WHAT IS COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT?
Community Management is the surely the biggest buzz of this century. It is a newly designed job station within web-related businesses, that came along with the powering up of Social Media and Networks.
Describing Community Management would imply writing at least a thousand pages about the art and techniques of driving a group of people, within one or more networks, towards a common objective, respective of common interests. To make it simpler, Community Management is about governing, policing and motivating groups. In the broader picture, it would usually be about legislating and enforcing. But today, with the sharp shift in the way people interact and build relationships behind their screens and keyboards, a new ‘isotope’ of this function has spawned.
Thanks to some technological revolutions like Instant Messaging, Web 2.0, Open Source, Creative Commons licensing and Mobile Networking, people around the globe have managed to build self-regulated groups within a complex intertwinement of networks. They now interact in such a way that they have fundamentally transformed the mode of exchanging knowledge and doing business.
The face of the world has changed forever and so with it, the role of moderators of the old-fashion Bulletin Boards, Forums or Chat rooms. As you might have felt, one no more gets kicked off a network but is encouraged towards building a new group or blogging about his niche. Adding the ‘Online’ tag allows a more focused and appropriate approach to the job.
ONLINE COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT (OCM)
Beyond the complex comment moderating functions, Community Management is, above all, about developing, facilitating and nurturing relationships between people having the same interests or objectives. Its role is to lead the group towards reaching, renovating its objectives and goals.
Community Management is then a multitasking activity that will cover monitoring, supporting and listening to each and every individual making up the group, while dealing with the groups’ e-reputation as a whole. It also includes the functions of content generator and developer, discussion initiator and hosting, with enhanced online presence and stature.
In short, Online Community Management is about federating groups and networks. It is about analyzing behaviors and extracting valuable social and commercial data that may be useful for the advancement of an ideology, a name, a product. As such, it is seen as the new ‘trendmaker’s’ tool of the neo-social world set.
COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT FOR CAUSES
Causes are, on the Web, among the biggest community pullers. Only because they simply appeal to individual sensibilities and as such, attract curious, scepticals and critics. We are no more in a configuration where unanimity, around fixed brand values, is the unique leverage used to pull disciples into a fan group or community. This is why brands will prefer using Facebook Fan Pages to Community or Group pages. Communication on Facebook Fan pages are channeled through a unique funnel, whereas on Group pages, discussions are open and are meant to reach everybody while managing individual feelings.
At this stage, Community Management for Causes can come down to perpetually dealing with conflict impartial management, mediation and resolution.
Associated to a Cause, Community Management is a useful Weapon of Massive Awareness. It acts as a strategic ally in building, consolidating awareness around the foundations, values or the overall image of the Movement. Coupled to real-world events, dynamic OCM can become a powerful catalyst and accelerator for the development of physical relationships within or beyond the target market or community. This can be achieved by translating online acquired knowledge and data into hard facts and tangibles. These can be the basis of the Movement’s success in the real world.
THE COMMUNITY MANAGER AND RELATED ATTRIBUTIONS
Anyone who is involved with or in charge of social media within their organization must:
- Listen & Monitor
- Benchmark & Measure
- Respond & Engage
- Advocate & Evangelize
- Encourage & Cheerlead
- Innovate & Lead
He/ She is not the whip holder! He/ She is in an essential seat in the organisational structure, from where the very spirit of the cause would spawn in a very intelligible way for a global audience.
His or her main attributes would be:
- Outgoing pleasant personality
- Project Management and organisational skills
- Fast picker (to learn about usage of new tools)
- Team player
- Advocating the community’s values and actions both within the community itself and outbounds.
- The physical, moral and virtual implementation of the Online Communication Strategy.
- Sustained interaction with the development team to ensure the perfect form of the platforms and communication tool-sets (Blogs, Forums, etc.).
- Designing the Moderation policy with other executive members of the team.
- Building a team dedicated to the moderation of user-generated content as per the Moderation Policy.
- Generating an editorial schedule or calendar.
- Co-creating and generating motivating editorial content and engaging events like competitions, surveys…
- Managing related platforms and networks (Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media walls)
- Monitoring, with the Social Media Manager, the community’s e-reputation and contingently reacting to positive or negative global sentiments.
- Organization of regular Newsletter and update mass mailing.
- Assessment, Analysis and Reporting of the community’s growth and effectiveness of ongoing or new initiatives.
- Upgrading the cause’s roadmaps by acknowledging, analyzing and collating user feedback.
WHO CAN BE A COMMUNITY MANAGER FOR A CAUSE?
Dealing with people from a keyboard and screen perspective may seem tricky. It requires very specific personal qualities and personal discipline. The job is also entails having natural predispositions for co-creation and dedicated team building aptitudes.
However, almost anyone can become a Community Manager as long as he/ she can develop content, initiate and lead discussions and act as an enforcer. Most of all, He/ She shall show diplomacy while having a firm, stoic composure before members, especially before flamers and trolls.
In fact, the job doesn’t call for specific professional or academic capabilities. It’s all about being social and a reactive observant, while accepting the load of being accountable to the laws of the land and to the internally set policies.
LIABILITIES THAT COME WITH THE JOB
Destroy the Community Manager and you destroy the Cause…
Community Managers can turn into perfect static targets for critics who have no other alternative than to fight the man rather than the cause itself. Community managers who make the movement successful become totally part thereof and are usually seen as the movement’s Achilles’ heel.
Containing coordinated personal attacks can become a big issue. Similar repeated assaults can win over a Community Manager’s psyche and turn flamers’ posts into a virtual bloodbath. Such situations, then, become symbols of won or lost battles. On the long run this can ruin the Movement’s core values.
DEALING WITH VIRTUAL WARFARE
The Community Management post comes with no guns except internal rules, regulations and Netiquette, as opposed to flamers and trolls who do not know anything about ethics. He has to be diplomatic, self contained, focused but firm in reaction. The only immediate terminal actions an OCM has underhand, are post deletion and/ or user temporary/ permanent ban. And more drastically, he can use his powers to close and open wall to public posting at will, when he judges it right to do so. These are his only shorthand prerogatives. In any such case, the Community Manager will have his reputation gnawed into.
His last resort will be lawsuits, where Flamers and Trolls can eventually be qualified as Cybercriminals when they come to post comments where harassment and libeling can be revealed and proved. Mauritian Cyberlaws are very clear and fully applicable in these cases.
LEGAL ACCOUNTABILITY OF COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT
Using a Facebook group page as a free speech spot can be an enchanting experience, but first of all, it should be regarded as a private space that can be open to the public, upon its admins’ and Community Management’s decision only. It is legally owned by its creators who are deemed to make good and legal use of it.
Community Managers, including admins and moderators as well as the owner/ creator can be made fully accountable for any obnoxious call coming from the group’s wall. One 18-year-old was detained in London for allegedly encouraging violence on Facebook, during London August 2011 riots. Likewise, Mauritian Laws can also be applicable upon the simplest documented report made to the nearest Police Station, by the person responsible of the Community Management.
This is why a Community Manager has the obligation of banning anybody posting racist, discriminating, sexually offending, libeling comments, etc., on a wall.
Online Community Management is an exhaustively expandable discipline. It can be taken to whatever level that might be envisaged by the driving personality of the Manager. In any case, Social Media success resides in a Community Manager’s capacity at tangibly exporting the values of the community, cause, movement or brand to the widest base… It’s all about being Social and sociable… nothing less.
Consider also reading these articles :
- Invest in a Community Manager. Now. (grasshopper.com)
- The essential skills of a community manager (prdaily.com)