Community Management Tweets From November 2011

For some reason, I have seen a number of great blog posts on community management over the last 2 weeks and have added them to my Twitter stream.  Maybe people are finally starting to realize that community management is an integral part of social media and customer experience?

To make it easier for me to find these resources in the future, I am consolidating all of my recent community management tweets into a blog post.

Enjoy!

5 Essential Traits for Community Managers by @stuartcfoster in @mashablehttp://ow.ly/7y8ZW

10 Community Manager Tools You Might Not Know by @Renee_Warren ow.ly/7vsdf

Online Community Managers: When Community Should Be About You — from @Kommein ow.ly/7vsaR

4 Ways to Make Your Professional Online Community More Fun | by @Joshua_D_Paul in @B2Community ow.ly/7mP6O #gamification

Fire Your Marketing Manager and Hire A Community Manager – from @armano in- Harvard Business Review ow.ly/7ksFc #socialmedia

The Future of Online Community | by @vdimauro in Social Media Today ow.ly/7eoHP - look for specialized private online communities

Altimeter: The Two Career Paths of the Corporate Social Strategist. Be Proactive or Become ‘Social Media Help Desk’ « from @JOwyangow.ly/7t1bi

“My Chapter on #Gamification: From Behavior Model to Business Strategy” – a wealth of resources from @mich8elwu ow.ly/7xf4O

Games, gamers and business strategy… In CIO.com #gamification m.blogs.cio.com/cio-role/16614…

My Best Community Management Blog Posts

I was trying to find a blog post I wrote about community management 2 years ago, and realized that I really had to search to find it. So, I decided to write a blog post that consolidated my best blog posts on this topic to make it easier for me (and my fans) to find these posts.

Adding Gamification to Your Community

This post discusses how to apply gamification and game mechanics to a community site.  It is interesting to see gamification now being applied in a marketing/website/community context, because many marketers and community managers have already been using these techniques to build engagement for several years.  I am more than willing to jump on the gamification bandwagon if it helps push the boundaries for other marketers and community managers.

The Importance of Active Community Management – Proved With Real Data

This post is probably my most popular community blog post and it proves what happens when a community goes from active to passive (or no) management. Using real before and after statistics from the Catalyze community, the statistics are a compelling look at why active community management is so important.

Community Managers and Quarterbacks

In this post, I compare the importance of quarterbacks to a winning football team to the importance of an A+ community manager to a successful community – and ends with the question of “So are you willing to accept mediocrity for your community manager?”

Looking for An Example Community RFP?

In the spirit of social media transparency, I have attached an example of the actual RFP that I used 2 years when I started the community process to develop what eventually became the Catalyze community. One of the vendors who responded to our proposal noted that it was one of the most complete and comprehensive proposals that they had seen.

I made a couple of slight updates to the the RFP, but for the most part I would use this same RFP if I were looking for a vendor today. Feel free to use the example as a template or to give you some ideas for your own request for proposal. I have left blanks where there was proprietary information, but for the most part the template is generic.

Four Community Ideals

I was asked to participate in an interesting collaborative project called the Project 100 which was started by consumer marketer Jeff Caswell.

My four community ideals include:

  1. Be transparent
  2. Be personal
  3. Be compelling
  4. Be omnipresent

So, What Do Community Managers Make?

I participated in the Forum One Online Community Compensation Survey in July2008 and wrote this post with the results. While the post is more than 3 years old, the content and insights are still relevant today.

My Social Media Job Description

This is a follow-on blog post that is my most popular post and it provides what would be my ideal social media position. I think the responsibilities should be stated in fairly broad terms without getting into specific tools or techniques. I also don’t like job descriptions that specify a number of years of experience. Instead, a social media expert should be able to point to his body of work – through his blog, his Twitter feed, his LinkedIn profile or Facebook page – and that should be sufficient proof. Finally, a list of key attributes is essential to get an understanding of the candidate’s personality.

While this post does not relate specifically to community management, the person you want to fill your community manager position should have these same characteristics.

The Importance of Regular Community Communication

One of the most important tasks that a community manager needs to do is to regularly communicate with his members. When I was managing the Catalyze community, I accomplished this by sending out an email newsletter every 2 to 3 weeks.  The frequent contact is important from many different angles.  It keeps the community in the front of each member’s mind and reminds them that there is value in the community.

What Are the Characteristics of a Great Community Manager

This post summarized a live chat hosted by The Community Roundtable and introNetworks from August 2009 and included these panelists:

Farewell to the Catalyze Community

Goodbye Catalyze - It Was Great To Know You

The announcement from iRise yesterday today that the Catalyze Community was merging into the ModernAnalyst.com Community probably didn’t even register a blip on your radar.  But the announcement has more than a touch of melancholy for me as I was the founding community manager from the conception of the community in late 2006 through its growth to over 4,000 members in July 2008 and I want to give the the community a proper send-off.

Giving birth to and nurturing a community is not unlike the experience of raising children as I lived and breathed the Catalyze Community for almost 18 months.  I cut my teeth in community management, tried to set the standard in what professional B2B communities could be, and got started on my journey into social media through my efforts with the community.  I learned a great deal and had a chance to develop many friends in the community space including the team from Mzinga who provided the white label social media software that powered the site (a special thanks go out to Jim Storer, Derek Showerman, Aaron Strout, Isaac Hazard, Mark Wallace and Barry Libert).  I am sure I drove the Mzinga team a little bit crazy as I pushed the envelope to ‘mold’ their software into my idea of what a community experience should be.  I also enjoyed hosting the monthly webinars we held with a wide variety of knowledgeable experts.  Most of all, I discovered my “blogging” voice, and was able to experiment with the new and emerging (at the time) social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, and LinkedIn.

Of course, a lot of credit also goes out to iRise who was the founding sponsor of the Catalyze Community.  iRise’s funding of  the Catalyze Community and mission to keep it ‘commercial-free’ is what drew many of the members into the community.

The demise of the Catalyze didn’t come as a surprise to me as the community has floundered without a community manager for the past two years – and the site had become a virtual ghost town with very few visitors and sadly, very little fresh content.  Anyone who understands community building realizes that a site that is not actively managed with fresh content cannot be sustained and is destined for failure which ended up as one of my blog posts in January 2009.  In fact, I shared many of my experiences with the Catalyze Community in a number of blog posts.

The original goal of Catalyze was to unite and “catalyze” the disparate factions of  business analysts, usability professionals, user experience (UX) and information architects, designers, software developers and others who define, design and create software applications.  The ModernAnalyst Community is a very robust community and boasts over 38,000 members – and most of the Catalyze members will be nore than well-served by the merger.  I hope that the analytical “left-brain” analysts continue to reach out to the creative “right-brain” designers and usability professionals, and that they can continue to find a common ground in defining and designing better software.  I send best wishes to Adrian Marchis and the rest of his ModernAnalyst.com team on continuing the Catalyze tradition.

Catalyze Community Home Page from March 2008

ModernAnalyst.com

What Are the Characteristics of a Great Community Manager

The Community Roundtable and introNetworks hosted a live chat that covered this topic today.

Webchat Participants

Webchat Participants

The speakers included the following:

There was tremendous activity on Twitter during the call and you can find this thread by searching on the #introchat tag.  Some of the more interesting tweets included:

  • @keithburtis title means little, substance is everything…. need to link Social Indicators back to Boardroom speak
  • @eyecube Care for a community, don’t *manage* it
  • @maddiegrant The best community managers are people who care about people
  • @MsMizz As community manager, ur looking for ur “cheese heads” the ones that are so engaged & passionate that they’ll put a cheese hat on
  • @mrshasten Importance of a community manager: it’s like weeding the garden. You can’t just set up a community and neglect it
  • @JohnMLee Great point from the Community Manager Webinar: Communities don’t want to be managed, they need to be nurtured
  • @P_Lussier Community mgrs need to be “accessible & approachable; intensely human,” says @ambercadabra
  • @SocialGeekMe being a community manager is not a “this is not my job” type of job.
  • @spoonmovement #introchat@ambercadabra says that being a community manager is “not for the faint of heart” and that it’s a hybrid of many disciplines
  • @AdrianMabry Comm Mgr role follows 2 analogies – the ‘iceberg’ and the ‘duck’ analogies. Lot’s of activity that just isn’t glamorous

Several great links were discussed during the chat as well:

Jim solicited book recommendations at the end of the call from each of the participants and here is the short list:

The recording of the chat is available at the introNetworks website and the slides are on Slideshare too.

Review of ReadWriteWeb’s Guide to Online Community Management

ReadWriteWebs Online Community Guide

I received a copy of the new ReadWriteWeb’s Guide to Online Community Management last month and it is definitely worth looking at if you want to raise the level of your community management and social media game.  It is a collection of tips, talking points, data points and other collective knowledge from many different experts.  RRW editors looked through hundreds of articles and resources, and choose the best ones to be included in the report.

According to editor Marshall Kirkpatrick, this is why companies should look at the report:

Businesses seeking to engage with online communities on their own websites or all around the social web will find the guide invaluable in getting up to speed on the state of the art and making sure their employees have the foundation they need to be effective.

The guide starts off by answering the following questions:

  • Does our company need a blog? (probably)
  • Do we need a forum section on our website? (maybe)
  • Should our company spend time on Twitter? (definitely)
  • Should our company have a presence on Facebook? (the jury is out)

Then, the guide covers the need for community managers, ROI, job descriptions, marketing/engagement balance and dealing with challenging community members.  The guide ends with several interviews, a list of the 3 best podcasts on community management and additional resources.

The best part is the online companion (Community Management Aggregator) to the official guide.  This password protected website provides a dynamic and updated selection of articles and blog posts related to social media and community, links to featured blogs and Twitter addresses for leading experts.  The Guide and access to the Community Management Aggregator costs $299 and it is a bargain for the information and access provided.

Did I forget to mention that my blog post on “The Importance of Active Community Management” is listed on page 30 of the report and I’m included in the list of experts on the Aggregator site?

The Importance of Active Community Management – Proved With Real Data

I think most community experts would agree that active community management and ongoing strategy are vital to a community’s health.  However, I don’t know if anyone has been able to fully quantify the impact using actual community metrics.

Until now – when I decided to analyze some of the 2008 data for my former community during the period of active management and the period of passive management.

I was the community manager for a professional community from January 2007 through July 2008.  During that time, the community grew from zero to 4,000 members.  We were rigorous with the tracking of metrics and updated community analytics weekly through a combination of our platform reports and Google Analytics.  I was laid off in July due to financial hardship of the community sponsor, but the community doors have remained open albeit with no community management or minimal upkeep.

During the time of my involvement, active community management and consisted of:

  • delivery of bi-weekly email update newsletters
  • production of monthly webcasts
  • active blog posting and blogger outreach
  • uploading of fresh content each week
  • continual promotion of the community in various forums through guerilla marketing
  • ongoing brainstorming and strategizing with respect to improving the community experience
  • priming of discussion forums, and
  • ongoing communications with individual community members

It’s interesting to discover that a neglected community will indeed continue to function without a dedicated community manager.  However, the results are lackluster and the picture are not ‘pretty’.

For example, this is a screen shot from Google Analytics graphing the number of weekly visits to the community from 1/1/2008 through 12/31/08:

Google Analytics - 1/1/2008 to 12/31/2008

Google Analytics - 1/1/2008 to 12/31/2008

Additional details from the metrics include:

Membership growth slows significantly – Community membership grew 62% from January to July at a average clip of 55 new members per week.  From July to December, the membership only grew 13% at an average clip of 20 members per week.  This is a fall-off of more than 63% on a week to week basis.

Number of visits drop 60% - The number of visits from January through July averaged more than 1,300 per week.  For the second half of the year, average visits dropped nearly 60% to an average of 522 per week.

Number of pages viewed per visit drops 22% - Not only did the number of visits drop, the number of pages per visit also decreased by 22% with the average pages per visit going from 3.76 to 2.95.

Time on site decreases by 33% – Driven by the fewer page views, the time on site in minutes during active management was 3:38 vs. 2:37 after July which is a 1:19 or 33% decrease.

Fresh activity on the site since August has been pretty nonexistant as well – just 10 new blog posts, 4 new file uploads, and less than 25 discussion forum questions or comments have been posted.  For some interesting reason, the activity on the related LinkedIn group has picked up and included 15 new discussions in just the last week.  This definitely is worth taking a deeper look in a separate blog post.

So what does this mean?  Clearly, the analysis proves that active management contributes significantly to the health of a professional community.  And that it is ultimately important to the success of a community.

Community Managers and Quarterbacks

Two unrelated conversations collided in my head yesterday.

I was listening to sports talk radio in the morning and there was a discussion of quarterbacks. The commentator was grading various quarterbacks and every team that is a perennial post season contender had a B+ to A+ quarterback. The conclusion is that teams with mediocre quarterbacks do not make it to the playoffs.

Then I saw a link on Twitter to Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog post on ZDNet post on 12 community best practices. Dion’s best practice #3, Active Community Management is Essential, was my other ah-ha moment.

That got me thinking that quarterbacks and community managers are very similar – a great quarterback can take a team deep into the playoffs and even to the Super Bowl. Likewise, a great community manager can make a community thrive, flourish and grow.

So what separates very good to great (B+ to A+) community managers from the mediocre ones? I would say that the best community managers subscribe religiously to the tenets of “Active Community Management”.

Here are some of the things I did to build and grow the B2B niche Catalyze community (for professionals who design and define software) from 0 to over 4,000 members in 13 months – and things that define “Active Community Management”:

Member communication – I sent out an email update to all members roughly every other week. This communication was critical for making sure that people kept the Catalyze community in the forefront of their mind and made sure that they didn’t miss any key content. These emails consistently achieved 35-40% open rate and 30-40% click-thru rates – and boosted site traffic significantly each time. If I had to mention two things that made Catalyze successful, I would say that it was the bi-weekly emails along supplemented with robust content.

Content generation – Fresh content in a community is key whether it is in the form of discussions, uploaded articles and links or blog posts. I spent 20% of my time each week searching and posting relevant content for the Catalyze community. Community managers need to ensure that their community always has fresh content.

Day-to-day management – On a daily basis, there are a multitude of tiny tasks that are critical to maintaining a community. For me, these tasks ranged from reviewing every new member’s profile, updating permissions, answering questions, listeng to what the members are saying, reviewing and moderating posts where necessary, contacting bloggers, lining up webcast speakers, moderating monthly webcasts, validating community uptime and response time, and keeping an eye on competitor sites. I always had a browser window or tab open to our community site, and checked frequently from home at night and on weekends. As far as competitor sites, I actually posted comments and blogs in one of our competitor’s sites using my corporate identity instead of my community manager identity. This allowed me to re-purpose content from Catalyze while getting airtime for my real employer (and driving the competitor community manager crazy).

Analysis – Statistics were very important to understanding and tracking our success. I updated and analyzed stats on a weekly basis by combining information from our vendor and from Google Analytics (note that weekly trending was important to understand the health of a community over time). On a monthly basis, I did a more thorough analysis of member registration information to identify different trends. I always wanted to do more analyzing data of our community and member behavior, but was limited by our platform’s capabilities.

Marketing, guerilla marketing and brand evangelism – To keep the flow of new members at an even clip, I was constantly looking for opportunities to boost or promote our community. I posted comments in Yahoo Groups, added my 2 cents to blog posts while searching for new content, followed and made friends with people on Twitter, and participated in other social media sites. Catalyze was able to consistently add 50-75 new members per week through a variety of these efforts.

Vendor/platform coordination - No platform is bug-free and there are always little (or big) features that need to be tweaked, tested and updated. I was in constant contact (near daily) with Isaac Hazard, Maureen Condon and others from the Mzinga team who provided the platform for Catalyze. Whether you outsource your community platform to a third party (my recommendation) or use internal IT resources, my tip is to have your vendor or IT staff on your IM, so you can get in contact with them whenever you need them.

Community strategy – This is one area where I wished that I had could spend more time, but it usually fell to the bottom of the to-do list – or I thought about it, but didn’t have the bandwidth to act. Since many Catalyze members were usability and customer experience people, it was important for me to continue to push the envelope on improving how our community looked and felt. Great community managers find a way to delegate some of their tasks to make time for strategic thinking.

So are you willing to accept mediocrity for your community manager? The good news is that the salary price differential between mediocre community managers and very good to great community managers is probably not as great as in the quarterback market – but you should expect to pay up for someone who has actively practiced ‘Active Community Management’.