Communities are an important part of Red Hat culture and as we have many community managers here, I think it is worth sharing my community management research output with you.
Why did I do this research? We can look at our PnT Comms team as serving an internal community by creating content and events that openly exchange knowledge and ideas about PnT’s strategy, products, and people. All PnT associates could be called part of our community, which is the ideal world towards which we’re heading. This is why Tim Hildred asked me to find answers to these four questions:
- Who is a community manager?
- What are the main areas of responsibility of a community manager?
- What are some things that community managers, both internal and external, do to achieve those things? How can we apply them in PnT Comms?
- How do we measure the success of a community?
Short Summary of the Most Important Outputs
Every project requires different things from a community manager; it depends on the needs and goals of each project. They can be:
Community advocates—They need to listen, monitor, and be an active member of the community. They also engage customers by responding to their requests and needs.
Brand evangelists—They promote and often attend events, promoting products by using traditional marketing tactics and conversational discussions.
Savvy communicators—They need to be aware of different tools of communication, from forums to blogs or, to podcasts and then understand the language and jargon that is used in the community.
Community input gatherer—They gather the requirements of the community in a responsible way and present it to product teams.
Community management can be a volunteer position, and if you don’t have a source of funding, a volunteer community manager can quickly become overwhelmed—it’s often a full-time job. Community managers have to focus on four main areas of responsibility: growth, engagement, listening, and improvement, which can take different roles in organizations.
For those who are thinking about a community manager for your community, you should answer these two questions to determine if you need one:
- What is the scope of your community?
- What are your expectations for someone who’d help enable and extend that community?
Another interesting topic was measuring the success of a community. When I asked people about it, answers differed every time. It is actually a very discussed topic about which every manager has a unique opinion. I couldn’t find specific advice how to do it, but what I found most important was that you have to set your goals carefully in the strategic plan. Your goals are the target of your feedback. They are what you want to measure against.
Each goal should include three types of information:
Success criteria—You should be able to look at your goal and determine whether the goal was achieved. It should be specific instead of vague and containing general statements (Good example: our goal for the Engineering Today newsletter is to have 2000 subscribers at the end of the year 2017).
Implementation plan—You need to set tasks which are needed to achieve the specific goal.
The owner—Every goal should have a person responsible for it. When people take ownership for their work, they ensure that positive outcomes are generated.
The most important part of my presentation was about practical examples; showing how managers work with their communities. I focused on three areas of practice that are vital for our PnT Comms team:
- Growing of our community and looking for new contributors
- Improving engagement of community members
- Tips for organizing events
For community growth, I can recommend Rikki Endsley’s practice of reaching out to people at upcoming events or via email to call for proposals for writing articles or giving tips for a blog post.
A great example of improving engagement came from Brian Exelbierd, who always rewards regular contributors. Another valuable example from Jason Hibbets is a mailing list called Writer’s List, inviting the contributors of Opensource.com to join and regularly share ideas or other writing opportunities.
For the last area, organizing events, I found great tips in the article by Kara Sowles who said it is important to set expectations (list of prerequisites) on the group page of an event and/or to send reminders about meetings a few days and also hours before an event.
Useful Sources About Community Management
Sources about community management are not so many, especially about internal communities. You can find most of them on the internet, particularly on opensource.com, which has a lot of articles written by different community managers. If you are looking for some practical experience, there is a very useful blogging challenge, where community managers blog about a different weekly theme. I also got a good recommendation for the book The Art of Community by Jono Bacon, which gave me a general idea of what community management is about.
I always encourage feedback, so if you have advice, feel free to add comments under this blog post or if you just want to ask questions.