When most people think of an online community manager, they may think of someone who only reads and posts messages on behalf of the company. In fact, if this is all your Community Manager does I can guarantee your online community is at risk and your community manager will quickly become bored with their job.
But, a community manager also has a strategic role to play within the organization.
Here are 5 strategic approaches a community manager should follow to make sure they deliver value for the company.
Understand the business strategy and goals
A community manager who understands the business strategy and goals can foster valuable online conversations. They can reinforce business strategies, remind employees of corporate goals and gauge if employees are clearly relating their role to the business vision. This information is like gold for human resources and corporate communications.
For example, when we rolled out a new mission, vision and values to employees, we posted several updates in Yammer to reinforce the messaging and asking employees for their feedback. The best part of these online conversations was when employees posted how they saw themselves living the mission, vision and values in their daily work. These examples provided inspiration to others and clearly showed that employees embraced the new vision.
Deliver feedback into the organization
A community manager who carefully listens and takes time to probe a little deeper can be a key player to solving business problems throughout the organization. As they say, “with knowledge comes great responsibility” and it’s the community managers responsibility to advocate for their members and the business. This is done by providing feedback, advocating for change and making sure ideas are heard.
For example, human resources published a new policy and employees posted questions in Yammer. The community manager and human resource specialist monitored Yammer and answered questions in real time. The feedback from this online conversation was used to revise educational materials and provide additional insights for the human resource team.
Seek to find business problems
A community manager should look for opportunities to understand where business areas struggle. They can help areas solve issues using the online community.
For example, our IT team was looking for a scalable way to support employees as they rolled out new software. We were able to show the benefits of a Yammer group for employees to ask questions and get updates. The Yammer group became a knowledge base with little effort and in addition to our IT team, other power users joined the community to help answer questions. For months this site has been one of the most active groups in Yammer and it reduced the number of support request.
A community managers most difficult job may be to get executives to see the value of online communities. When speaking to executives many community managers focus on the technical aspects of posting, setting up notification or replying. The first thing a community manager should do is understand each executive’s pain points and show them how the community can help.
For example, we had a new CEO who made it a priority to listen to employees directly. While town halls and small groups had its advantages, it did not scale, and many employees could not attend such events. Understanding this, we were able to onboard him into our community where he first just listened to conversations, then asked questions and finally because he saw an ongoing theme about the company direction, he pulled together community members and facilitated in person working sessions. As a result, the company’s mission, vision and value statement were heavily influenced by the conversation that started online.
Shout community successes
A community manager should seek ways to praise others and tell success stories. This helps employees relate on how they can benefit from being an active community member. Community managers should consistently review activity and analyze statistics to find valuable nuggets to share.
For example, during the first year we launched Yammer we consistently pulled statistics to find how employees used the community and incorporated those numbers into success stories that we published monthly on our intranet. After each story we saw an increase in usage, new members and more active groups.
Community Managers wear many hats -- from fostering online conversations to all the administering that goes on behind the scenes. At the end of the day, to drive real business value a community manager must think and act strategically.
Share with us below how you help drive business results in your community.
James LaCorte is a champion of online communities, collaboration, innovation, and social media technologies. He has a track record of creating and implementing successful social media solutions and programs. James has Community Management Certificates from The Community Roundtable and is a board member for socialmedia.org. He implemented an award-winning Yammer community for one of the largest North Carolina Insurers. When James is not working you can see him on the water in his kayak, in the streets with his camera or spending time with his family.