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Guide to Online Community Management


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Guide to Online Community Management

  1. 1. The ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management Edited By Marshall Kirkpatrick May 2009ReadWriteWeb Premium Guide to Online Community Management page 1
  2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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