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The Community Is the Business

The idea of community in business has taken top billing in recent years due in large part to the obvious growth of social networks and the community aspect they foster.

Community Manager

Jeff Kubina via Flickr

Organizations fortunate enough to have forward thinking CEOs and marketing departments have even added the role of Community Manager to the org chart.

It’s time for every business, regardless of size, to take note and add this function to their organization. Not because it’s the hot trendy thing to do – because it will change the way your think about growing your business.

If you think about the role of community manager in the fullest sense, you’ll come to understand the potential that a focus on the community aspects of your business contains.

Some limit their thinking on the idea of community manager to mean the person that responds to complaints on Twitter. What I want to propose is a much more comprehensive way of viewing this vital role. This function doesn’t even start with thinking about social media, it’s about elevating the role your community or potential community can play in your business as a whole.

What if you thought of your community as anyone that came into contact with your business – meaning, prospects, customers, journalists, suppliers, advisors, partners and even competitors?

And what if you developed a place in your organization for a person that played the role of community host. That person’s job was to see to all the little things that made you community members feel appreciated, informed, special and looked after.

Sure, marketing would still craft the messages and touches to make this happen, sales would still create and nurture customer relationships, advertising would still generate leads and customer service would still provide key follow-up and troubleshooting.

But, running through it all would be the person that saw to it that the community as a whole was happy, healthy and growing. That’s the part many of us are missing and that’s the part that can transform a business from satisfactory to remarkable.

The Community Manager is the one person in the organization focused on moving people logically through the steps of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer, while also ensuring that all the members of your business ecosystem coevolve their capabilities and roles and align themselves with the direction of your organization.

The Community Manager would in effect by an advocate for the members of your community and act to hold every department in the organization accountable for creating a better community experience.

The thing is, there’s nothing trendy or touchy feely about this role, it’s one of the most highly practical things any business can do right now and it’s perhaps the only way to effectively merge the online and offline worlds in your business.

A Community Manager in today’s world of business would:

  • Look at what gets someone to sign up for your free ebook
  • Obsess over the follow-up touches with all prospects
  • Look for ways to help the organization know more about customers
  • Manage Google+, Facebook and Twitter communities
  • Design ways to bring customers together
  • Create and facilitate a formal strategic partner network
  • Nudge the CEO to write more handwritten thank you notes
  • Build relationships with key industry and community journalists
  • Participate in creating and curating the entire content grid
  • Create a database of customer and prospect inquiries
  • Look for ways to improve key customer touchpoints
  • Work with clients to review and document results

You could add many more items to this list, but hopefully your starting to see how this might make a difference. You could also argue that most of the items on this example list can and, perhaps, should be handled already by sales or marketing or customer service.

But the point is, they’re not being done by anyone or if they are, they are being done in silos and without collaboration. One of the fundamental differences a community manager would provide is an entirely different view of the total organization. A view that crosses all departments and questions every contact and touchpoint as a conscientious host might do.

But mostly, this function acknowledges the fact that in today’s world a thriving community is your greatest asset – it’s time to make its care a central focus of your business.

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