I've been giving some thought to this idea of building "your" own social networks. My thinking was further confused this morning when I read Jeremiah Owyang's : The Four Tenets of the Community Manager. This is the corporate or organizational approach to community building. He lists these four commonalities in the job descriptions of the "community manager":
- Community advocate
- Brand evangelist
- Communication skills/shapes editorial
- Shapes requirements for future products/services
Keep in mind, I'm thinking out loud a bit, but this approach seems totally clueless and old-school to me. I'm not questioning Jeremiah- he's just reporting what he has observed. I have no doubt that what he describes is accurate. It reads to me like a strategy concocted by people who wouldn't know an affinity group if they saw one. People who have not been the ball themselves.
Here's my take on the responsibilities of the "community manager":
Advocate- An intermediary to be the voice of the community? You're going to create a new job to get-in-the middle between your organization and the community? People think this is a good idea? Shouldn't your goal be disintermediation wherever possible? In late 2007, I'm thinking you should be all about letting people speak for themselves. If it were my organization, I would want as many of our people as possible interfacing with the community and conversing in every conceivable way. I'd want this in every employee's job description. I would not want to make this any one particular person's job.
Brand evangelist- Isn't your best evangelist a satisfied customer? One person paid to evangelize your brand is supposed to counter balance the voice of the entire community? What brought the community together in the first place if they weren't already evangelists? Again, I would not want to make this a person's job. I'd want this in every employee's job description as well.
Message shaper- Are you kidding me? You're going to walk into a social network and try to "shape" the message? Corporate spin? Yeah right. How about open and honest conversation? Real dialog involving anyone and everyone who wants to participate.
Shapes requirements for future products/services - Ideation? This will be someone's job? You're going to create a single point of failure on something so important to your future? Again, how about it being everyone's job. If there is any one area where you need flatness, transparency, and openness it would be here.
So, let's return to the concept of the community manager. Whose "community" is it to manage? The people in your organization may be a part of a community, may have even participated in birthing it, may even be trusted members, but to think they occupy any special super-node is nothing short of delusional. Does making someone responsible for these functions absolve others in your organization from active participation? It's not a community if everyone doesn't feel free to participate as an equal. As soon as you make this someone's job you devalue the contributions of everyone. I'm thinking the whole concept of a "community manager" is a very bad idea.