to train my co-workers internally about this, because they come from a traditional sales world. That’s the change agent thing: you have to gently and continually remind people about the ” importance of sharing resources and information. “At Techrigy, one of our sales guys came in and said, ‘I’m going to have a crisp message.’ And I said, ‘No, you’re not.’ He was very skeptical of Twitter, and now he loves it. He loves talking about his music. It’s a lifestyle thing; it’s about being real. He’s also amazed though by what a lead-generation source Twitter is. For us, Twitter is a portal. We could be buying AdSense, but the key for us is that people need to have achieved a certain skill set before they are ready for social media monitoring. If they’ve gotten comfortable using Twitter then they are ready for the next step. My sales person is also building relationships with potential customers, making friends. Last Friday night, after we got written up on TechCrunch, it was really harried and I wrote, ‘I am going out to grab some dinner,’ and a customer who I promised something over the weekend freaked out and called my sales guy. “Most companies are not set up internally to talk to customers on this level. “They aren’t set up to scale it, and they don’t have the IT infrastructure. Cultural change is where the communities come into place. The companies that have access to Forrester and have support from Jeremiah, that’s fabulous. The smaller companies that are able to bridge this gap will go light years ahead really quickly. The Web has leveled the playing field between small business and corporate.” What does all of this look like in the long run? A very different business environment. We’re very transparent with our product. So many of our competitors are proprietary. As people sign up with us, they provide us with some information. Over a period of time, I saw one certain company, and I reached out to the community manager, and they said, “Oh, we have a system internally.” They said, “We have a list of tools here.” When we connected, we had a really great talk. It was two community managersReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 72
  • 73. meeting and saying, “How can I help you?” That’s the future that I see. The community people are the evangelists, the advocates, the people in the public creating these partnerships, these relationships, ranging from customer support all the way up to business partnerships, especially in the B2B world. My prediction is that it will change the face of how B2B is going to look. I saw a competitor do a traditional email push campaign recently, and I found out about it because people were complaining about the email blast on Twitter! If we’re going to be on the edge, we need to be careful to practice what we preach.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 73
  • 74. Additional Resources The Best Community Management Podcasts to Listen To We’ve listened to piles of podcasts about community management, and these are the three you don’t want to miss: HiveLive’s interview with Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang (12 mins) A great big-picture look at the present and possible future of community management. Focuses on numbers and big companies. Transcript also available via the same link. Fashion PR Interview: Jaclyn Johnson, Community Manager at Pronto. dom (45 mins) Jaclyn-Johnson-Community-Manager-at-Prontodom Exuberant young women excited about fashion blogging, but lots of great information and perspective about community management at a growing retail website. Fedora’s Max Spevack chat’s about Community Management (22 mins) Great conversation about building credibility in a large open-source developer community as a less technically experienced community manager. The first few minutes are very specific to the Fedora community, but after that the conversation turns to information that anyone will find valuable. Online Communities for Community Managers The Community Manager, Advocate, and Evangelist Group on Facebook Nearly 2600 members, administered by Sascha A. Carlin, Connie Benson, and Jeremiah Owyang. “Twitter Pack” of Community Managers on Twitter (large list) Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 74
  • 75. Events The Community 2.0 Conference A well attended conference with big names. Shares good resources on Twitter as well at Five sessions from the 2008 conference are archived and viewable at Online Communities UnConference East An event held annually. The 2008 sessions were well documented in a wiki linked to above. Session notes and participants may be of value to readers.ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 75