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Community Is A Management Approach, Not Just a Role

HerdingThe way we currently think about community management – for the most part – is a role played by someone managing a set of relationships often mediated by an online destination.  One of the reasons Jim and I started The Community Roundtable is that we saw it emerging as a career path for many and that some of the most interesting work in community management was being done by mid-level executives who were thinking about how to restructure business operations to become more community-driven.

Over the last nine months working with and speaking with a wide array of individuals who are practicing community management it has become apparent that community management is not only an explicit role or career but also a general approach to management.  This came up in an early discussion with David Alston which resulted in a bit of exploration about what defines a community manager. Jim has taken the stance that ‘everyone is a community manager’ which has led to some spirited conversations and personal explorations at #TheCRLive lunches. Ultimately what we’ve found is that community management can be a discrete role and that role is an important one if an organization has a defined community approach.  Someone has to ensure that the needs of each constituent group is balanced, engagement is encouraged, community members know the scope and guidelines of the community, a programming plan is in place, and community information gets addressed by the right people.

However, for functional managers and leaders who want to use social tools and processes to accomplish their goals, community management is more than the tactical details of community management – it is a management approach and discipline that weaves an interactive element into everything they do because that allows them to execute better, faster, or more cheaply.   This is ultimately the purpose of our Community Maturity Model – to guide the management practices of organizations to adapt to this new real-time interactive approach to business processes. The discipline of community management at the tactical level is just one element of becoming a community-oriented organization.

Are you an executive looking for what a ‘social’ approach means in terms of a leadership, cultural, strategic, measurement, programming, or tools perspective? You are likely looking to build your community management skills – even if that is not exactly how you think about it. What are you likely to gain?

  • A better understanding of how to incorporate real-time conversation into traditional workflows in order to improve communications, expectation-setting, quality, and adoption of a business process.
  • An ability to see the systemic effects of your position in a network and knowledge about how to strategically improve that position and with it outcomes.
  • A persuasive approach to business outcomes such as inbound marketing that lowers costs, reduces cycle time, and increases satisfaction.
  • A better understanding and sensitivity to the needs of your constituents – whether they are employees, customers, peers, vendors, or partners.
  • A more social approach to management and negotiation that allows everyone to win and thus become advocates for your position.
  • Better understanding of your risks and opportunities because of better intelligence – created from an open and discursive culture across employee and customer groups.
  • Methods of looking at and tracking not just the last touch point before a business outcome but the behavior paths that drive business outcomes.
  • Familiarity with the different tools that can be used to manage communities and how/why different tools optimize for different business outcomes.
  • Understanding of the role of the community manager – what they do and the value they bring.
  • The role of information/content development and distribution in a network and ultimately how to reduce the cost of content development and management.

Community approaches can be used effectively for many business processes, particularly those that rely heavily on information, content, and relationships. However, community dynamics are fairly different than traditional operational dynamics so planning, investment, and organizational structures needed to adapt to really take advantage of its benefits. While we typically recommend that the metrics used to measure business outcomes today be the same as the ones used to measure performance in a community-oriented approach, the cycle time and investment/return profile look different. That dynamic is critical to understand as business processes become more social.  A better understanding of community dynamics is a great place to start.

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