Behind every successful community, you'll find an uberchampion of that community, an instigator of conversations, and a catalyst for change. While you need many different types of participants to make a community successful, the one that is often overlooked--and yet paramount to the success of the community--is the community manager.
The community manager, whom I have often found myself referring to as the "host of the party," is the one person whose job it is to make that community a success. I'd be a fool to say a community manager can do it all on his or her own. But at the end of the day, the success or failure of the community falls squarely on the shoulders of the community manager. He or she is the one person whose job it is to increase awareness, facilitate adoption, keep the conversations moving, and develop the training, policies, best practices, and escalation paths for any and all of the unforeseen situations that can arise in a community.
Community managers are ultimately responsible for monitoring the community, measuring its success, and taking any corrective actions needed to ensure its continued success. Did I mention that they often do all of this in addition to other tasks because many companies don't see the value in dedicating someone full-time to this essential function?
From a practical standpoint, the most important question is: What makes a community manager successful? What is this person supposed to accomplish to keep everyone in the community happy, as well as the management chain? How is a community manager supposed to keep conversations active and the community engaged, all the while typically also serving as the marketing agency for the community, the help desk, and the training guru?
It's actually a very simple answer. The most important thing community managers can do to be successful is to be there. Community managers' greatest weapons are the relationships they build, the connections they make, and the advocates they empower through engagement with and collaboration in the very communities they manage.
Be there to engage in conversations, and be comfortable enough to start them when none exist. Be there to participate in conversations that are already taking place. Be there to treat your community members as your advisory board as you actively solicit their feedback to understand--from their perspective–what's working and what's not. Be there to listen to your community, even when its members don't approach you directly, to understand what it believes it needs to be successful, and then be strong enough to take corrective action and change your roadmap to help the community achieve those milestones. Be there to understand who your biggest advocates and evangelists are for the community and enable them to help you with all of the tasks on your plate, including awareness, advocacy, conversations, best practices, training, and help desk.
Do all of this, and I guarantee you will be there to celebrate the successes that are just around the corner.
Jamie is Vice President of Social Media at AMP Agency, the leader in inspiring brands with integrated digital and experiential marketing, where she leads the development and execution of strategic social media solutions for clients across a range of digital and social channels. Jamie is a founder and member of the Board of Directors of the Community BackChannel, a community for and by community professionals. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Social Media Club, Boston Chapter and the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. You can connect with her online at her blog, Social Media Musings, or via Twitter @JamiePappas.
The views expressed in this column are Jamie's alone, and do not reflect the thoughts, intentions, plans, or strategies of her employer.