We are in the midst of a big shake out in how organizations use social technologies. As we develop a common understanding of the opportunities and risks, better decisions are being made about when and how to use the technology available. We are no longer having exciting breakthroughs every day, so the changes in the market have become more subtle, but no less profound. There are three big challenges I see as we move forward:
1. First, many organizations have enthusiastically embraced and rolled out social technology, but didn’t really think to include staffing and content resources with the initial roll out. They have let 1,000 flowers bloom – or die – on their own. While this approach can be very effective in that it allows rapid experimentation and organizations can really discover what works best for them, it also comes with some pretty high risks. If the stage is not well set for productive use of the technology by community managers, people may not use the tools in ways that have clear and uncontroversial value – and there may be no one to track it even if they do. Successful experiments won’t be shared to other groups. Dead groups that project a failed community won’t be cleaned up. Executives who come in to take a peek my see chaos – or nothing – which is not helpful to garnering their support and extending the value of community to the entire organization.
2. Another big challenge faces community management teams in organizations that are further along in their community lifecycle. These teams, in many cases, are being squeezed and asked to address near impossible tasks like reconciling the culture of the organization across geographies and functions in order to engage in a consistent way. Part of the reason is that executive sponsors don’t really understand what they are implicitly asking of these teams and don’t adequately understand some of the growing risks in the online social world.
3. Finally, as social business initiatives grow so does the gap in experience. There are a fair number of people who have been managing communities in the online world for more than a decade, but often in contexts that don’t fit the growing need. Culturally and from a business perspective, online gaming and banking are very different worlds. Companies looking for community management are going to have to be flexible about who they hire for community management roles and plan to invest in training and other professional development resources for these individuals. There are lots of people who are poised to fill community manager roles well, but very often don’t have the experience to prove it is something they can do.
The good news? Understanding the need for community management is on the rise. Training and other professional development services are available – including those we offer at The Community Roundtable. Finally, budgets for social business initiatives are growing. All of this will help address these challenges. Join us at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference as experts in the field share their experience on the community management journey.
See you there!
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