I am pleased to be back for my sixth Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Here is a link to a summary of last year’s notes. This is another of my notes for this year. There will be more to follow. I attended session - The Iceberg Effect of Community Management led by Rachel Happe, Principal, The Community Roundtable and Jason Quesada, Digital Media Marketing Manager, UBM TechWeb. Here is the session description:
“Do you know what community managers really do? You may think they sit at their desks and chat online all day, and while that is definitely a part of it, community management is more than just tweets, likes, and pings. In many ways, what people see the community manager doing is just the tip of the iceberg. A big part of the job includes back channeling, internal evangelism, making connections, researching, tool management, measurement, collaborating with colleagues and conflict resolution. In this session, Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable and Jason Quesada of UBM TechWeb will take you through the discipline of community management - sharing how to think about a community, why community management is important and why communities just don't manage themselves.”
Rachel began by discussing the iceberg effect of community management as much of the work of community managers is not visible. She defined a community as a group of people with unique shared values, behaviors, and artifacts. Jason manages a community that is focused on innovation revenue about their business of managing events. Community management is a different way of working. It requires people to opt into to their participation. Rachel asked for a show of hands and about half of the audience are community managers, equally balanced between internal and external communities.
Community management is a tighter interlinking of people with a shared purpose. Social media is more hub and spoke while community management is more like an interlinking web. Communities take a while to form and thus provide a benefit. Other initiatives usually show benefits sooner than communities because the effects take a while to appear. So sometimes they seem a failure before they seem a success.
Communities mature and change. There is a lot of unfinished work but once you get the behavior change, a lot of energy can be developed. So growth and benefits can lag and then spike. She showed the Community Roundtable community maturity model (see State of Community Management 2011).
Community Management is the task of managing successful communities. Jason said the online community management involves a lot of content curation and being a connector between participants. People participate in communities if they get more value than they give. So you have to work hard to provide this value. This leads to the iceberg effect. So much of the initial work is evangelizing the community and this involves a lot of back channel work. Peer influence is much greater that authority management. So you are trying to organize peer pressure to get what you want. If you can effectively do this you get people on your side.
Some community managers create content and others elicit it. Be careful to not shut down conversation by being too present. Jason said he does many things all day. He curates content. He checks industry related news for things of interest to his community to generate conversations. He checks to see if there are any unanswered questions. He does a lot of promotion and giving recognition to encourage participation. Also, he tries to meet face to face where possible to establish a connection. Jason said when setting up a meeting, always include free donuts.
Rachel discussed the biggest risks of not having community management. One is a ghost town where no is talking. Once Jason started managing the community there was a huge spike in engagement and contribution. Another risk is too much disconnected content and conversation. Jason created a directory where people can find other colleagues with similar interests. This can focus conversations more along common interests. Jason also said to delete stuff that is to being used and it will clear clutter.
Also you can get drama central where some people just talk for the sake of it. There is also the circling storm where a potential problem is not attended to and it can become a crisis. Listen and respond to potential issues before they can become a storm. There so can be a situation where cliques form that creates a social barrier to others to contribute.
So what makes a good community manager? Skills needed include: good communication, ability to match brand’s personality, understanding of human motivation and use this understanding for constructive purposes. You also need to be able to resolve conflicts. You need to have good judgment, empathy, adaptability, and self-awareness. Jason added that you need to have a sense of humor and love what you do.
Rachel discussed how to build a thriving community. Communities change and grow and you need to adapt to this and experiment. Sometimes ideas do not work at first but later work. You need to understand your community members. Jason looks at the usage reports and sees which people are contributing and thanks them and looks at those that are not and asks how can I help you get involved.
There needs to be good new content daily if you want people to come on a daily basis. A regular weekly reports or tips can cause anticipation and engagement. Be sure to be welcoming to get people engaged in the first week. Then they are more likely to stay involved. Jason said that his firm does a weekly welcome of new employees, who they are, what they like. Rachel added: give new people things to do right away. Provide a guide. Be a connector. Foster conversation Jason mentioned a conversation he helped start in the community and innovation that spread globally. Rachel said the manager can post things for other members that might be shy.
Be sure to teach the communities. Communities are about learning at their core. Jason said to do not call them training sessions because people will be passive. Offer rewards and these rewards can come in a variety of ways. Jason said you get points for creating content and answering questions in his systems. They have levels of participation and encourage people to rise up the levels.
Be sure to have rules. Encourage people who are passionate. Jason creates a task force for these people and even lets them run the community for a short period. Be sure to stay on the topics of interest and expand on them rather than introducing off-topic content. Be sure content is related to the hot topics. Be sure to not ignore concerns. You need to at least acknowledge concerns.
Be multi-modal in your content to address they different ways people learn. Experiment here. Jason uses a lot of video, as his community likes the visuals. Pictures are also used a lot. Protect the community from disruption from people who want to take advantage of the community. Lastly, be human and have some fun and try new things.