21 Replies Latest reply on Jan 24, 2012 8:56 PM by iGirlx

    Alternate model to a community leader/manager

      Let me share an alternate model to the "internal community manager" role.  This is based on a case that I worked on, and I wanted to get feedback from you if you think this is a better model.


      Context: I worked with a client who was not in a position to hire a full time community manager. But only to bring me on for a limited engagement to set them off toward a good path. The situation: about 1000 people in the division, multiple locations, multiple products, multiple clients, you name it - silos everywhere. The big enabler: the thought leadership was committed to an Enterprise 2.0 collab strategy.  They had software which provided them with a wiki, forum, blog, and "facebook-like" application for employees to provide branded identity and form into visible groups.


      We followed the org structure, based on product, geography, and client.  And we set up 10 sub-communities.  Each group was willing to assign one person a 5--10 hour a week allocation for community management.  But these people who were assigned this role were all over the place in terms of their awareness and abilities to perform this role.  So we created a community of community leaders -- we met every week to review the community practices, barriers, successes, etc.  The community of leaders shared practices about discussion forum moderation and wiki-page gardening etc.  The leadership blogged to the organization promoting the success stories, and sometimes addressed the barriers.


      Each sub community was set up consistently (group wiki pages, categories, tags, etc.), and the part-time leaders helped group use the tools to collaborate and share effectively.  There was no formal training.  Rather we use the "I do, then we do, then you do" method of mentoring.  And people followed the examples.  It was easier to follow than to deviate, so people use the tools and collaborated effectively.


      In upshot:  instead of a dedicated internal community manager, we set up a community of part time managers. It had the advantage of spreading the "gospel" (so to speak), and talent, so that others in the company got better at business/social information exchange.  I will admit, there were many speed bumps on the road, it was not smooth.  But looking back, I think it was an overall successful approach.


      The concept that many part-time contributors can scale better than one expert is very harmonious with Web 2.0.  Perhaps this is a better model?  It worked for me in this case, but I'd like to get your input -- one example is not a pattern.  Anyone else see something like this before?  What do you think about the approach?

        • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

          Hello Gil.


          I agree with you. The point I was trying to make is that *someone* needs to be focused on the well being, tone and evolution of a community.


          In our world, we have a dedicated community manager. This person is responsible for the overarching community / platform. They focus on higher level training, awareness, on-boarding, roadmap, promotion, strategy, development resources, etc;. We also have over a hundred 'part time' community managers. Each spends anywhere between 4 - 10 hours per week managing their own space within the larger community. Often these folks are within business units or geos - they've expressed interest in having a presence within the community - and have worked with our primary community manager to make it all happen. They are ultimately responsible for the well being of their particular community space.


          To your point - a single community manager, or even a small team of them, couldn't be as effective as a distributed model. At the end of the day, it's important to empower the SME's to have some skin in the game - as they'll ultimately help evangelize elsewhere in the company and drive the evolution of E2.0 behaviors within their org's.


          I think the model you describe could work fine... My only concern is who's ultimately accountable for the overall community? Do you need a single voice to help drive the overarching roadmap - to drive the enterprise wide awareness strategy - to provide 'support' for your distributed team, etc?


          Thanks for sharing...



          • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

            LOVE this. And, major 'duh' moment for me. A community of community managers. Adding this thread to my list of suggested reading for customers...


            Here's something to think about, though: for organizations who can't afford professional services or analyst involvement in adoption tactics, there are people like me. I try to hook up with one or two community-manager-type folks in my customers' organizations, so that I can help them help themselves. So, from my perspective, I still need to find a "head" community manager to connect with.

            • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

              I like the "gentle breeze" nature of the model you used: matrix-based governance instead of hierarchical... I would guess that the model is probably the best ways to promote large behavioral changes and engagement when sponsorship is solely at the top, AND when that sponsorship is strong enough to get you the magical "We will assign X persons Y hours a month".


              In that case, counting with the participation that such strong sponsorship will get you, it makes a lot of sense to involve more people in governance, to dilute ownership and specialization, and to create as many citizens as fast as you can. Some of the citizens may not really feel like exercising their civic duty, but your sponsorship gives them reason to, and the 'perception of movement' created by having so many people involved is certain to contribute greatly to your success. I would qualify that as 2.0-ish pre-conditions, which will favor 2-0-ish results 


              There are some potential problems with the model, however, in other scenarios where sponsorship is not that strong (i.e., you got the initiative going, you have some budget, a couple key resources, but it's up to you to secure people's time... and "Oh, by the way, we will check on you in six months and see if it's worth to take it to the next step" ). In those cases, matrix governance gets too diluted and wasteful, and you run out of time quite fast; I've found it it more feasible to start small (just a handful of communities), look for one or two heroes that make everyone feel like being a citizen, help them succeed, and THEN, from there, generate a Hero-school from which your matrix may emerge. In other words, make sure there is a reason for heroes to emerge, whether it be that your sponsor wields a soft but visible club, or hero-envy...


              I can't say, though, whether you can go from hero-envy to hero-matrix, never been there...

              • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                You ask "who's ultimately accountable for the overall community?" as if there is a penalty involved if a community doesn't form ... but isn't the point of a community that it is self-forming (with some help from evangelist(s) perhaps). Anything "forced" or the subject of either reward or penalty is not a community. Leader, yes ... manager, no.


                That's why I like Gil's model - its distributed nature not only makes it easier to "spread the word", but it removes the temptation to pressure somebody to make it work. To me, the sort of mentality that thinks that way is unlikely to foster a real community.

                • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                  I didn't mean it like that. Ultimately, I, as a partner vendor, am looking for the one or two people who care about adoption so that I can do knowledge transfer with them about how to approach adoption with my product. They'd be the ones who get my education materials, internal marketing materials, and most importantly, my time and experience, helping them craft a customized adoption strategy that fits their culture, and my particular product.


                  These are the people who lead the adoption cause. Yes, there are evangelists, but I can't sync up with evangelists as they emerge. I need to find the one or two who will carry the message to the evangelists themselves. There is typically a social media manager for online communities outside the firewall, so I was wondering if there is a parallel role internally. I know of several people holding this role today, but if nobody is in that role, then who do I sync up with? Who will lead the adoption effort?

                  • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                    Gia - I think you're responding to my response to somebody else's response ... but I could be wrong !


                    Your requirement is to find the early adopters and/or a champion. That's not necessarily someone with an organisational responsibility to "start a community" - although increasingly it seems to be. It probably IS someone who has sufficient authority to get some software loaded maybe ...


                    You're in a better position than I to make a call on this, but I suspect that social software often gets into an organisation because a project team needs to collaborate 'remotely' due to physical or organisational distance. With some positive results, usage may spread organically, or by imprimatur. I'd be a little disappointed if a company had to make it somebody's job to whip up enthusiasm for social software ... if it requires that, then perhaps the idea isn't a good fit for the business. I DO see that early adopters would become reference points for newbies because of their greater whuffie, but when you try and legislate for adoption you lose the "community" feel, and may find greater resistance than if people came to the party themselves.


                    Sounds like a whole lot of mixed metaphors in there ... sorry


                    Added the 'whuffie' Wikipedia link

                    • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                      Well, it's not about putting someone in charge of whipping up enthusiasm. It's about putting someone in charge of implementing education programs - say, weekly lunch-n-learns... "come learn about how to work a better way!"They'd also be responsible for any internal marketing needed to get beyond the plateau of the first early adopters. They'd reach out to Corporate Communciations and others to help spread the word from the top down, sideways, and diagonally, to complement the existing bottom-up efforts. These efforts are typically needed in companies with tens of thousands of people worldwide.

                      • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                        I'll go back to my point about who's responding to whom ... I understand your point, Gia, and agree that there needs to be some focal point for you (as a vendor rep) to deal with. It was the impression I got from others that it is necessary to have a community manager to be somehow accountable for actions that are at their best when internally motivated rather then "forced" - you can't have a community where people have to participate - that's a prison, not a social network, and trying to legislate for it will kill community spirit.


                        Now - my impression of what was being said may be wrong, if so let me apologise. But we still need to be careful to remember that community is emergent, not imposed.

                        • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                          Wow - Seems I may have caused quite a stir


                          Ric - You may be reading too much into the 'accountable' word. I'm all for distributed ownership... As I say, we have over one hundred community managers today. But - we have one full time person ultimately responsible for helping them to be successful... This person focuses on helping onboard new CM's, providing training materials, best practices, offers support while they build and launch their community, managing our relationship with Jive, overseeing any IT / development work, etc;. This person is also responsible for gathering requirements from across the communities / community managers and driving the ongoing evolution of the overall community offering (again, basically working to deliver the functionality and requirements that the community at large is asking for). Never did I mean to suggest that there was any forced behavior...


                          I believe the question I was trying to pose was - With a completely distributed model, who (if anyone) is tasked with spearheading your overall community efforts?


                          Hope that helps clarify.




                          • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                            Absolutely. Community doesn't happen unless it emerges. I think what Len and I are describing is when the clamoring for software solutions to meet the communities' needs is so cacophonous, who becomes the orchestrator? The original question was intended to be taken not within the context of, "we need to drum up some enthusiasm around here, dammit!", but more along the lines of, "Oh wow, we've got so many people wanting to know how best to approach serving their thriving community's needs, that we need someone to counsel them, orchestrate them, guide them."


                            This has been an excellent discussion, by the way. Helps me realize that so many of us are at different points on the road to a true enterprise-wide 2.0 environment!

                            • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                              Ric wrote:


                              It was the impression I got from others that it is necessary to have a community manager to be somehow accountable for actions that are at their best when internally motivated rather then "forced" - you can't have a community where people have to participate - that's a prison, not a social network, and trying to legislate for it will kill community spirit.


                              Well, it seems to be clear that it wasn't Len's or Gia's intention to imply sending anybody to prison for other people's refusal to participate. And yet,let me kick the bee-hive here, I think that SOMEBODY needs to be made accountable. FULLY accountable.


                              Most enterprise communities (the subject of this post) are funded, staffed and seeded with corporate funds. Those funds are allocated after very concrete and specific analysis, promises and projections are made, an initiative gets created, and ALL those projections and promises become targets to be reached by some execution plan. I can tell you that yes, I've been burned by choosing targets that were too optimistic, or even worse, expressed in the wrong terms or variables, but I can also tell you that unless people are made accountable for the targets agreed upon, another knowledge management disillusion will be coming our way, this time with Social Networking.


                              Social Software is NOT a free-for-all, let's-see-if-we-can-make-it-work kind of thing. None of my sponsors would have ever given me a dime to get going in that basis, and I would feel very lame to get back to them with a "Well, I tried, but nobody wants to socialize". Why? Simple: I can't be made accountable if NOBODY, absolutely nobody wants to come to build relationships, but if that happens I am probably accountable for poor situational analysis, non-existing planning, and lousy execution. I don't know about prison, but at least my job should be on the line.


                              In most scenarios, a good execution requires that a communities leader (let's not get hung-up in titles, but let's pay attention to the plural in 'communitIES', to imply multiplicity of projects) be the "keeper of the mission". That person is fully responsible, in short, for:

                              1. Making sure that needs are verified and validated (a community where nobody wants to participate usually pops up in this part)
                              2. Make sure that all processes and best practices are followed (including training, branding and other assets required, times and outreach kept, etc.)
                              3. Guarantee that expert advice, monitoring and advice is always available in as close a relationship as required by the people who are "jumping at the pool" leading each individual community or each individual segment of one.


                              These responsibilities are not trivial, they don't imply a "mandate to socialize or else" and yet they constitute full accountabilities. Now, the question was whether such responsibility could be held by a group of evangelists, or a single person. I still think it depends on the level of sponsorship available... but whether one or many, she/they should be fully accountable for success. 

                              • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                OK - I'll get off my soapbox now


                                In response to the question ... apart from someone for Gia to liaise with (Vendor Relationship Manager, to commandeer a phrase from Doc Searls?) does it need to be anyone? Is there anything in that role that couldn't be handled by the community itself (for the functionality requirements), and an IT service desk (for the technical stuff)?

                                • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                  Carlos wrote:


                                  In most scenarios, a good execution requires that a communities leader (let's not get hung-up in titles, but let's pay attention to the plural in 'communitIES', to imply multiplicity of projects) be the "keeper of the mission". That person is fully responsible, in short, for:

                                  1. Making sure that needs are verified and validated (a community where nobody wants to participate usually pops up in this part)
                                  2. Make sure that all processes and best practices are followed (including training, branding and other assets required, times and outreach kept, etc.)
                                  3. Guarantee that expert advice, monitoring and advice is always available in as close a relationship as required by the people who are "jumping at the pool" leading each individual community or each individual segment of one.

                                  This is what I meant. Thanks, Carlos! I'm copying this into my bag of adoption "tricks" now, with your permission.

                                  • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                    I'm happy to be the grit in the oyster that produces a pearl like Carlos' comment ...


                                    I feel we're coming to the same point from different directions (which is cool) - I am unashamed to say that I tend to be a bottom-up sort of guy who would prefer to see small (cheap) starts and build the community first; or fail quickly (and cheaply) before it means someone's job is on the line. But I also take the point that once those communities grow beyond a certain size/reach there needs to be an element of organisation about them - but by that stage there should already be momentum and justification for more investment.

                                    • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                      We converge much more than you would believe: I always prefer bottoms-up approaches as well, particularly because of what you mention, low investment to failure. Also, there is a unique pleasure to seeing communities organically emerge and become self-sufficient. Unfortunately, I am "soured grapes" from a couple of initiatives where I went in with meager sponsorship (to say the least) from the powers that be and many nay-sayers sitting on the sidelines waiting to say "I told you so"; in those cases the complete communities initiative needed to prove itself with success, or all of them would be turned off.


                                      But you know, even when sponsorship is strong, I have found that gentle hand-holding, objective tracking, and metrics production come handy, for many reasons...

                                      • Some great champions may not know they (and their community) are in trouble because they are too close to the trees
                                      • Governance is a tricky thing, and of all possible governance strategies, only a handful are kosher for a given enterprise, because of internal culture, exec personality, and such. You can keep many of those same champions out of trouble by influencing there governance decisions
                                      • Communities (not their members) are organic entities,that grow much like children: given a stove and many children in a house, they will all sooner or later put their hands in the fire. Why not saving them the trouble?
                                      • There are specific questions (e.g., what to do about SEO) that may not be important to the community, but may be crucial to the enterprise. Do you want to surface them?

                                      But you ask: Is it necessary? Mmmm, if you can take a couple failures without hurting the whole, probably not.

                                      • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                        Another fascinating thread! I'll declare my bias right up front in the interest of full disclosure: I am my company's sole full-time employee dedicated to our Clearspace installation. I am the community manager.


                                        Gia's made many great points about the need for "stuff to get done" and having a central point of contact. All true, in my experience. The software and community does not run itself -- not fully and completely. I'm convinced I add value by handling many things under the hood and behind the scenes to keep the show running. Software this complex, for one thing, simply needs tweaking, debugging and administration. Concepts related to community development are not well- or widely understood, either, so providing thought leadership, training and educational resources about them is necessary. I do all of that in my community manager role.


                                        To the point made above about being accountable, I'm that person. I report to the senior team on the growth of the community and the ways people are using it. Our CFO has pointedly and rightly asked how we will know what ROI we are getting, so I am developing metrics to try to capture that (while acknowledging from the start that we don't have any precise or truly reliable ways to measure that now -- that's a discussion for another thread). To the extent that our community is growing rapidly and shows signs of success, I get praised (so far so good ). Clearly, if the community falters or flounders, I will be charged with getting it back on track, or else shown the door.


                                        Executives like having someone who is accountable. That's how they manage effectively. We may be pioneering new models with the communities we are building in social media software, but I don't think the executive's need to delegate responsibility and hold someone accountable for results is going away anytime soon.


                                        But let's never lose sight of the meaning in my title -- Community MANAGER. I am expected to achieve results through others, not all on my own. I have to devise ways to get the company's objectives for our community accomplished, not create all the content myself. That's what management is all about.


                                        So from the start, we created local steering committees and local community managers. We trained them, psyched them up and empowered them. They have learned, and they have carried the message to others in their teams... and they have learned and carried the message to others -- so on and so on.


                                        It's become crystal clear what the single most important success factor is in each of our communities. The most successful, most developed, most active communities are those with strong, enthusiastic community managers. Like they say when you go to the gym, "you have to give some to get some." Decide that this is important enough to allocate about 20% of a person's time, choose the community manager carefully, and you'll see the payoff.


                                        Having said all that, we see tons of growth that is entirely bottom up. People emerge as champions all on their own, or maybe with some nudging from another champion. They create groups, they establish new work processes, they blog or start discussions or suggest creative ways to put this community to work.


                                        Bottom up is the long-term key to success, I believe. But without the community managers developing the community initially, I don't think we'd see anywhere near as much of the bottom-up success as we have. They need to go together.

                                          • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                            Ted - Thank you for the sharing your insight and expericences from one who is a full time community manager.  I am thinking of taking some of these ideas and put into practice in my current company.  I do have an ask of you and I hope that you can help me.

                                            I am trying to put together a community manager/lead role in my company and would like your insight in selling to management to hire a "Full Time" Community Manager.  It would be great if you can share any presentation or documents that you shared with your managment to sell this idea.

                                          • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager



                                            This has been a great discussion. I recently joined the community, so pardon my ignorance if something has already been posted, but our leadership team has been asking for some guidance around:


                                            1. Time commitment - Are there some guidelines (or even anecdotes based on your experience) around the number of managers/moderators (relative to company/community size) that firms dedicate to this role? We're particularly interested in what professional services firms might do. Could you share examples of the types of  firms that have part-time vs. full-time managers or teams (even if you cannot  share names)?


                                            2. Location - We have heard that face-to-face interaction (in HQ or co-located with the community) was an  important aspect of the Community Manager's success. Do you have any experiences  or anecdotes from communities that have tried having a remote/offshore manager  but have struggled as a result?


                                            Thanks much for the advice.



                                            • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                              Hi, Wini,


                                              You've identified two key points. I'll address the second one first.


                                              I agree that it's ideal to have the CM in the same location as the community, for face-to-face interaction really helps. We've seen that in a number of our communities that are the most active and effective. However, it's not a requirement. I, for example, am a full-time telecommuter and I manage the overall online community from my cottage on a horse farm. I travel now and then to offices to deliver training, but that's not the primary way I manage the community. Overall, I do so from a distance physically.


                                              I don't think the success of our CMs correlates with physical proximity. It's much more important to find someone who is enthusiastic about the opportunity, who has the aptitude for the role, and the support of management to commit to it.


                                              As for the time required, it will vary, of course. Our rough estimate based on 6 months experience is to expect 50% of a CM's time at the start and during ramp up. That's for someone committed to the role who is throwing himself into it -- we had others get by with less time spent. After things settle in, we see that time dropping closer to 20%.


                                              I don't have a numerical ratio to offer for CMs to users. Ours are based on our business divisions and those vary greatly in size. One of our largest divisions has over 1000 people and one very capable CM who is doing a terrific job. But, she has help -- others in the division are champions and advocates, too, and they have converted still more, so the work has become spread out nicely.


                                              We're a media company, by the way, not a professional services firm.

                                              • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                                Thanks Ted.


                                                I'd like to collect as many anecdotes as possible to help my leadership team come to a decision regarding this role. Anyone else with ideas/anecdotes to share? For reference, we have about 1200 or so folks in the community and are using the platform for employee engagement.

                                                • Re: Alternate model to a community leader/manager

                                                  I often hear people suggest the top down in conjunction with the bottom up approach to leading a community and making it thrive. A suggestion I have seen work is find someone in the middle who is passionate about fixing broken or inefficient processes. If they have access to both ends of the spectrum that need to be energized, and have a passion for seeing a change in the culture through social media... you are looking at a very nice solution to get things moving.