This is fantastic! Recently Forrester research expert Jeremiah K. Owyang issued a report on the need to appropriately staff for social computing. In the report, Mr. Owyang asserts
Don’t try to build and run social applications without the right staff. We’ve identified two key new roles needed for success: 1) the Social Computing strategist, who’ll lead the internal charge, and 2) the community manager, an external customer advocate. Working in tandem, these roles will align Social Computing programs with the business and ensure that community members are happy. Management should agree upon goals and then give the team latitude to get the job done —including embracing mistakes as new programs are tested out.
Too long has the role of Community been relegated to the backroom. Too often online communities for business have failed to reach their potential value for an organization because they are not staffed appropriately or planned with the right business models in place. Typically, online community teams were pulled together by searching the organization for staff that needed something to do, and not because they had the right skill set. Some people placed in the position thrived, and most often those people were the ones who continued in the profession. Others did not – and the business of community suffered. This trend was largely due to the fact that the importance of community was not well understood so there was a gap in understanding of what it took to succeed. There are few other professions where there is not a core required skill set for entry. No one has ever asked me to run accounting based on the fact I was in between projects, for example. But this happens all the time in enterprise communities.
When staffing an online community initiative there are a few key skills, I look for, in addition to experience:
1) Has this person ever run an effort to integrate technology or been responsible for deploying a new concept or methodology in an organization? A community person must understand well how to create a dynamic of active learning and support.
2) Experience developing repeatable processes. Community building requires the ability to create unique and programmatic inputs and customer care cycles. Too often community leaders don’t think programmatically and that definitely gets in the way of scaling.
3) Tolerance level for problem solving. Are they thoughtful, helpful people who are happy solving puzzles with people and groups? Communities are unpredictable as they deal largely with the complexities of large groups of people. The ability to think on ones feet and take on the new challenges that present themselves through organic growth is essential.
4)Humanities background. Social scientists, sociologist, English and communications majors tend to be effective communicators. It is more important that the community manager understand the platitudes of effective communication than the subject matter of the professional community. Also, the ability to communicate value, progress and business processes to management is key, as it will greatly enhance the visibility of the community and the value to internal stakeholders.
5) Analytical skills. Community management requires the ability to work with raw data of all sorts – message posts and logs, etc. to discover trends and to align interventions to impact change.
These are the stuffs that strong community managers are made of.