Tag Archives: community manager appreciation day

Looking back on 5 years of Community Manager Breakfast

According to my records, I’ve been hosting Community Manager Breakfast for five years. Wow. That’s a long time, especially in the world of startups! With that in mind, and in honor of today’s Community Manager Appreciation Day celebration, I decided to mull over the changes I’ve seen since I first launched this little meetup back in 2011.

1) We’re less focused on social media.

That’s huge. When I first started in community management, it was clear that social media was going to be “a thing”. And we all wanted to be part of it. But it wasn’t 100% clear how it fit in with community management. For a moment, we seemed to toy with being content creators, garnering likes and retweets. We had a lot of big discussions around social media during those early breakfasts. But gradually something became clear: social media was a great tool for engaging an audience, but not always a great tool for connecting people to each other. And as many of those channels become increasingly noisy and broadcast-focused, I am glad we didn’t hitch our success to them.

2) Individual specializations are starting to develop within community management.

Five years ago, community managers did a lot of things…but not in a good way. We often were the first marketer, the website copy writer, the office manager, the customer support rep, etc. These days we’re increasingly being actually hired to do what we do: bring people together. And this means we can start to specialize within that general focus. Now we see developer evangelists, event organizers, open source facilitators, support community managers, and more. This gives our discipline more depth and more directions for practitioners to grow in.

3) We’re formalizing our practice.

While five years ago we were merely seeking to bring some sense and definition to community management, now we’re focusing on formalizing, documenting, and improving it. While it’ll forever develop and change and improve, we now are starting to see things like the commitment curve providing repeatable structures that we can build off of, rather than always starting from scratch.

4) Community managers were and are great people.

I’m so lucky to have met every single person who has come to breakfast and for all the support you’ve given me over the years. I’ve met so many of you that, to my great embarrassment, I can’t always remember everyone’s name! But please know next time you see me: I think you’re great, I thank you for coming, and remind me of your name and we’ll have an awesome conversation. 🙂

Here’s to another five years of breakfasts! Hope to see you at one if you’re in SF or NYC!

Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day 2015! Let’s grow up.

Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day 2015!

they grow up so fast

It’s amazing to me to be celebrating this for the 6th year. It feels like just yesterday that Jeremiah Owyang created it (Who, incidentally, was my mentor when I stumbled into community management – thank you Jeremiah!).

Anniversaries are always a nice time to look back and look forward, so let’s take stock of our situation.

So far we’ve seen the industry go from nascent to the-hottest-thing-nobody-understands to near-takeover by social media marketers to, finally, an emerging set of values, frameworks, and resources.

The problem is that we still don’t quite know what we are.

Every CM struggles with this. Our jobs are focused on the user – we know that much – whomever that may be. But they can involve forums, events, social media, customer feedback, customer support, user testing, product design, communications, and more.

I’ve talked to talented folks lately who have gotten out of community management partially because they’re unsure what it is and where they fit in it…and it’s a lot easier to have a job where the lines are clear, and it’s a lot easier to tell your boss you’re succeeding when you’ve got one clear goal.

I think there’s a couple steps we need to take to move past this fourth-act crisis.

1. Start showing ROI.

Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Yes, it’s HARD. (We’re not unique in this, by the way – PR feels the same way.) But ultimately, if we can’t show that there’s inherent value in making customers happy, we can’t advocate for our jobs.

How do we do this? However the hell we can. We need to stop imagining there’s one perfect formula for community ROI – especially since community takes so many forms.

Maybe for you it’s the fact that your cost-efficient meet ups can be paid for if they convert just ONE attendee a year to your platform (as was the case when I was at UserVoice). Maybe it’s calculating whether the lifetime value of people who participate in your community is higher – like Salesforce, which proved that community participants spend more. Maybe it’s showing that NetPromoter score is higher (which should indicate referrals, which means more money) for those who participate in your community efforts. Maybe it’s showing that your community efforts increased open rates, which increased impressions on your product. Maybe it’s showing that feature uptake was more likely when someone participated in the community, like Google AdWords has shown.

There’s something you can measure. It may not be possible for you to have a daily or weekly dollars-spent-to-dollars-earned, but you can prove that you are generating value. (And for the record, it’s not like Marketing really has direct ROI – ever heard the phrase “I know half of my marketing is working; I just don’t know which half”?)

Everything else is gravy. Yes, it’s great to create a good impression of the brand and to have advocates and to have happy customers, but consider that all bonus. Show your ROI, then talk about all that…don’t show the bonus results and assume there is ROI.

2. Build the Community department.

I’ve been arguing this for years, and I will continue to. If there’s a department focused on sales, a department focused on marketing, a department focused on finance…why the hell wouldn’t there be a department focused on customers, arguably our most important asset?

What does this get us? Sure, respect, and pay raises…but also leverage within the company and room to specialize. The conundrum above, where we can’t define our jobs because we all do so many things? To me, that’s indicative of a burgeoning industry and a trade, not a problem. When you look at those many tasks alone, it seems a bit manic. Look at them together? Events, communications, forums, user testing, customer support, social media, product design, and more? Why, that’s a team of community specialists!

Stepping up to lead departments will grow the number of community-focused jobs and allow people to specialize in what they’re good at and interested in, rather than struggle to do everything. That’s a bright future.

Don’t think you can do it? Sure you can. Companies are waking up to the need for this. There’s plenty of ammo (start here) to send to your boss. (Sign up for that mailing list on the right side of this page and I’ll keep your inbox full of that stuff.) And if we lock down a basic version of the ROI component, we can stand our own next to Marketing and Sales.

Forging a community department will be hard, and it won’t happen right away…but it can’t be any harder than event planning or motivating people to participate or dealing with trolls!

Go forth and find ROI and build the community department. Long live Community Manager Appreciation Day!

Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day! Here’s what’s next.

When I started in Community Management, it was a bit of a novelty.

As “Web 2.0” (which it was referred to without irony at the time) slowly gained momentum, here was this relatively new role* that embodied the hope that this second web boom would be more sustainable, and more caring.

Community management was something you had to explain not just to relatives, but to tech folks as well. Even when Jeremiah Owyang started Community Manager Appreciation Day in 2010, not everyone was positive the role would be around in 5 years.

The Google Trends chart below quantifies what we already know: community management has surged in popularity. I like this chart. 🙂

community management trend

But you can also see that interest has flattened out a bit, and the projection for coming months is pretty similar. The tipping point for community management has already occurred – but that means our work is just starting.

As Twitter, the Atkins diet, and Pauly Shore know, just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you’ve built something good and sustainable. In fact, it’s at these points of mass popularity that the holes start to show: fragmentation in the definition of the role, community managers doing negative things, and a worrisome lack of ROI.

Let’s not let our tipping point be the beginning of the end – let’s take it as a challenge. Let’s make it a springboard. If we’ve succeeded in making community management popular, let’s now succeed at making it amazingly effective, respected, and sustainable. Let’s push our craft forward and live up to all the hype, shall we?

Here’s a few recommendations for you and me (I forget these all the time):

Dream. Dream of what this role could be. Dream of where you can grow to from where you are now. Stop complaining about people not listening to you, or things not getting run past you, or things being done wrong. Instead change them. Become a more core part of the organization. Show your value and leverage that. Think about building a department (or even a company, like Thomas Knoll). Be ambitious!

Learn. Go to CMX Summit and UserConf. Read Buzzing Communities. Read the many amazing blogs that are available (like this OPML file of the blogs of the 2014 top 100 community managers) . Don’t take anything for granted.

Share. At a recent #CMGRchat on Twitter, many community managers were lamenting the availability of key studies and data. But few of them share any of this information! If you want more information out in the world, you have to lead by example. Although it can be a slog to get your company to agree to that push to release this data, do it. Share anecdotes. Start a blog and share thoughts, even if they’re small and seem dumb. Make our craft better and you will be better for it.

We have so much opportunity sitting here waiting for us. Let’s take advantage of it!

*A few folks, like the excellent Randy Farmer, had been doing it for years…but only a few, and they didn’t go by community managers until the 00’s, I believe.