I have been involved in community management from day one and I can pride myself on training a great number of Community Managers from the very early days of social media, that is to say when it wasn’t even called that – way. CMAD (Aka Community Management Appreciation Day) is probably an ideal opportunity for us to dwell on the very denomination of “Community Management”, the significance of the word “community” and how one nurtures such a community in a commercial environment. On CMAD, which is due to take place on January 26 at 09:00 am GMT (10:00 am CET), I will facilitate a roundtable dedicated to that topic and I will invite various European experts to join me in a one-hour session on Google hangouts. Make sure you are part of this.
Most brands have no communities
Most of the clients we work with at Visionary Marketing start from a blank sheet. It’s not that they are any weaker than other brands, on the contrary; it is the nature of their business that dictates the way that they have to tackle this issue of “communities”. Like it or not, most brands have no communities.
Legend: beloved brands are few and far between. They are the only ones which can generate a spontaneous community spirit; often their communities – e.g. Nutella, Audi, Air France – are initiated by their own clients
Sure, most brands have clients, maybe even faithful and happy ones at that, yet that still doesn’t suffice to turn these clients into “communities”. So, what is, and isn’t, a community exactly?
What is a community
Communities can’t be “created”, they are spontaneous bodies of enthusiasts gathering or seeking to gather around common values or ideas. I once belonged to a small community dedicated to the Belgian contemporary composer Wim Mertens. Maybe not a huge community that, but one, which felt common values and passion… This is our second ingredient.
> Passion: communities are built around passion. Passion is not always well understood by outsiders of that community. In fact, communities often look weird or even incomprehensible, unless you are part of it. When Alpha Romeo launched its new range of cars at the end of 1990s and gathered focus groups of faithful customers, the latter had to explain to an fire EU engineers that the brands numberplates had to be located on the side of the car, not in the middle. Community feeling and common brand values were better shared within those groups of brand fanatics, then within the company itself. A true sign that something was wrong there. Passion, like the devil, is in the details.
> Mutual help: community members often seek to help each other for no other reason than fuelling their passion and their obvious motivation to be recognised as a group member. Often, communities require no compensation. In fact they never do. I have even seen cases when trying to offer gifts to the members of a tightly knit community of expert bloggers, I had managed to, almost, damage the community spirit within this group. Fortunately, I managed to keep it at that and I retained my gifts and budgets for other occasions. All community members want is to be acknowledged, not compensated.
> Mutual benefit: communities exist when the members derive advantages from being part of that group. It doesn’t need to be much. It may be about recognition, the fact that one belongs or is useful to a group, or just the fact that you like something very much, even a brand, and are part of something.
in essence, you can’t create a community, but you can ensure that your brand, your content, your actions all make it possible for groups to be formed and that members enjoy being part of the community, if they so decide. You can’t create a community, but you may facilitate and encourage community creation and nurture the community once it exists. In essence, this is our role as “Community Managers”. Community Management should be renamed “Community Facilitation” for all I know.
Many ways of managing/nurturing communities exist
As a matter-of-fact, there are as many ways to facilitate a community as there are brands and verticals. No two companies are the same, all sorts of techniques and ways of handling communities exist.
On CMAD, which is due to take place on January 26 at 09:00 am GMT (10:00 am CET), I will facilitate a roundtable dedicated to that topic and I will invite various European experts to join me in a one-hour session on Google hangouts. Make sure you are part of this.