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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  • Antonio Coleman

    There are a million ways you can look at this, but the most common sense way is to treat everyone like a paying customer. This will prompt them to always come back.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Smallbizartist

    A community manager is perhaps what we need in organisations that seem to be getting increasingly impersonal today. However, the last thing we need to see it evolve into is the ‘corporate social responsibility’ craze where companies compete to see who plants the most trees.

    What we need is a better understanding of customers before, during and after a sales transaction. It gives the buyer a reassuring sense of security that they enjoy with their favourite brands. Especially useful for small business owners who want to create a closely-knit community with their first few customers.


    • ducttape

      Umm – I think that’s the point I was making precisely!

  • Philip Nwosisi

    Interesting article. The idea is  worth considering; not  sure about how it can be implemented effectively :)

  • Frank J. Kenny

    Excellent article. Would you be OK with me posting it to my blog, giving you credit, of course?


  • chrismorrisseo

    The blog content is being pushed to below the left navigation for me. Anyone else getting the same issue?

  • Tony

    Yes, excellent article. 

    Community or specific audience a business targets is essential for its success. 
    My own experience of working for a daily deal website is one of this kind. 

    The daily deal website is called EF Buys, and unlike Groupon, EF Buys is specifically targeting the huge number of small businesses and startups. I call this EF Buys’ community.

  • Shilpi Roy – Virtual Assistant

    Awesome post. Really inspiring one. Great points are being shared and I feel every community manager should read this one…

    Online Business
    Virtual Assistant

  • Brad Farris

    I love the idea of someone who’s job it is to make sure the community is healthy. We see that for online communities, but what about for flesh and blood communities. We can use on-line tools to keep it healthy, but keep it healthy we must. It IS our business.

  • divlabel

    Good point – community engagement is so much more than just replying to comments. If the right amount of effort is put in, it grows and cultivates those different communities.

  • Home Remedies MD

    Creating a community that is really engaged in the content and discussions is probably one of the hardest things to maintain without losing people’s interest.

  • Don Campbell

    Hi John – I like the way you framed this as something essential to the business rather than just a “nice to have.” I agree and think it is an opportunity to provide a more compelling experience for our customers. Most things are a commodity today, and our chance to stand out is by providing a compelling experience. 

    The hard part is finding the right person to build your community as you’ve described. It’s a rare person who can do that right!

  • Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I quite agree that there is a need for a community manager, especially now that there is an ever changing shift on how we deal with business and real time response. Not only that, if you have a community manager that would focus on these tasks, it would only be a positive change in your company.

  • Kevin McCarthy

    Love the article – SO true.

    “but hopefully your starting to see how this might make a difference.” Fix to be “You’re”.

  • Christopher Johnston

    You have to make sure the Community Manager is not hamstrung by legal or marketing. They need to be empowered to actually do things without being micromanaged.

  • Leanne HoaglandSmith

    Actually the purpose of any business, in my opinion, is to serve the community contrary to what some experts believe the purpose of business. For without the community, the business would not be in business.  Your article showcases the rationale behind this purpose. 

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    Author of Be the Red jacket

  • James M. Lynch

    I’ve been working with corporate culture for years (see my articles on Huffington Post) and have created ‘volunteer committees’ to create involvement and action as extensions of employees passions and concerns, but this takes it to a whole new level. It takes a really far-sighted company to follow up on this but it’s a great idea.

    • ducttape

      I think it’s really just a matter of changing how you look at things – I don’t even think it’s that far sighted – different sighted, but more aligned with our current reality.

  • Todd Skinner

    Great article, love the idea of adding a community manager, great way to start a grassroots approach to local public awareness. This is typically over looked as companies grow their businesses outside their local communities.

    Todd Skinner – Visizzle – Marketing – Branding – Design

  • zoomreferrals

    Great article. Definitely something to think about for small businesses. The challenge here might be finding time and resources for this role. Bigger companies have an advantage here, at least financially. But, for smaller companies, getting the “community” aspect might be easier, just due to their size and nature. In any case – this is a great post with lots of valuable advice. I will sure pitch this to my company’s clients.


  • logo design

    As far as i know this is full time job to do because you have respond timely within your community to attach with your community members like you would have to appreciate or acknowledge the things or respond they are looking for. Although its a new phenomenon but working very well to create awareness regarding your niche specially.

  • Lauren

    Spot on post. Not just highly practical, but highly strategic. The CM should know where community members are at each step in the customer decision making cycle.