Put the phrase “community management” into a Google image search. This is what you get. Flowcharts, diagrams, little 3D guys holding hands in a communal circle and the standard icon of marketing stuff… the jigsaw piece. Oh dear.
It would appear that community management is quite a difficult thing to explain. Looking at Google’s visual representations, you’d think that community managers are buried under complication and intricacy, spreadsheets and blueprints.
In reality, there are absolutely NO jigsaw pieces (unless you work for Ravensburger), because at its heart community management is a really simple concept.
So what is it?
In a nutshell, community management is the act of building, nurturing and maintaining communities. It’s as easy as that.
Communities are everywhere. Often, we don’t even realise they exist but we are all part of them; we are inherently social creatures. You will be part of a myriad of networks and be none the wiser for it.
People are involved in many different physical communities, some examples being work, friends, local neighbourhoods, running clubs, bakery classes – even religion. The list is endless. Often, community managers (CMs) in the real world are called development officers.
What’s slightly different about online communities is that people are not limited by their location and so they can grow enormously. If you have access to the internet, your every possible interest is catered to. Communities range from forums, to websites, to social networks to intranets. Any online space where people are connected around a common cause or interest can be defined as an online community. And CMs can help them grow.
Online community management is a rare but developing profession composed of individuals that know how online communities tick, how to get the best out of them and how to keep them focused.
Some good examples of thriving online communities include Mumsnet, Trip Advisor, GoodReads, Threadless and DeviantArt. These are large, developed online spaces that have a loyal and dedicated audience.
Their rise to online supremacy has been partly fueled by great community managers that know how members think, act and behave and work together with them to develop the space. Without guidance and nurturing on CMs’ part, these online behemoths would be much less established than they are now.
As organisations and companies have become more experienced in the online space, they have discovered that there are opportunities and benefits for online communities to thrive around their brand. At LBi the Social Platform & Community Management team works to nurture and develop online spaces for the benefit of both users and clients.
Not a jigsaw piece in sight. Or any nonsense diagrams, for that matter. Simple.