My communities (Photo credit: steven w)
I was asked a really great question recently: what is a successful community manager?
I have a pretty well-formed idea of the answer, but had never articulated it before. My first reaction was to stay away from any kind of description of the community manager him/herself. I feel that a successful community manager is evidenced by the community they work with and for.
Is the community:
Growing – There are a lot of kinds of members of communities. Since these a people I’m talking about, you have to keep in mind the personality types and the introvert/extrovert parts of everyone. But if the platform for participation, listening and conversation is open, honest and respectful (oh, and interesting….), the opportunity for each member to contribute or not according to their comfort, expertise and passions is not a limiting factor. Growth (what I like to call organic growth) may be slow or not, but if the majority of the members return regularly and evolve into greater engagement, the community will meet that measure of success.
Broad and deep – Depending on what the focus of your community is, you will still have the “drive-by” member who just visits once to see what’s going on all the way to the members who are so passionate and involved that they seem to spend much of their time in the community areas, conversing, answering questions, adding content and knowledge, guidance and best practice. There are a lot of folks in between but you get my drift. The more prolific members may swap in and out over time, and new “drive-byes” start spending more time.
Possessive of an identity that becomes more internalized all the time – Like any gathering of people around a product or a hobby or a cause, they tend to start out as a number of people who are together to figure out what they really have in common. Over time, as trust and relationships are built and become more solid, the group will begin to see itself as a community and the identity will become more tangible.
Helpful – A hallmark of a healthy community is the helpfulness of its members to each other and to any visitor who shows up needing assistance, information, or a place to tell a story that is apropos.
Focused – Communities tend to assemble around something: a product or service, a pastime, a sport, a cause, a belief and so on. There will likely be areas of the community online that are designed for off-topic conversations, but the body of the community orbits around its reason for being.
Providing real value to its members – Members come back because the appreciate what they can give and get within the community. They refer others to the community if they feel that doing so will help the person in some way, and add more body, so to speak, to the community.
Providing real value to the community host – There are a LOT of different kinds of communities. Those that are hosted by a company or a non-profit of some kind (government agencies fall in that category…) look for communities to provide different kinds of value, depending on the host. Some companies have communities around customer support, staying current of new offerings and upcoming goodies, feedback into the product development process, and so on. Non-profits have a enormous number of things that they find of value in their communities….rallying support, fund-raising, awareness-raising, conversation and discussion of topics and passions, and many other. If some kind of organization hosts a community, they are looking to gain something from the effort and resources, even if it is “merely” validation.
I’m sure there are other nodes to add to this description of a successful community manager, but this what I came up with, once given the chance to formulate a little more cohesive answer. If you have something to add, please do. There are a lot facets to a successful community manager.