Today’s post comes from Maria Ogneva, Head of Community at Yammer, Inc. As one of our Advisory Board members for this year’s State of Community Management report, Maria is very interested in gathering data to help Yammer with their community efforts but also to help every organization who seeks answers to common community and social business challenges.
I am a community strategist and practitioner. Like many of you, I’ve encountered challenges along the way, ranging from lack of executive support, to lack of funding and organizational respect, to managing fears and resetting expectation that passionate and open discourse is actually good for us as a business.
I must admit, I have a very cool “meta” view into community management — not only am I a practicing community manager, but I also get the benefit of learning from the Yammer community, which is a community of community managers. While some companies go into enterprise social initiatives with their eyes open and invest in community management upfront, many still hold the view that “if you build it, they will come.” We used to see many internal (employee) communities get treated as IT installations, where you spend a lot of time, money and effort on the launch, and then “set it and forget it.” As we all know, this doesn’t work with social — what happens on a social channel after launch is usually much more important than the launch itself. We are seeing this less and less, which is encouraging.
On the external community side of things (example: customers, partners, etc), companies also tend to underestimate the strategic importance of community to their organization and the effort required to make it work. Staffing a customer community with tactical moderators (in-house or agency) doesn’t get at the full value of community, which is to become a more adaptable, learning organization. Oftentimes, community engagement is just a bolt-on, without executive support or backing, and thus does not relate to business’s objectives. And therefore is set up to fail, which is not only a huge missed opportunity, but also a brand risk.
With internal and external communities alike, there seems to be an assumption that the community will just run itself. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Community managers are the gardeners who make sure that the garden flourishes and returns a harvest. They are there as educators, shepherds, supporters, historians and enablers; they are there to make sure that the community pays off and returns on the investment. As community managers, we are on average poorly resourced and largely haven’t yet broken through to having a seat at the executive table. While on one side there’s massive interest in using social to provide better experiences for the ecosystem, on the other side there’s still a broad lack of understanding of what that actually takes. Community managers often get lumped into the same category as social media marketing managers as “those people who tweet.” Umm… no. To do my part in helping drive the conversation forward, I led the development of a comprehensive Community Playbook, which launched this year on CMAD.
But I’m not here to complain. I’m here to challenge all of us to take a stand and educate the market about what we do and why it’s important. It’s a big task, but if we all take the time to educate our businesses and management teams, together we can do a lot. If we as community managers don’t take the time to educate and dispel myths, we’ll never break through the roadblocks — and we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. I’d like to also challenge businesses we work for to listen to their community managers and try to understand how community can bring business value to your organization.
For all of this to happen, we need data. The Community Roundtable has done an incredible job furthering the business of community management, and educating the market. Their marquee yearly report on the State of Community Management is here to fill this educational gap. I believe in this cause so much that I’ve taken an active role in this year’s research. If you are a community manager who wants his or her voice heard, this is your opportunity to do so — take a few minutes to fill out the research survey today. It’s like voting — if you don’t vote, you can’t complain 🙂
We need to come together and commit to raising our own excellence as a meta community of community managers, and to working together to raise overall literacy levels around community management. Please fill out the survey today, and pass it on!