Thursday, September 6, 2007

Community Management

I'm not sure if I like this term "Community Manager" or not . Something about "managing" people - and in this case, managing how people interact with your product - just seems counterintuitive to everything that's going on in the social media space.

Granted I'm fairly new to blogging for myself, but I've studied the medium, participated in it and have developed relationships with people who helped shape the blogosphere. You see how I said developed "relationships"...that's what this thing is all about!

If one were to "manage" all of their relationships then wouldn't the authenticity and underlying importance and value of those relationships diminish? They'd become nothing more than numbers on a progress report at the end of every quarter.

Granted, some relationships are purely business and thus have to be consciously managed, but when you're trying to build a sense of community and evangelism around a product then why on earth would you use the title of "Community Manager".

It's like calling yourself the "Mayor", indicating everybody else is beneath you.

Sorry to go on a tirade here but I couldn't get over all of the posts I had read on Jeremiah Owyang's blog. Just to be clear, I have the utmost admiration and respect for Jeremiah, I've been reading his posts for a long while now and I think he's probably one of the most well versed people in this space. Furthermore, he's not the only one who uses that title. Look around, it's almost become "conventional wisdom" to use that as a moniker for the employee who reaches out to the customers. However, the implication of using a title like that is far reaching in the impression it gives to:

- Corporations
- Other bloggers
- And (most importantly) the consumers

After having worked in sales and owned a number of my own companies, I know that the only way to get people involved and to become excited about something is to get them on the same side of the table as you. The only way to do that is to present the opportunity for an equally beneficial relationship - EQUAL!

So what would a more appropriate title be?

I think Jeremiah used this term several times in reference to his various roles at different companies, but he didn't use it as his official title. I propose all "Community Managers" officially change their title to: "Customer Advocate".

That's really what you should be doing if you're reaching out into your community of customers, you should be their advocate -- their voice in and outside of your company. Take their input, give them credit for it and make the changes that they want.

It seems like a facile statement but we all know that this is something most companies just pay lip service to - but the ones who practice what they preach are the ones who will succeed.

Mark my words!

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