At first glance, an online community appears to be a harmless task to add to a worthy colleague's plate. For example, if the membership manager already speaks to your members every day, doesn't it make sense for that person to take over the responsibility of the online community? Isn't the community just moving your everyday conversations online?
While these are innocent and well-meaning assumptions, they are also the quickest way to not only burn out your colleague but to put a serious hindrance on your community's success. So whether you clicked on this blog because you are trying to make the case to your boss to make the community your full-time job or if you are the boss trying to determine the time and resource commitment a community brings, here are three things to keep in mind:
The Community Roundtable does an invaluable State of Community Management Report every year and the statistics speak for themselves. Of the most mature (and therefore most engaged) communities that the Community Roundtable interviewed, 88% of them had a full-time community manager. Loosely translated: successful communities without a dedicated staff person are very much the exception and not the rule. Also, in their 2014 report, they noted that communities with dedicated community managers are almost twice as likely to be able to measure value.
These are two incredibly important keys to a community's success. In the 2014 Community Roundtable State of Community Management Report, findings show communities with high executive participation have higher overall engagement rates and are more likely to have a fully funded and developed roadmap. A dedicated community manager is able to focus time and training to be the community cheerleader within your organization. It's not uncommon that staff needs a little nudge to jump into conversations, and that is far more likely to happen if there's a community manager keeping an eye out for prime opportunities for high level engagement. Executives simply don't have the time to monitor every conversation. And on the member side, having a recognizable face to the community makes engagement and retention far more likely. Also, having one main point of contact will ensure your community has a consistent tone and conversational style.
You need someone waking up and worrying about your community every day. It is so easy to get stuck in a pattern of putting out small fires and lose the forest for the trees. It’s even more common if the person responsible for your community has other tasks on their plate. Having someone who's entire job is to focus on the community will ensure you not only have someone tackling the daily tasks of encouraging engagement and creating content, but you also have someone who is passionate about the long-term goals of the community. Without someone strategizing to constantly adapt and grow your community, you are almost guaranteed to hit stagnation, will lead to a decline in engagement over time.
If you are going to invest the financial resources for an online community platform, why wouldn't you invest in the human resources to ensure it is successful?