The third phase of Community Management

The role of a community manager is shifting again. What we did last year, we do not do today.

Technology is evolving to allow us to connect faster, to make an expression quicker.

Connection is seamless; our mobile phones, laptops, iPads and myriad of other devices mean access to information follows us throughout our day, and night.

We no longer power up the laptop and then go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea while the computer loads. You don’t log in to twitter, and then water your cactus while you wait. In fact, you can do both at the same time. Having a mobile in our pockets has effectively become our remote control for life. Constantly. When was the last time you turned your mobile off?

What I find interesting about this is that we’ve now come to expect all of this across all of our life.

We expect to be connected all the time. We expect to be interacting all the time, we expect these ‘systems of engagement’ to follow us into every part of our life.

So, as a community manager for an organisation, this presents both an opportunity and a challenge.

A new opportunity arises: the internal social network.

What happens when these systems of engagement enter our workplace? I think it’s one of the really interesting spaces we are working in with Yammer. For a community manager it’s often the other side of the fence; the window not only into what your customer community is doing, but what your colleagues are doing.

If you are out at the online frontlines with customers, listening and responding, an internal company social network quickens the feedback loop, tying together what a customer is saying about you externally to an internal discussion about the customer.

Without an efficient system, this feedback loop is the cause of most heartbreak for community managers, often a botched together system which worringly is also the point to prove out the ROI of a role like this.

A system to improve how social insight is distributed into a company?Revolutionary.

While technology like Yammer is available, the process and people need to follow suit if we are to really move the dial and affect change.

It’s a current cringe for many a CM to be relegated to some obscure, dark corner of the office. Even if a company knows they need social, they still don’t know why.

The challenge: knead yourself into the fabric of the organisation.

As a community manager with the online engagement nous, you have the unique opportunity to influence the direction of your company as they try to adapt to a new world of seamless connectivity. The biggest challenge for you in putting those wheels in motion is the perceptions and positioning of what your role, social media and community mean to your organisation.

You should no longer be considered “the social media guy” that people will throw anything online-related at you – we don’t take our tax return to the finance team to complete so why should a colleague ask you to install Facebook on their iPhone? Your CEO shouldn’t consider you the “pizza person, who we slip a slice of pizza to under the door every now and then”. You should be visible, intertwined with the organisation and offering your knowledge to replicate the customer engagement experience you have throughout the company. Yammer goes a way to facilitate that, but it needs a community manager to take the steering wheel and drive it.

Ensure that the amazing efforts you are delivering in online communities are mirrored in the other customer service channels of your company, or – like Comcast who despite a legendary Twitter service still remain in the 19th Most Hated Companies in America – nothing will really change. As a starting point, make sure the entire digital experience is consistent, not just the community avenue you may be managing, but your website and any company touchpoint.

For a CM to survive, you are going to need to ensure there are underlying roots of people and business systems that understand social as a business asset, to support the branches you are extending to customers.

At present, you are the conduit between corporate and consumer walls. Make sure you are working at the right level to affect change.

It’s time to step up Community Managers. Take the opportunity, rise to the challenge.

this was mostly collected from my learnings and presenting at the amazing Online Community Management Conference, SwarmSydney last week –

3 thoughts on “The third phase of Community Management

  1. Great post! I am a huge believer of having “down times” I switch my mobile phone and spend quality time with my kids, this also teaches them how to communicate effectively and that there is a time and place for everything.
    Feedback is such an important part of our business and learning path. Your loop expresses concisely how this needs to work for many businesses and the link between the internal and external (hand in hand instead of two separate things).
    You were right Bryony great reading for Sunday with my coffee getting now cold!
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes, integrating the inward facing and outward facing social tools is not only logical, it also creates a learning environment within the culture of the organisation. Implementing an enterprise social network creates a safe place for employees to engage and share openly, exchanging information and learning how these online communities work – just like those in the real world. So then the community manager doesn’t get relegated to the dark room and fed pizza, but is respected for facilitating the engagement with the most important people – the ones who pay the bills – the customers.

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