Friday, June 13, 2008

Tish Grier on Effective Community Managers

Who says Friday the 13th is unlucky? And to underscore that point, Tish Grier, Chief Community Officer for Placeblogger and Online Community Developer for NewsTrust offers us Seven Traits of Highly Effective Community Managers

Mainly aimed at news organizations considering engaging their readers beyond being readers, there are some great observations are hidden within each of Tish's listed habits:

"...if your site's mission is primarily to drive traffic to your site, you should rethink creating your online community in the first place. Site traffic tends to be driven more by better site design and search engine optimization than by getting all interactive on the citizenry."
Online Community is not a hammer looking for a nail. Experienced folks know what community is good at and what is it not. Tish's advice to reconsider your community strategy even before you hire is sound.

"...your potential community manager should be open, congenial, and can handle difficult situations with tact and diplomacy (not like a cop or Marine sergeant)."
There are exceptions to this, but mostly when working with young teens in a competitive (gaming, sports fans) arena. I personally love Optimus Rhyme's nerdcore song "Obey the Moderator!" but I would not hire someone with attitudes of controlling the community from the top-down.

"...don't confuse liking technology with loving it beyond everything else."
This is especially true for those of us living close to cities that innovate technology. I am considered a bit backwards because I don't have an iPhone yet. When interacting with your community, your community team will likely be giving a leg-up to others who are experiencing networking, connecting, trust and community online for the first time (or giving it a second try after a bad online experience). Knowing when to dial the techno-lust back several notches is vital to not alienating valuable people.

"...any editorial work or reporting should be secondary to the community, because community work can be very demanding."
Recent discussions with people considering hosting community or networking online have shown me that people still underestimate the amount of work that can go into fostering trusting relationships within a community and with your organization.

"7. Life experience trumps youthful enthusiasm."
I quoted only the header for this last one because the entire paragraph is worth reading. In fact, it should be the first paragraph you read.

I'll add to it, though. It's not as hard as you might think to teach people how to use technology. It's harder to teach people how to manage conflict, build trust, recover and learn from mistakes. When looking for a community manager, look for activities that include group leadership, improvisational skills and the ability to handle projects with large groups. The best community managers I have seen and hired are people who had some aspect of these in their past experience: improvisational theater, leading volunteers, organizing long-term groups based on a hobby or activity.

I'm wondering if a session on hiring a community manager might be a welcome for next week's Online Community Unconference.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Scott--and thanks for the link! I'm always amazed how businesses--newspapers being a type of business--want to do communities, but skimp on the community manger position. Or don't have any idea what kind of person to hire. You hit it right when you say to hire someone who's been working with volunteer groups or leading hobby orgs. I was a volunteer co-ordinator for a local film festival before I started doing online stuff. and that experience really helped! thanks again :-)