Sean Moffitt is the author of “Wikibrands – Reinventing Your Business in a Customer-Controlled Marketplace” and this post is an advance preview of his Wikibrands February-March 59 Day, 59 City, North American Blog Tour celebrating the launch of his book, termed “a seminal book for business” by Don Tapscott. A chapter highlight summary of the book is available on wiki-brands.com. You can connect with the authors on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Having known Kate for awhile, I knew the standard for my guest post must be high to preview in advance of our virtual book tour. In Wikibrands, we cover off how the very best businesses and brands wake up each morning and put their “social, collaborative” pants on. Kate has always been a big advocate for communities, so I’d like this guest post to focus on Chapter 13 – Community Management – How to Build a Brand Garden not a Ghost Town.
For anybody that has ever tried to get an online community to develop and incubate itself to adulthood, you certainly realize if not before, then certainly after, that it’s as much a function of “sweat equity” as it is “technology genius” or “strategic savvy”. To maintain a thriving customer-centric Wikibrand, the concept of community management is likely the top motivation for keeping the pulse alive after the initial shallow love and novelty is gone.
Congratulations to all that play that role today, perhaps less celebrated than other bank holidays, it’s International Community Manager Day today [ed - it was actually yesterday, January 24, this was posted a day late] and these people earn their well-deserved props.
Community managers customarily wield their alchemy of communication skills, service mentality and conscience for the customer with aplomb and are the lifeblood of brands in socialized environments. Whereas the technology industry was quick to jump on hiring for these roles, the other segments of industry have been slower to embrace (in fact one of our book’s interviews with a community manager seemed to indicate downright contempt internally for the transparent and highly public profile and influence the community manager wielded).
A natural company reaction attempting a “toe in the water” Wikibrand experience - why can’t we just make “social” the Friday afternoon of an existing employee’s job or the domain of the new and enthusiastic intern?
Hmmm….how do I answer this delicately?
You are starving the top growth channel in one of the top business assets you own!
First of all, the role is damn tough. We’ve identified a list of 15 roles in Wikibrands that effective community managers play in evolved companies, that both time and experience-wise would leave poorer companies exposed if left as a hobby job activity. The demands are real and the skills of a corporate social convenor traverse the customer, brand and business operations landscape.
The other big reason is that this role is increasingly imperative to be filled in order to get past the superficial launch of a Branded Facebook page and get to the higher order benefits from building a real community. Wikibrands identifies the 5 tough and corporate calorie-consuming challenges to building true community – how to get people engaged, how to find enough time to support the effort, how to attract people to the community, how to get them to come back and how to get people to commit to join. Each one of them are individually tough tasks; put together they require a Mensa of Social.
Whether it’s a popular business, media or brand, we all know people that excel at these roles. I personally think of Frank Eliason who handles customer critique deftly at Comcast, or Amber Naslund who is Radian6’s exceptionally smart face to the world that simply gets the environment or Erin Bury, the young and ubiquitous first contact and line of defence for startup Sprouter. They are special people. They are also a growing strata of digital life - close to 60,000 professionals have identified themselves as community managers on LinkedIn.
People always ask me what skill set these people should hold. Yes, communication skills are key. Yes, a passion for the values and lifestyle of your brand or business is a big asset, but beyond all these integral talents, being great listeners is the hallmark of great community managers. They just have a sixth sense about what people know, and the communities they support are the key beneficiaries.
Listening may seem really granola and amorphous, but communities that have a soul have this talent in spades. And it comes in four progressive levels:
- Customer monitoring – you know what’s being said about you.
- Customer Culture – you know what your customers and influencers are doing and living through,
- Customer Centricity – your community knows you are actively involved and
- Customer Driven – your company is influenced and changed by customer feedback and engagement
So if you buy into our mantra and - as most successful brands have done over the last 20 years – need to build a community around your brand, then hopefully you’ll get your hands on Wikibrands. We have a passion for this approach for business and we feel like we have something important to say on the subject and love to connect over its many facets. Email, Tweets, Lattes or Pints – choose your lubricant for conversation.
Psst ... Kate here .. if you are inspired by what Sean has said and by the passion of community managers, you can check out one of the reasons I'm excited about Wikibrands and also download Chapter 11 - Community Development for free. And then make sure you get a copy of Wikibrands!