March 22, 2011

Benefits of Community Management

Community management is a practice of expanding a website’s value through building goodwill with your customer, the end user. By expanding this relationship, and giving value to the user, the community in return receives “value”, in terms of expanding the capital in the website (goodwill), as well as expanding its revenue streams.

What is value?

Value within a community is the art of “giving” to a user.

In an industry where there is minimal “hard capital”, and developing a distribution network does not have the barriers to entry of traditional media (Newspapers/TV etc.), giving value is essential, as it distinguishes you from competitors and provides a larger barrier for new competitors to overcome.

This can be the following:

  • Giving a user the information they are seeking
  • Giving the user a “sense of community”
  • Giving the user a “sense of individuality”
  • Giving the user a feeling of enjoyment in interaction

List 1.1

Giving a user the information they are seeking

As a site it is a necessary to be “the resource” for getting the correct answers. This information also needs to be accessible in a manner that is simple and logical. This can be done through appropriate product and community measures.  First, make sure the necessary content is present; then, make the content easily accessible. Ultimately, users come to your site for a reason – give it to them!

Giving the user a “sense of community”

Make the user feel as if they are part of “something big”, something growing and expanding, and those individuals by sheer association will feel as if they are gaining value. People want vibrant communities, not stale ones. Users can be fickle at times, and as such a community needs to “inject life” into a user. This can be done through advocating community activities (e.g. publicising local get-togethers), promoting members of the community, advertising the community elsewhere (on the internet or off the internet). Make sure your name is “out there”, and it is seen by both fresh eyes and familiar ones.

Giving the user a “sense of individuality”

The easiest way to give a user a sense of investment is to allow them to be themselves within the community. One needs to maintain the expectation that everyone is an individual with varied backgrounds, and their desires/demands and forms of expression are just as varied. Allow them to utilize the site as they want to, provide them with the tools to do so, and allow them to express themselves. Where possible one should attempt to accommodate all potential users needs/wants and desires. Allowing users a “sense of individuality” can grow into giving users a “sense of community” as individuals form into groups of like-minded individuals as your audience expands.

Giving the user an overall feeling of enjoyment in interaction

Enjoyment in interaction can come from many aspects – gaining information, sense of community and sense of individuality – conversely their enjoyment can possibly be eroded by an disproportionate focus on these items. A community should be something that everyone feels as if they “enjoy” participating in. Be cognizant that while one should provide users with a sense of individuality, don’t allow that expression to go beyond their talents or infringe upon other users desires to see peoples “individuality”. One of Myspace’s greatest failures in comparison to Facebook for example was its ability to create completely custom profile pages – this would be fine if it was merely a community of web designers, but it was a community of 16yr olds. Facebook on the other hand allowed people to express their individuality in offering very varied (and easily accessible) language settings for different countries, and security/privacy settings to allow people to express their content in their individual manner. Make product implementations, communication, policy changes etc. in a manner that the community will appreciate and enjoy.

An important aspect here as well is that while one should actively encourage personal individuality/community, one should also espouse a global sense of identity for the site that users can associate with and want to be a part of (avoid being cliché’!). Where you cannot avoid utilizing common concepts (for example, a common forum platform) for reasons of scalability, ensure it is personalized appropriately – details will not go unnoticed.

How can you extract value?

There are many methods in which “value” can be gained from the website, these are by no means all the forms of extracting value, but they are the most common.

  1. User being exposed to advertising
  2. Purchasing direct sold products (premium memberships and/or advertising)
  3. Contributing content (posts)
  4. Expanding the brand through viral marketing (Hey John, are you on Corvette Forum? Etc.) and linking elsewhere on personal sites or other communities.
  5. Management and leadership of the individuals that provide these contributions.

More to come 🙂


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