In your early newbie days of becoming a community manager – and later in the career when you find the constant need to educate and explain the role of community management to leadership – do you bump into myths?
In talking with community managers from around the world – from London, United Kingdom, Goa, India, and Los Angeles, United States – what’s emerged is a collection of the 13 top assumptions that are often made about the still-emerging profession of community management. Let’s take a look at what people are saying.
MYTH 1: It’s not a tough job!
BUSTED: Insight on this myth from Asha Chaudhry, Founder & Chief Community Officer at Kids Book Café (a community for parents, kids and book lovers to recommend, discover and buy children’s books), based in Goa, India, proves otherwise. She reports that her role (she’s been in the profession for eight years now) has a lot more to it than the eye can see.
A routine example is that people don’t just automatically answer posed questions; they need to be tagged or nudged. Members won’t necessarily come visit your community every day, even when they see value in it. They might visit once a week, especially after you send out the weekly newsletter. There may also not be as many sign-ups as you hoped for or expected – as there are many “lurkers” out there. This is where the time and investment add up to being a community manager and makes it a tough job!
MYTH 2: You’ll get hundreds of rockstar members!
BUSTED: No, says Asha. The maximum number of power users you may achieve on most communities is 100 — who will contribute actively and participate in your community. Over time, many of them will go. Never fear, though, as new members will come into the community and become your new rockstars!
MYTH 3: Active members will engage with themselves!
BUSTED: Don’t assume that your members are going to engage with each other without your input, prompts and hosting skills, even if they are powerful rockstar members. Asha says she hears this often from aspiring community builders, and busts this myth every time!
MYTH 4: I don’t need a team — I can do it all by myself!
BUSTED: Taking on the role of community manager can be a daunting task. You are touching on nearly every key aspect of the business or organization’s foundation, and not only managing all the online and related offline activities, but also reporting regularly to leadership with detailed data quantitative and qualitative insights. “I thought I was Superwoman and could do everything all by myself. I was wrong. After five years I became a classic case of burn out,” Asha shared.
MYTH 5: Because we have thousands of members we should build a community!
BUSTED: While this myth may point a lot of people in the direction of building a community, it does not answer the true reasons to pursue creating one. Think toward a strategic approach and dive deep into what you want to achieve from your community, with this helpful CMX Hub blog post about building a community from scratch: here. Asha says she finds this to be a very common myth assumption of anyone looking at building community at early-stage. She finds herself telling people to collaborate with existing communities, rather than building up one from scratch!
MYTH 6: It won’t take long to build a community!
BUSTED: Be aware, and add on months of time investment to your estimated community building deadlines, as it will take much longer than you think, according to Asha. Especially if you are building your community as a brand. People need time to discover, join, find value and trust you as a community and then invest in deeper commitment. To get an idea, a very good article to read is The Online Community Lifecycle by FeverBee founder, Richard Millington.
MYTH 7: Community management is a part-time job!
BUSTED: The role is no weekend hobby and it is usually more than a full-time job for most community managers. “Community Management is more than being the glue that keeps the community together. It’s being the go-to-person FOR EVERYTHING! It’s about running a fair ship. All members are equal. And it’s about never being judgmental. As a community manager you have to invest YOURSELF in your community,” says Asha. “It’s about helping people, and that takes a lot of effort and energy.”
MYTH 8: Community is… sales, marketing, branding, social media, public relations, and a customer service!
BUSTED: Often people assume that community is one thing for all companies. This cookie-cutter approach can be misleading! There is a common thinking that community lives with one person at the company or is just a certain single skill set. Often the role is viewed as an arm of sales, marketing, branding, social media, public relations or customer service – explains and myth busts community expert Tim Falls, who is currently based in Los Angeles. The truth is that community can, in fact, lead to better sales or marketing outcomes, along with meeting objectives toward everything from branding to customer service – but the role of Community Manager does not necessarily drive these aspects of the business. It can definitely touch upon and influence positively all of a company’s channels of influence. “A unique thing about Community Managers is that they can direct community strategy and tactics to drive toward many various business goals, according to the priorities of the company at any given time in its life cycle,” says Tim. “Community is a mindset that can be applied to virtually any area of the business — and with enough people throughout the organization [not only the Community Manager(s)] adopting said mindset, it can [theoretically] be applied to all areas… eventually.”
MYTH 9: A community is directed by one person!
BUSTED: Community, says Tim, takes input from everybody. Everyone should take ownership within the company (i.e., internal) and members of a company’s “external” community. There can also be multiple leaders within a community. While often the one-to-one connection within communities is very important (you can’t have a thriving, growing community without such relations) it’s also key that there be a one-to-many relationships, in order to scale up a community’s growth.
MYTH 10: Community only lives on Facebook!
BUSTED: While Facebook is indeed a globally ubiquitous platform (there are currently nearly 2 billion people using it daily) it is, according to Tim, not the only place for online community building. It’s also important to acknowledge that a considerable number of people are choosing to abandon Facebook because of privacy and security concerns, and that, as difficult as it may be to imagine today, Facebook may not be around forever. While the communities of Facebook make it strong right now, those communities could be lost. Tim mentions that one of the largest growing community platforms is Telegram: a simple messenger app, founded by Russian entrepreneurs and incorporated in the UK, which is big on privacy and encryption and has become the platform of choice for many crypto communities that have attracted tens of thousands of members.
MYTH 11: Being a Community Manager is an entry-level job!
BUSTED: Here’s a myth that is important to bust, because, Tim says, if perpetuated it could really hold back the profession. This myth can create a barrier toward on-boarding talented people with established careers into the profession. It is asking them, wrongly, to take on entry-level pay for big roles that take a variety of skills and experience to apply. It’s a myth that Tim hears often in the profession, and while a growing number of startups seek to recruit for the role as entry level, more understanding of the profession is necessary for the success of individuals and organizations alike.
MYTH 12: Community does not have to reveal business objectives!
BUSTED: It’s dangerous to approach community-building, Tim explains, with an unwillingness to be transparent about the underlying business motivations and goals of your community. “Community building relies upon meaningful connections between human beings; and one critical component of ensuring strong, sustainable relationships with people is to respect their intellect by operating honestly and transparently and openly acknowledging the business value your company will derive from fostering a community around it,” he said.
MYTH 13: Once you build a community, people will come!
BUSTED: Just because you have created a platform for your community doesn’t mean people will automatically join. It’s up to you to find, cultivate, and grow members for the community through a variety of online and offline tactics. And maintaining your active members is a constant thing. Tim notes that in building a new community, the emotional connection of members is big, and often there is first some sort of offline interest in the community that pulls people into gathering within an online environment (or vice versa).
So there you have 13 myths about community: busted by leading experts in the community profession. What myths have you encountered and have had to bust along your career? Please comment here to share your response.