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The Iceberg Effect of Community Management

the-iceberg-effectStarting The Community Roundtable has been a great way to understand better the day to day issues of community managers in a wide array of
organizations. There are a few things that come up somewhat regularly:

  • Community managers are under pressure to justify what they do to peers and bosses that don’t really see or understand what tasks make up their day.
  • Some community managers are dealing with the challenge of inspiring participants to author only to see them become unmotivated when they don’t receive any comments or activity on their content.
  • Almost all the community managers we talk to struggle with ways to maintain or increase engagement.

One thing that more experienced community managers know – and will typically be learned over time by anyone in the role – is that the visible activity of a community is only a very small part of the overall activity of a community. There are a huge number of things that happen in the background, between two individuals, or behind a wall. While over time, this background activity is done by many in the community it typically falls heavily on the community manager during the development and growth phases and include all of the following tasks:

  • Back-channeling: Encouraging participants privately to post, comment, and participate.
  • Event planning and orchestration: Ensuring that events are successful by getting commitment from the influencers within the community that will bring along everyone else and make for a successful event.
  • Posting event documentation and recaps to extend the value of the event and include more members.
  • Sending community activity and content to members that have a specific interest in the topic to ensure the members with something of value to add see it.
  • Drafting content, discussions, and ideas so that it is easy for members to contribute or share.
  • Creating or re-publishing content into different modalities – text, pictures, audio, & video.
  • Building relationships with key members of the community to maintain an ‘ear to the ground’ of what is really going on.
  • Intercepting or interceding with members who are acting inappropriately.
  • Evangelizing within the sponsoring organization to generate more involvement and/or gain support.
  • Gathering and reporting on activity and results.
  • Helping to translate and negotiate between organizational and community needs.
  • Monitoring discussions and content.
  • Brainstorming on activity, content, and ideas that keep community members interested.
  • Working with colleagues to build programming that is valuable to them and the community members.

I’m sure there are quite a few more activities that I’m forgetting (please feel free to add any I missed) but the point is this: If you are just looking at public community activity, you are likely seeing a very small percentage of what is actually going on.

This dynamic is critical to keep in mind when thinking about resources and investment needed to manage a community. What may look like a ‘part-time’ responsibility likely requires much more than that if you want to successfully drive member engagement and growth.  Once a community is more mature and community leaders emerge and take over some of these tasks, the percentage of a community manager’s job likely shifts to less back-channeling and evangelism to more time spent working with community leaders and programming. What you see in a successful online community is really only the tip of the iceberg.

How do you think about, prioritize, and articulate your ‘hidden’ work?


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