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My answer would be it depends! I don’t know that there is anything failproof when dealing with humans. There’s quite a bit of uncertainty in this whole thing – the human factor and what works in one community may not work in another because of differences in the audience/community expertise, goals, triggers, etc.
Our community continues to grow but has a long way to go before I would call it an outright success. The things that seem to be succeeding are activities that are compelling and have gains for the users. So for an professional association, the ability to form groups and to collaborate on documents together is an easy case to make because they do that already offline and the online community makes that interaction more efficient.
I think it takes more time to make a community successful than people realize, especially for a large externally-facing community. Although a community manager (who I think should be full-time and may need staff) should be facilitating conversations and helping your organization leverage the technology to its needs, a large part of your organization should be helping to populate and engage the community.
Just my two cents…
Might be worth asking Community Roundtable if they have any metrics or guiidelines? Some of us are currently on the first of three modules of the Community Manager course and certification. Claire Flanagan might know if Rachel Happe has anything in this area - sorry too maxed out to read everything they have published. I think we are not allowed to share the presentations from the modules but I guess they will re-run in time?
I actually can't keep up with JC now either - I used to be able scan everything but it feels like the volumes are on the increase?
In my experience, the time allocated for the Community manager (CM) is not a static amount and it depends on the type of community.
-For example, when first launching a community, the community manager must spend up I think at least 50% of their time (assuming they have another full time role in the org) cultivating the community. Working with the advocates or core team to foster engagement and participation. Setting up events like webinars, virtual meetings, audio conferences, etc to build the momentum are key to reaching some critical mass.
-I have seen community managers spend 100% of their time towards building their community, then tapering off as their core team and advocates step up to accelerate the overall engagement. I think the effort a CM dedicates to their communities are directly related to the overall success of those communities. Once the community reaches a certain level, then I have seen the CM reduce their time to 10-20%, and take more of a coaching role in terms of time dedicated.
-my other point about dedication of time and efforts revolves around the type of community. In my experience, I think Communities of Experts (CoE) are easier to manage and grow then Communities of Practice (CoP). The CoE members consider themselves "experts" and want to showcase their knowledge or they are newbies to the topic(s) and joined to learn more about the topic(s) discussed in the CoE. For CoPs, I think you have the 90-9-1 behaviors where the Community Manager must try to foster along with the advocates an environment where the "lurkers" (read-only members) can feel comfortable to come out of the shadows and contribute. I can see no other way for that to happen unless the CM really drives the engagement from all members, actively recruiting new members, and ensuring the community is popular from sharing the knowledge and information produced from the community's existence.
-For Commuities of Interest (CoI), i think it depends on the topic and the passion for that topic....so that is a wildcard regarding time needed to grow such a CoI.
..my 2 sense..
Are you talking about an internal (employee) or external (customer facing) community?
If it's internal, how big is your organization?
If it's external, what industry are you in, or will the community serve? (i.e. if it's consumer brand, you better dedicate one person! if it's a niche topic, the sizing might vary depending on who else might be helping with "content.)
And yes, it depends.