A major area of debate and concern for organisations
considering how to establish, grow and manage an online community is the
importance of the community manager, and what exactly the role entails. As a
general rule, every online community should be allocated a facilitator or
community manager; while some communities will require more facilitation than
others as they mature, this role is extremely important in the early days in
order to encourage and stimulate activity and adoption, and to ensure the growing
community remains focused on its primary objectives.
It is worth clarifying the terminology at this point – I
intentionally use the term “facilitator” here rather than “moderator”, because
of the underlying connotations of the words in relation to the role that this
individual needs to carry out. In consumer-oriented communities, the role of
the “moderator” is largely focused on governing the community, and ensuring
that inappropriate or inflammatory content is efficiently removed and the
authors notified or expelled from the community. However, in a business-focused
community, there is less of a need for such “policing” of the community, rather
for driving and seeding the community. Clearly there is a secondary role
relating to monitoring the community for inappropriate content, but it is
important that this is not perceived by the individual – or the broader
community – to be their main function.
Given their responsibility for driving the community, the
facilitator or community manager has two priority areas – people and content.
From a people standpoint, the facilitator is responsible for growing membership
and activity within the community, inviting and then directly engaging new
users, responding to questions and comments within the community, and
encouraging discussion by posting questions and introducing new topics. On the
content side, the challenge is to ensure that there is a constant stream of new
content being added to the community, either by contributing themselves, or by
inviting content experts from inside or outside the organisation to post
comment to the community and engage in discussions relating to that content.
Who this person should be and how much time it will require
of them will very much depend on the nature of the community. For example, in
an internal community this may be someone with a communications background,
someone who is responsible for knowledge management, or perhaps someone who is
closely related to the theme of the community – such as an HR person for a new
joiners’ community, or a senior member of the product development team in a
process community, for example. In an externally facing community the
facilitator is likely to be someone in marketing or customer relations, or in
partner management, for example, depending on the focus of the community.
Whatever the background of this person, it is vital that they have good
communication and social skills, is able to convey these in written
communications, and is already a strong supporter of the community initiative.
In many external communities, the facilitator or community manager is a
full-time role, particularly during the early phases of establishing the
community and growing its membership. However, in an internal community this
commitment is typically less, although it can easily require at least half of a
full time role.
While the facilitator or community manager is the most easily
definable cost in terms of the commitment needed to establish and support an
online community, it is important to remember that the community will demand
time and effort from other individuals within the organisation – even in an
externally facing community. The facilitator will constantly be looking for
content to populate the community, and will be approaching relevant experts to
provide this. While this responsibility will typically be shared by a wide
group of individuals, it may require a significant investment of their time,
which they will need to be incentivised to provide.
If you are investing in online community or social
collaboration technologies in your organisation, come and learn from our panel
of case study speakers at our Making Social
Collaboration Work masterclass in London on 15th October. More info - and a wealth of
free reports and resources to get you started - can be found on the event
website.#Adoption #communities #socialcollaboration #Collaboration