2010: Community Management predictions

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As is traditional at this time of year, we’ve been looking back over 2009 and all the enormous leaps of innovation and learning that have happened in the social media space. For some of us old, creaking community managers that have been around longer than broadband, it’s slightly dizzying that the role of ‘community manager’ is creeping into the general lexicon. My mum suddenly understands what it is that I do!

So if 2009 has finally galvanised the concept that online community spaces need managers, is 2010 going to be the year when the role is formalised and ranked as highly as other CRM roles? Will the old broad term ‘community manager’ be split into various roles with tighter definitions and remits?

What will online communities look like in 2010? What will community managers be talking about? What legal changes are bubbling away? We asked some fantastic community managers for their 2010 predictions, and if their thinking comes true, 2010 is going to be a very exciting year.

Roles and responsibilities

Vincent Boon, Community Team Leader at Sony Computer Entertainment agrees thinks roles and responsibilities will become more targeted and defined: “The role itself will become less broad, with community managers trying to cover all the bases, but instead companies will employ different community managers, for their different areas of communication.”

Vincent suggests new roles will spring up around:

  • Social Media
  • Forum Specific
  • Creative Media 
  • Conflict Resolution 
  • Shaping Conversation/Interest 
  • Age group specific 

“Maybe my categories are incorrect, or you can think of many more, but with the role of Community Manager maturing, I believe the role itself will diversify into areas of expertise. Although whether this will happen in 2010 already, might just be wishful thinking.”

Wendy Christie from eModeration tweets: “Earlier involvement/consultation/hiring of CMs in new sites/products, maybe? I’m starting to see that, I think.”

She expands by email: “I think we’re starting to see a more widespread involvement of Community Managers at the early stages of project development. So rather than “we’re most of the way through developing the site which will involve some sort of interactivity – oh bugger, how do we manage that side of it?” we’re starting to see more cases of CMs identified from the beginning as vital members of the team.”

Community and moderation company, TemperoUK, agrees: “Trend = CM will take on a bigger customer service/CRM role”

Moderation

Tempero’s founder, Dominic Sparkes says: “For social media management, 2010 is going to be a year of realising moderation is vital, sentiment tracking will prove ROI (hopefully!) and platform integration will be second nature.”

Ilana Fox, head of Social Media at ASOS says more retailers will be getting into social media. She tweets her prediction for “more personalisation on news and retail sites. Google will cause problems.

“Issues with UK sites launching international versions in terms of moderation and media law.”

Community in Enterprise and Research

Stuart Glendinning Hall points me to Dion Hinchcliffe: “I reckon that Dion Hinchcliff may be right in seeing the role of community manager becoming increasing important in Enterprise 2.0 projects in 2010. Particularly in markets which are already leading on E2.0, such as Germany and the US.”

Andy_buckley tweets that he sees a: “Blurring between panel and communities.” He expands, “as more later adopting clients think about having a community I think they will want both qual (community) & quant (panel).”

Community as a force

Ed Mitchell, Network and Community expert, sees: “Purposeful communities – active groups using collaborative tools to do stuff in their neighbourhoods – like the hyperlocal stuff, transition
towns etc.”

Monitoring

A favourite community manager of mine, Alison Michalk from Fairfax Digital predicts: “The rise of social media monitoring is going to have an impact. I’ve already seen reps start jumping in to respond to statements in my forums.

“I think ‘platform-neutral’ brand involvement is on the rise (clearly there are benefits towards this approach over attempting to build their own community) – and just how this impacts communities is yet to be seen… will we need ‘protected spaces’, how will the merging of people’s personal/professional roles impact the online space in years to come…”

My prediction

I agree with our experts here, 2010 will be the year of more roles, with distinct remits, and a more ‘conversational’ approach within all but the least enlightened organisations. I believe that a studious approach to community will deliver greater understanding of how to measure success and monitor effects, and I believe there are likely to be more community-based roles than real experience out there to fill them.

But at risk of sounding like a doomsayer, my real prediction for 2010 is one of caution. This last year has been great fun, community is (rightly) at the forefront of the best of the web, conversations and connections are starting to be taken seriously and proving their worth at enhancing so many other areas  of business.

Now it’s time community grew up.

All eyes are on us, and there are still grey areas to be ironed out. Every community manager, publishing, curating or editing content from users, needs to have a handle on all the relevant laws and liabilities.

Every community manager needs to understand the business aims of their organisation, and how community fits to them. To be a community manager within an organisation is not to be a renegade, it’s to be a diplomat.

For me, 2010 is going to be the year that we took ourselves more seriously, tooled up legally, and set clearer principles for moderation, and expectations from us and of us.

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your predictions for 2010.

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19 Responses
  • Dec 8, 2009

    I missed the deadline on this e-mint request but thankfully can post two additions here.

    2010 is likely to see an acknowledgment that the traditional online moderation method (for communities of users over 2-3K peak concurrent users) is no longer viable. Behavior management software alongside professional moderators is the most effective (cost and safety) method available today. Proper Behavior Management software is 98% more efficient than reactive moderation that depends upon users reporting behavior issues. It is also more accurate and objective than traditional moderation. We’ll always need professional moderators (as it should be!) but the industry is finally beginning to understand the need for proper moderation technology to stay competitive.

    The second prediction is the industry formally acknowledging Moderators as the professionals they are, and all community positions. We are seeing a noted increase in salaries, executive positions, and industry-wide respect for this industry. It’s been a long road but a welcome arrival!

    Rebecca Newton
    Chief Community & Safety Officer
    Mind Candy Ltd.
    Safety Advisor, Crispthinking.com
    original member, e-mint.co.uk

    Rebecca Newton Dec 8, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 8, 2009

    I was speaking about this with some community managers from large technology-oriented companies recently and they predicted that 2010 will be the year the community and social technologies get integrated with other enterprise systems and with that community management processes become more integrated into traditional workflows.

    I personally agree with some of the contributors here that more differentiation will occur around different types of roles and contexts. Community management for customer self-help looks quite a bit different than an community built to generate customer advocacy – in terms of technology, process, and management.

    Rachel Happe Dec 8, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 8, 2009

    Hi Rebecca,

    Sorry I didn’t get the chance to include a suggestion from you, I’m glad you’ve added your thoughts here! It’s interesting that you mention behaviour management software as none of the other CMs I quoted had suggested that as a change and you’re right, it’s likely to be something we will see more of as communities grow and moderation need explodes.

    Holly

    Holly Seddon Dec 8, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 8, 2009

    Rachel,

    That’s an interesting point and I certainly hope to see community and social tools being considered far earlier in the planning process – not just with new launches, but also with relaunches which I suspect we’re going to see a lot of (in publishing and Enterprise).

    Holly

    Holly Seddon Dec 8, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 8, 2009

    I think 2010 will be the year when the most adaptive and customer-centric companies (Enterprise 2.0) will launch online communities aiming at building true customer relationships, insights, dialouge and trust. The online communities to be launched will be integrated with other enterprise systems (CRM, ERP, FAQ, support etc.) and the community management processes will need to involve more people in the company than just the community manager.

    Hans Leijström Dec 8, 2009
    Reply
  • Anneli Rispens
    Dec 9, 2009

    Holly, you are not a doomsayer. And I think you’re predictions pinpoint the problems of Community Managers from all over the world.

    We have started a Dutch Online Community Management Roundtable recently. We come together, share knowledge and experience and try to define the field. But it is hard. We differ in tasks, backgrounds and experience. And our job descriptions are very open to interpretation and change to say the least.

    I really hope 2010 is the year where we grow up as a profession and better define the field and marking our territory. Because now we are opening the door to wild growth. The distinction between Social Media Manager and Community Manager is still not clear for most. Everybody wants a social media strategy, they all want a viral and a community, and there are enough profitors out there to fulfill their every need. Unfortunately not always with succesful and satisfying result.

    Lets team up and keep eachother on our toes!
    Anneli

    Anneli Rispens Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 9, 2009

    I agree with your predictions. As communities grow, more than one person is needed to follow and manage the conversation online, the work load becomes bigger, but so far it is hard to distribute it in a rational efficient way between the different persons involved within a department or the whole company. As the role of the Community Manager gets more defined, it might naturally split into various roles with tighter definitions, which will hopefully make work segmentation easier.

    Leila Nachawati Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
  • Sue John
    Dec 9, 2009

    Great post Holly. I agree that the title Community Manager currently covers many areas, and yet each one of us has different roles and responsibilities within that job title. The jobs for CM that I am see advertised vary widely, and whilst each job description covers different areas they are all falling under the Community Manager umbrella.

    There are other roles that are broken down by specialization. For example, the job of Database Administrator is broken down into software designation, such as DB2 DBA and Oracle DBA, etc. I concur with your thoughts, and the comments of others, and believe that the role of Community Manager will be broken down in a similar way.

    Sue John Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 9, 2009

    Hi Sue,

    I agree with your example of database administrator, as an emerging job there was just one role but now that would be ludicrous, I suspect in five years the same will be said of community roles.

    Holly

    Holly Seddon Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 9, 2009

    Hi Hans,

    “I think 2010 will be the year when the most adaptive and customer-centric companies (Enterprise 2.0) will launch online communities aiming at building true customer relationships, insights, dialouge and trust.”

    - We’re definitely starting to see this Hans, and it’s great but sadly I think 2010 will still see organisations going for the ‘build it and they will come approach’ and creating a community silo, separate from the rest of the organisation – that’s what I want us (as a profession) to try and prevent!

    Holly

    Holly Seddon Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 9, 2009

    Hi Anneli,

    I love your approach of a roundtable! As community professionals we must practise what we preach and share learning and ideas!

    Holly

    Holly Seddon Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
  • Dec 9, 2009

    Hi Leila,

    Thanks for your comment, I think we’re slowly starting to see this – I think next year is when this will become standard :)

    Holly Seddon Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
  • Martin Clark
    Dec 9, 2009

    Hey everyone, interesting to see such differing predictions (fragmenting roles, CM integration into the product process, behaviour management software…).

    Personally though, I’d be interested to see what people say are the primary drivers for these predictions. Why those changes and why now?

    Martin Clark Dec 9, 2009
    Reply
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  • Dec 11, 2009

    Great post Holly, totally flattered to have been included. Perhaps I should have said something more articulate. ;)

    The ever-wise Becs also has some great points.

    Alison Dec 11, 2009
    Reply
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  • Stuart Buchanan | Community Engine
    Dec 14, 2009

    Holly

    Thanks for the interesting post and for such a variety of opinion and feedback.

    The company that I work for deals with many organisations that – for one reason or another – chose not to purse the bulletin board / forum style communities back in the day, but have skipped straight to social media engagement. For many, they’re dealing with the concept of ‘community management’ for the very first time – and protocols / pathways / solutions are being delivered as part of an overall ‘social media strategy’.

    What we’ve seen over 2009 – and I think will continue to see in 2010- is the idea that community engagement in the commercial social network space is necessary (given the volume of people out there), but it should be parallel or secondary to engaging communities directly on one’s own web site. The web in 2009 evolved to the point where social networking for communities can now be ‘brought back home’, and that gives rise to a whole range of challenges and opportunities for community managers.

    One thing’s for certain, it’s sure to be another fascinating year!

    Stuart Buchanan | Community Engine Dec 14, 2009
    Reply
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