jack_of_all_tradesThe enterprise community manager position is sometimes termed a “jack of all trades” role. I know — I’ve said it myself. But I think we’re starting to take it a bit too far.

[In the past] I have participated in a suite of webinars and talks about online communities and their growing role in functional areas such as customer care. I have listened to, and debated with, countless community management specialists about community management best practices. I’ve heard a lot about keeping business strategy and community management aligned. There’s no question this is a critical success factor for social business — but the issue is whether or not this responsibility is part of the charter for the online community manager role.

Pity the poor community manager who has been handed a whole range of new and complex tasks, responsibilities, and accountability measures related to managing and monitoring business strategy — in addition to the normal work of running a community! It won’t work. Placing responsibility for business strategy on the community manager will ruin many a promising online community, with lasting negative consequences for the business, the brand and, most of all, community members and customers. Online strategy and online community management are emerging as two distinct roles in the rapidly evolving world of online communities.

Let’s look at the role of online community strategy. It starts at the highest level, based on the organization’s mission and vision, and then proceeds to the business goals and business processes for the community itself. It is a line-of-business function led by an executive stakeholder responsible for strategic alignment based on the goals, metrics, measures and ROI.

This means the leadership from customer care, the office of strategy management or even product development — depending on the mission of the online community — have the charter to ensure that the online community is tracking in support of their organization’s strategy.

The second role is that of online community management. The crucial task for this role is delivering value to the community participants – the members. Full stop. If the community serves member needs and builds high-value customer/supplier/prospect relationships, it can achieve the strategic goals established by the business organization.

Adding business strategy leadership to the community manager’s role renders them ineffective, unable to succeed at either task. Keep in mind the community manager is the voice of the members back into the organization, and is charged with serving member needs. Asking the community manager to view her community through the lenses of both the business and the members is a prescription for blurred insights, mixed messages and reduced trust on both sides. Community managers can and should take into account the firm’s business goals in the programs and engagement models they develop and produce. But determination of which best fit with the overall strategy is best left to those in charge of business leadership.

The reasons for this separation of roles is primarily around skill sets. A seasoned community manager typically grew up through the ranks of communication specialties, and has the unique and invaluable ability to facilitate ideas, grow thought leadership content and listen well. What they do, and the ways they have honed their methodologies and insights, constitute hard-to-find skills based on extensive hands-on experience. In contrast, the skilled strategist has a keen appreciation for the nuances of goal-setting, planning, and measuring results, involving technical, financial and organizational design skills.

Just as HR executives typically aren’t tapped to run adjacent lines of business like finance, the community manager may not be best at driving the business of community. While there should be a dotted line between the business and the community operations, asking online community managers to manage functions that are out of their realm of expertise jeopardizes both the community and the business. The corollary is that for your online community to succeed and deliver business returns, the roles of online community strategy and community management should be treated with the business respect they deserve.

[This work was originally published on Vanessa's blog, Leader Networks and is reposted here with her permission.]

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Links We Love: Online Communities for Book Lovers & Authors

by Laura Johnson on September 18, 2014

Online Communities For Book Lovers FollrIf you love diving into a good book, you know that half the fun is discussing plot themes, theories, character backgrounds and the like with other avid readers. Well, this fact has translated onto the internet in the best way. Readers everywhere are coming together online to chat, read, write and more. Whether you need some feedback on a short story, want some explanation on a twisted plot line or are just interested in some recommendations for a great vacation read, these online communities have you covered!

1. Real Simple’s No Obligation Book Club. Ever wanted to join a book club but wanted to read on your own schedule? Now you can! Flip open a copy of Real Simple each month or visit their online presence to see what they’re reading, what they’ve already read and what you should be reading now!

2. GoodReads. Create a free account, enter a few of your favorite recent reads and GoodReads will recommend new books that fit your preferred style. It’s a great way to discover new books without having to peruse a giant book store for hours.

3. NothingBinding. This site lets authors share their work, answer questions and self-promote for free. Recently named “The Leading Global Social Networking Site for writers, authors, readers and book buyers…”

4. Shelfari by Amazon. This site is great because it allows you to connect directly with other authors and readers on what they’re reading.”C

5. LibraryThing. Basically your own library catalog system. Ever find yourself envying the ease at which librarians and book store employees can find exactly which-edition-of-which-novel-by-that-author you’re looking for? Now you can have that luxury at home too! Accounts are free and you can catalog a few or all of your books.

6. BONUS: Back this KickStarter, LitRate. “A social media and online cataloging site for readers and book lovers. A site for book lovers, built by book lovers.”

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Secrets of Great Communities And Community Managers by Vanessa DiMauro, Leader Networks

September 16, 2014

Tweet Secret #1:  Great online communities are strategic. Superior online communities, those that achieve breakthrough results for their organizations, all share a common trait.  Namely, they are treated as strategic initiatives and not campaigns, marketing programs, or skunk works efforts.  Great communities are holistic, integrated initiatives that support an important business need, accelerate a business […]

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Press Release: Comic-Con Accolades Heighten DARK PROPHET Momentum

September 15, 2014

Tweet Like we mentioned in this previous post, Follr will be the new host of the incredible multiplatform TV series, Dark Prophet‘s online presence. Read the full press release below for all the details! The first comic book version of the revolutionary multiplatform storytelling franchise, DARK PROPHET “The Light Exposing Darkness,” premiered at Comic-Con 2014 […]

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Online Community Health Check: Start Here by Vanessa DiMauro, Leader Networks

September 12, 2014

Tweet Our lives are filled with checkups. We get checkups for ourselves, our kids, our aging parents. Even our businesses have checkups to make sure all those important systems are working properly. We find personal coaches, attend parent-teacher conferences, go to the doctor with Mom or Dad. In business, we have board meetings, conferences with […]

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Link We Love: Healing & Recovery In Remembrance of 9/11

September 11, 2014

Tweet September 11th will forever be a solemn day. For those who lost loved ones, it is a bittersweet opportunity to pay homage to the incredible lives they lived and an opportunity for us all to pay our respects to the brave men and women who perished and the families that survived them. In honor […]

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What Does Online Community Mean To Your Company? by Vanessa DiMauro, Leader Networks

September 10, 2014

Tweet Let’s start with this: “online community” doesn’t have a clear definition.  Even before hashtags and pinterest and facebook pages, online users and cognoscenti alike have rarely agreed on what an online community really is.  Never mind the debate over “what is the difference between a social network and an online community?”, although there are […]

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Page Load Speeds and Your Online Community – by Gina Narramore, 4-Roads

September 9, 2014

Tweet Please enjoy this first post from new Guest Blogger, Gina Narramore of 4-Roads! #Follr Gina & 4-Roads on Twitter and check out more about Online Community Strategy Org 4-Roads here.  There is no denying – the way the Internet is presented is constantly changing. In today’s hyper-connected world, web pages are much richer and […]

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