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Want a Successful Community? Learn to Make Risotto!

Okay, you don’t really have to know how to cook.  But it may help in this case.

Last week at Enterprise 2.0 Rachel Happe mentioned that community management is like making risotto.  She wrote about this a few years ago and I like her take but I think you can also expand on it a bit:

You need a special ingredient to make it work.
Using arborio rice is key, another kind of rice will not work.

The same is true in Community Management.  Not just any person can make a good community manager there are some characteristics that are pretty important.  Also, not anyone in the world is the right fit to become a member of your community.  You need to know who you are targeting and build a community that works for them.

At first it doesn’t look like much
In the beginning there is crunchy rice being drowned in chicken stock it is hard to believe it will become the creamy final product.

In the beginning it is hard for many to see what a community will be once it is more mature.  There may be lots of activity but not as many success factors to point to for higher ups.   The end results do not come quickly or without effort…but it is worth it.  

You need to mix the ingredients together again and again.
Just  putting them all in the pot and hoping something good comes out will not work

Community managers know there is lots of work on the back end to make the community come together nicely.  They welcome members, they introduce members who can help each other to one another, they ask questions and listen to the answers and often act on them to stir things up a bit.

Adding ingredients bit by bit is key
How much stock does one use in making risotto?  There is no hard & fast rule and often it changes.

How many events should you have?  How often should you ask your membership to weigh in on a topic? How many expert speakers should be brought in?  When should your community split into sub-groups?  There are no hard and fast rules to these questions.  Each community is different and honestly each day is different.  What works for a community one day may absolutely fail the next and what has failed previously may become extremely successful as the community matures.

Too much mixing is too much…and not enough is not enough
Those who make risotto often know that there is an art to knowing when to stir more and when to leave the ingredients alone

The same is true in Community Management.  A good community manager knows when to step in and when to let the community take the lead.  They know that solving every issue is not a good idea but they also know that leaving the community alone to solve issues on their own could lead to problems.  They carefully choose when to step in and when to let the discussion go on unmoderated.  Much like with making risotto, the more experience they have doing so, they better feel they have for what mix is right.

We hope this post has made you just hungry enough to be a better community manager and risotto maker.  What do you think?  Is community management like making risotto and how do you know when you are doing too much – or too little?

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