By Jillian Bejtlich,Community Strategist at The Community Roundtable.
Like many community managers out there, I never actually set out to work in this field. By education and the first few rungs of my career ladder, I’m an engineer with a focus on architectural and civil technology. I lived and breathed physics. But after a variety of welcome twists and turns, I ended up in community.
As I started my career in community, I remember various folks pointing me towards all sorts of resources ranging from marketing to social media to help me get my bearings. What I remember the most was being overwhelmed by how few resources there really were and how so many of them were entirely built on theory instead of tried and true practice. My engineering brain couldn’t grasp it.
I come from a world of formulas, causes and subsequent effects, and a place where gravity and forces reign. Words like B2B and B2C irritated me (and they still do), and I was suddenly overwhelmed by questions of ROI, NPS, and other terms; terms that in any other field would be accompanied by a set formula proven over and over again. But no. Instead these were words and acronyms that carried great weight – and only theory.
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be a philosopher alongside masterminds such as Galileo and Da Vinci. In many ways, community lets me have the tiniest taste of what it feels like to be on the cusp of proving a great and enormous theory that will influence all generations to come. We know that community is an unbelievably powerful tool – but now to prove it and figure out how it can be used to its greatest potential.
When I was growing up, all I ever wanted to be was a scientist. My focus changed frequently ranging from things like marine biology to virology, but the reason was always the same. I’m infatuated with problems and research. While others believe that communities fall within the established realm of marketing and communications, I believe community is a new realm of its own. And it is for this reason, I’ve never longingly looked back to my engineering days.
Community is a seemingly chaotic collision of technology, information, and the human psychology – and it might just be the greatest unsolved physics problem I’ve ever encountered. Somewhere in the mess of metrics, interactions, coding, and graphics, there is logic. Behind that logic are theories. And these theories can be proved – once and for all. In the same way that proven physics theories have shaped the world we know, imagine the potential of understanding the inner workings of human networks. The untapped potential is enormous, and we – the community professionals – are in the thick of it.
Excited? I am.
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