The Mission of A Product Community Manager

A colleague of mine uses the allegory of a Community Manager being like a shepherd. Which I find to be both interesting and accurate. However, as a “shepherd” we are not just accountable to our flock to provide content and relationships…we are almost always accountable to our CEO (or CMO or VP of Whatever) to build an ever growing community.

The opposing goals of quality versus quantity are hardly new.

In my opinion, many large online communities tend to fail because this isn’t a purpose behind them. If you are just collecting “raw numbers”, for the sake of having the largest community on the block, that is an empty mission. (The reverse side of this is that if you have a great community, but it’s only 3 or 4 people…you probably aren’t serving the needs of your company very well).

Trying to attract more users is not a bad thing. I think that most communities are going to generally fall along the lines of the “90-9-1 Principle of Participation Inequality” (Forrester defines this segmentation a bit differently with their Social-Technographics, and I use something of hybrid).

So, it has been my practice to treat these different groups as sort of communities within communities. For example I may have 100,000 customers and of those 10,000 are registered as members of the community, 1,000 of those check in monthly, 100 of those post weekly, 30 of those are raving fans of the company/product and 10 of those are the core members of the community.

This means that I now have 5 missions.

I do need to grow the 10,000 but that isn’t a main focus.
I don’t really want (or need) to grow the core of 10 much more.
As relationships develop, some of the 1,000 will become additions (or replacements) to the 100, and so on.

The 10,000 members might care about a contest to win new product, but the core 10 (or 30) don’t care about winning that, because they’ve been Beta testing those products for months.

It would be a mistake to look at this progression as a “sales funnel”. A salesperson want to close EVERY deal. I am perfectly content to grow my community at each point along the journey….and (of course) it wouldn’t be scalable to have 10,000 core members.

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