MARIA OGNEVA'S BLOG
I’m happy to announce that I’m teaching my first class on community management on March 19th. I’m partnering with the Parisoma innovation loft in San Francisco. But it’s not a simple class where you show up and the instructor feeds you content that may or may not answer your needs — we get to co-create the class content together. Those who sign up get to join a mini community for this class, where they can tell me what they want to learn about. I’ll work in the suggestions and questions — as long it still flows together — and we can connect and chat before the event so we know each other better. So grab a spot and try to stump me! I look forward to seeing you!
Based on articles I’ve been reading lately in mainstream and tech blogs alike, it seems that there’s a major lack of understanding around community management. I personally don’t care what you call it, as long as you do it, but various articles, contests and job descriptions make me think that most people think that community managers are “those people who tweet and Facebook”. While differences between social media professionals and community professionals can look somewhat nuanced — and the jobs do overlap quite a bit — I think there are implications to the future of the community management profession if we aren’t understood, measured or hired with the right expectations. This post is just one girl’s attempt to clarify what I see through the lens of my own understanding — in no way is this a definitive guide to anything. I have no answers, but I know that if we ask good questions together, we will arrive at something that works.
Lots of articles (like this one) describe the duties of community manager as strengthening the responsiveness of the business to the customer, creating content and analyzing fans’ response to this content, and telling the company story through customers’ stories. These are very worthwhile goals, and building a better relationship between the brand and its customers is something a social business must do — it’s not an option, it’s just how business is. Your community will revolve around content — content that’s created, iterated, discussed by the community and content that originates from the community. But are responsiveness and content community management? I don’t think so, because it mentions nothing of building deep relationships with your customers and helping your customers create these relationships with each other. It mentions nothing of the difficult work of actually increasing intimacy between a group of people driven by passion — warts and all. Social media professionals and community managers are like Venn diagrams — they are hugely overlapping (and the amount of overlap depends on your context), but they aren’t the same or mutually exclusive. Social tools help community managers scale and be more effective, build better communities and even provide conduits between communities. However, you don’t need social media to have a community.
“Would you define a farmer by the tools he uses? No. A farmer is someone who cultivates a farm,” Maddie Rudd said in the comments below, and I think she nailed it.
Here’s how I view the different roles and the tools they use:
We made a mistake today when sending out an email invitation to a webinar we are hosting. Unfortunately, as a result of this mistake, we sent this email to users who weren’t supposed to get it; in some cases, they received it multiple times. We wanted to take a minute to apologize for that and let you know that we did not mean to SPAM you.
The irony is that a key business benefit of Yammer is reducing email load, although we do from time to time send emails to communicate with our users. This irony is not lost on us. We promise that we did not intentionally send you more than one email today. We also promise you that we are diagnosing the source of the mistake and are putting additional processes in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
We are sorry! And we hate email too!
– The Yammer Team
Social media has undoubtedly changed the way we share information and our voices, exchange our life stories, lend approval and criticism. There’s no arguing that things are different now, and for better or worse, things will continue to evolve, and at a faster rate than ever before. Of course, social media has its critics, and we are still working on translating social into business results as an industry. One thing that’s clear is that the unfettered, and oftentimes, unfiltered dialogue has changed the way we talk to each other as friends, family, colleagues, sellers, buyers. The cultural values are changing in favor of openness, honesty sharing, accountability and a greater connectedness.
I think social has done a lot for community building as it’s lowered some barriers to entry; communities are more participatory as structure can melt away quickly. They come together and disband to support ad-hoc models of conversation and collaboration. In some ways, communities are multi-platform, as well as platform-agnostic. At the same time, the lowering of barriers has weakened the ties and the loyalty that community members feel towards each other. For example, coming together for a tweetchat or a hashtagged conversation is usually a wonderful experience by which you can build real and lasting relationships with people. However, sometimes these events fall victim to unscrupulous users “hijacking” a hashtag and using it for blatant self-promotion without much concern for the community. Of course, looser connections are partially to blame, as is the fleeting nature of some social channels. As a result, lack of forethought going into tweets generates a consequence-free environment. This consequence-free environment is, of course, erroneous for several reasons ranging from personal branding to professional reputation.
In my highly-connected digital world, it’s really nice to take the time to talk to my friends in person and discuss life, work, love, and the meaning of it all. I’m particularly fond of my conversations with Danielle Morrill, and every time we talk, we have this ability to tease really cool big ideas out of each other. That’s exactly what happened yesterday, and this is one of the many things we talked about.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and throughout my experiences I’ve come to the realization that Corporate America is driven by the short term thinking. This is not exactly an astounding revelation, but I think it’s worth exploring vis-a-vis its impact on how businesses are run and the impact of that thinking on companies’ social media health. Here’s how I see it… Due to the influence of Wall Street and quarterly earnings, the Western economy seems to live and die by what happens in the next 3 months. Of course, having measurable short-term goals is very important — how else would you reach your big goals if you don’t break them up into chunks? However, you can’t focus on the short-term without a very disciplined commitment to the long-term. And this is where things fall apart.