Resist the temptation to just point fingers at your software vendor. The hard work of community management falls on your organization.
These new software tools make it easy for members to share ideas and opinions. Sometimes, it's too easy. While conversations and debates make for a vibrant community, community managers must also ensure that debates are healthy, respectful, and professional. They must enforce the rules and social norms, intervening at the right moments with the right responses. It's critical for the community manager to know when to guide a conversation elsewhere, ban a member, delete a post, or just ignore a thread. (Yes, sometimes there's an ROI: return on ignoring.)
Listener and Moderator
The community manager must not only listen, but also participate in the community at the right level, taking care not to over-engage (no, the community manager is not the community "rock star") or under-engage (the community manager can't be in hiding). If a community manager over-engages, he or she risks shutting down voices or leaving members with a sense that they have nothing to offer. But if a community manager is absent, the members may feel they're not being heard. Your members will expect you to answer questions, notice what's going on, and be a connector of people and resources within the community.
A community manager must celebrate the success of members, rewarding and encouraging engagement. And the manager must also be a member advocate, representing the wishes and sentiment of the community back to the company.
Community managers also need to be the "voice of the company" at the right moments, or bring in someone who can be. Members expect the company to listen to their conversations and concerns. Customer members will return open, fair, and honest communication with patience and brand preference/loyalty.
Nurturer of Brand Champions
The community manager needs to know how to encourage and reward community champions as they emerge. These champions can be an extra set of hands in the community, welcoming other members, answering questions, and providing general support. In addition, they can be powerful brand voices.
Someone Who Measures, Analyzes, Adjusts, Rinses, Repeats
The community manager must use a variety of measurement tools to gather member opinions, track community activity/trend metrics, and monitor community sentiment. It's important to analyze the results, adjust the community strategy appropriately, and continue to do this over time to keep the community vibrant and healthy.
What do you think? What other roles do you play in your community? Do you have examples you can share? Please share them using the comments section below.
Claire Flanagan is a director of knowledge management and enterprise social collaboration and community strategy in CSC's Office of Innovation. Follow her on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are Claire's and do not reflect the views of her employer, nor do they reflect her employer's intentions, plans, or strategies.
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