What is Community and Do I Need One? [Business Magazine]

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Business Magazine.

Let’s talk about a different kind of building and development: community building. Community manager is quickly replacing social media manager as the new media and startup job title du jour. What do we mean by “community” in this context, what exactly is the difference between the two positions and how do you determine if you need one?

Defining Community

There are a couple ways we use “community” when referring to your customers. The first is related to a specific community that you’ve built in support of your customers: a support forum, your blog, your Facebook page, etc. The second is related to the larger community surrounding your industry, field and or geographical area. A community manager may work in communities related to one or both definitions of the term, depending on the needs of your business.

What Does A Community Manager Do?

Tasks of a community manager can include any or all of these examples: managing social media presences, writing support documentation and FAQs, building ambassador and advocate plans for your brand, monitoring and moderating a customer community (or internal employee community), managing, moderating and or participating in outside communities within your industry and the offline community. Different companies will have different needs from a community manager. I’ve compiled some job descriptions and resources that might help you develop your role at http://bit.ly/cm0214.

How Can Embracing Community Help My Business Succeed?

When looking at participating in (and perhaps even creating) a dedicated online community, the wedding industry is a great example. Visitors to www.theknot.com maintain numbers that any webmaster would drool over (less than 50 percent bounce rate, over four pages and three minutes spent on the site per visit(1)). This is an international site, but you can certainly scale the idea of a wedding community down. Planning a wedding requires a new bride to research businesses in areas she may never have dealt with before. She may turn to friends and family for advice and recommendations, but turning to the Internet provides more breadth of knowledge. If a prospective bride had one place to go to talk about wedding planning with other recent brides in her area and where potential wedding vendors were also active to answer questions, provide information and be responsive to the new bride’s needs and wishes, they would create a relationship that would be more likely to turn into a contract, compared to a vendor the bride doesn’t feel as connected to or invested in. Vendors, if booked up when a prospective client needs them, can even introduce the bride to other trusted vendors, Macy’s vs. Gimbel’s style(2).

Case Study: National Theatre Wales (http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org)

The National Theatre Wales isn’t what you might first imagine: there is no main theatre, no austere building and no well-worn dressing rooms. The community is the theatre. The online community was established in 2009 to work with local communities throughout Wales to bring productions to all areas of Wales. The online community has also served as a place for other theatrical groups in the area to gather. While some may say that this is allowing their “competition” access to their audiences, keep in mind that everything is hosted on the NTW’s community — they are being represented even when customers read about their competition.

When you truly understand your customer community, what its needs are and ways you can work with your “competition,” you can set yourself up as an exceptional community builder and stake your claim at the forefront of your field.

Sources:

1. http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/theknot.com

2 http://www.jerryacuff.com/discover-people-want-the-macys-vs-gimbels-story/

Disclosure: National Theatre Wales Community is built on Ning, which the author works for.