Monday, April 28, 2008

Chris Brogan on the role of a community manager-- oh oh!

Chris Brogan has stepped into the void: On Managing A Community. Fortunately, he asks for some input:

How would your organization incorporate a community manager? Where would they report? How would you measure their efforts? Do you see any flaws in my suggestions? Are YOU a community manager? How does this sync up with your world?

I've commented on this sort of "corporate" strategy before. I think it's close to the most clueless thing I can imagine. To answer his first question, How would your organization incorporate a community manager? In my (mythical) organization we would never have someone with the job function of community manager. I know organizations are creating these sorts of jobs, but it is just so wrong-headed. So let's get this part straight-- they are not your communities to manage. The whole idea of making community participation a dedicated job function disturbs me. It feels sneaky, manipulative, and evil. "Hi, I'm from XYZ and I am here to infiltrate you."

Community participation is baked-in to the way we live. It's in our DNA. It's called living, and doing the normal stuff people do. So everyone in your organization is already active in communities-- online and off. If your organization is basically good and doing the right thing-- people will know. If it's truly evil no community manager is going to save your butt.


Chris Brogan said...

That's a really interesting perspective, Kevin. I can understand where you're coming from, especially because of the link back to the older post on the same concept. And in lots of ways, I can see that kind of icky version you mention being what people might put out there and interpret.

But what about the opposite? What about when a company has products or services that people DO love, and these people do want to engage more? When Zappos, the shoe people, started showing up at events, it felt weird, and yet, I've been standing near them when someone bum rushes them and says, "Oh god, I love your stuff. I really love your site, and once you gave me this kind of service, and... " and you get my point.

So should that NOT be facilitated?

That's probably where my thinking comes from, more than from the mindset of evil infiltrators. But you're so right to bring it up, as well.

Thanks for the ideas.

Kevin Gamble said...

Thank you for your comment Chris. Very much appreciated!

I am very much for the type of interaction you describe in your example. I am all for increasing both the quantity and quality of interactions. Where we part is on the facilitation. If this is a good thing, and I believe it is, then we should resist efforts to routinize it and make it part of some corporate decision tree and communication channel. I'm for letting the conversations flow. Like what we do on Twitter and in blogs-- creating greater interdependency and greater opportunities for interaction at all levels of the organization.

I think as soon as you make it someone's job (as opposed to everyone's) you kill the conditions, change the nature of the relationships, and consequently destroy genuineness and trust. (IMO.)

Anonymous said...

Kevin, I think that I have trouble with the title, Community Manager. But, I can't think of another title that would be appropriate. I see that it would be useful for organizations to identify ways for the individuals to use social media, encourage adoption, and enable individuals to embrace these tools,. If an organization is serious and understanding communities, then a "community manager" is not needed. However, organizations and most individuals within these organizations do not understand online communities. Online tools are not new and easy for some, but the concept of the openness and participation beyond organization boundaries are scary to some.

The question is "How do we change mindsets?" I see where a position could be dedicated in a short-term to be the community or participation champion, or community enabler. This position would would not necessarily be needed for the long term.

Thanks for the post.

Kevin Gamble said...


I would be totally supportive of an organization that would take the approach of helping their employees, members, etc. understand the tools, etiquette, dynamics of communities. Something internally focused would be not only appropriate but something I would totally embrace.


Unknown said...

@Anne - I think in most organizations (particularly technology organizations) they use the term "evangelist". In your example, it's not someone tasked with organizing and shepherding communities, it's someone tasked, nee, empowered to evangelize the use of various tools and methods to engage existing communities and organically grow new communities.