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Leveraging Community Management (CS Forum 2013)

Speaking on a subject that I, personally, have trouble understanding, Misty Weaver delivered a rousing call to embrace people’s passions -to help them get the most out of what they love – thereby knitting together a community that will turn to you also as a supplier of choice.


We hear constantly about community, especially as an empowerment of business: engage your community, the rallying cry goes. But what is this community, and how can one truly harness it. Given human nature, a community needs a guiding hand; it needs to be managed. Otherwise, its dynamic nature will result in it evolving away from being “your” community. Management implies some for of order.

There are many activities businesses think initially will help them manage their community, in the misguided belief that they are somehow dealing with people who do not conform to human nature. Specifically:

  • Your organisational structure makes no sense to your community – don’t even think of exposing it (let alone mapping to it).
  • Pitching does not build a community.
  • Interns, those so low within your hierarchy as not to even really be a part of the organisation, do not have the authority to respond to a community’s needs.

In order to get value from your community – to turn them into loyal customers and fans – you need to go to your community. Understand the environment that your client base lives in, how they think, what your products and services mean to them, why they are of value. Communicate on that level. If your role is simply to sell to them, they are not your community; if your role is to empower whatever activity your products are used for…

That is where your community is built: on the fringes of the business itself, by engaging with people’s passions. (Just don’t try it if you aren’t committed on following through; the backlash will hurt more than doing nothing.)

In order to build such a community, you need people who are empowered – who have the authority to make decisions that will encourage the community’s development; who can choose and use the tools most appropriate to the specific audience. These people need to have great empathy, and wide-ranging awareness: a community is a fickle as a herd of cats, but can be choreographed, creating a breathtaking performance.

Raw notes:

  • Community management: it’s about bringing some sort of order to the community. Even if the order is back-end.
  • Community is open, nebulous.
  • To the outside world, your internal top-down hierarchy looks like Escher.
  • Community management that looks like a pitch is not perceived as a such by the community. Counter-productive.
  • Community management that is broadcast by an intern is not about the community.
  • Real community management helps support all the functionality that it isn’t. It’s relationship building/nurturing.
  • Community management learns about what’s going on in your community. It communicates; responds.
  • Business goals and community management: do you have the resources/commitment to follow-through?
  • Use community management to listen to your audience, to find where you have a value match.
  • We are not competing in life with our competitors. We are competing for our audience’s attention.
  • Go where your customers are. Mentally.
  • Your competitors are part of your audience, of your community.
  • Content inventory is about content awareness… what, how much, and lay your hands on it instantly.
  • Community managers (by title) are at the bottom of the totem pole. In hierarchical orgs, people only listen up. Bad
  • Community management is like cat herding. But at least they know where all the cats are!
  • Until you know your audience/community, you cannot know your (appropriate) tools.
  • Getting a good community manage is like moving from a cruise director, to a choreographer.
  • Think about communication as the difference between windows and doors. Doors make for communication.

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