One of the leading best practices for community managers is to develop a core group of enthusiastic members that emerge over time as leaders. Microsoft even spun out their ‘MVPs‘ as a separate community. SAP calls their group ‘Mentors‘. We like to think of these people as a community ‘cheeseheads’.
Why cheeseheads? I like the visual image from that term and the conceptual implication – the visual makes me smile and the conceptual implication is that those people will dress up in ridiculous outfits for you, metaphorically speaking.
Whatever you call them – nurturing these people is one of the key ways to scale your relationship building efforts. Because you as a community manager cannot possibly build relationships and evangelize with everyone, finding the people that will help you do those things because they feel passionately about the purpose of the community is critical. These fans should never be taken for granted and it is critical to give them something in return. Yes, they care – perhaps a lot more than you do – and they typically are volunteering their time and energy to make a community work. Why? Because it is likely integral to who they are and the work that they do. The recognition (and often business) that they get from being associated with your community is important to them. So, in exchange for their investment in the community, you as the community manager should promote, introduce, and recognize them as appropriate. The more you can match that recognition with what they need, the more energy the relationship will have. Microsoft and SAP invest a lot of time and resources to these individuals, giving them special access to products and people as well as giving them tools with which to reach more easily reach out to the wider community.
We started giving out some virtual cheeseheads via @TheCR to people who have been great advocates for us – even more important since we are a new business and a new community – both challenging things to get started on the right foot. While the gifting of a virtual cheesehead is a bit silly, it makes a serious point. There are people who have been extremely helpful to us and who matter to us both personally and as a business, that we would like to recognize.
Two of our cheeseheads so far? Derek Peplau for his support in spreading the word, joining us for events, and some proactive logistical help that surprised and delighted us (we love people who see issues and resolve them before they become issues!). Adam Cohen for his encouragement, participation, and his help with spreading the word both online and off. We can’t recommend them enough – both great people, both who understand social media and the emergent information environment, both hard working and committed, and both people with whom we really enjoy being associated. There will be many more to come. Thanks to Derek & Adam for being TCR Cheeseheads!