What do I love about #CMAD? With a turbulent year just having finished (something to count on every year, but particularly 2016) and with end-of-year or mid-year reporting and check-ins done, the date is perfectly timed. It gives a great opportunity to look and plan ahead.
So, if you have done so already or are still contemplating, I wanted to share four tips on what to consider as a community manager going into 2017.
1. Review Shared Purpose – Align Stakeholders
Quite often when I talk to Community Managers wanting to take their community to the next level, the discussion uncovers that their goals are only vaguely defined. A mission statement though is crucial to ensure alignment of sponsors and stakeholders of the community in your organization. Defining such a shared purpose is usually part of the launch preparations, but it’s a dynamic contract that needs regular adjustment to the reality of your business, org structure and resource changes. We recommend revisiting it annually and doing so is a great opportunity to bring all stakeholders together and ensure clarity about direction and strategy. So why not start planning your internal 2017 community workshop now?
2. Join Communities – Get inspired
Our industry – luckily – is a very versatile and an ever evolving one. Every week I discover new and innovative approaches to interactions, engagement techniques or simple inspiring designs. Voluntarily or not we are competing with the Facebooks, Slashdots and/or LinkedIns regarding the attention of our audience. At the same time these networks are setting the baseline of what visitors expect from modern web and app experiences. To stay relevant for our audience, we need to innovate and get creative inspiration. Regularly visiting and experiencing other communities has proven a great source for that to me. It helps answer questions, such as: How do they on-board new members? When and how are their guidelines presented? How are videos employed for education and what makes this kudo button design so inviting to make me want to click it more often?
Personally, I recently discovered various Smart Home automation communities in my attempts to upgrade my home and drew some good inspiration from my visit. What’s a topic that interests you right now and did you set aside an hour to visit all the related communities?
3. Up-Skill on Data – Own the Story
Understanding what is happening in your community has gotten easier with built in insight tools giving you a view on your key community metrics (at a glance). Yet, we are seeing an increasing demand to “mashup” data from community, web tracking or customer profiles to understand or identify correlations. Also, more agile and experimental approaches to community engagement often requires more direct interpretation of metrics.
Although every CM should ideally have a data scientist on the team the reality is that regularly the CM is asked to answer data questions. The good news: modern data insight, dashboard and visualization tools are easier to use than ever before and you can often get to know them via free – often feature restricted – versions. So go ahead and dig into the metrics yourself next time. You will find that the more familiar you become with “your” data, the more confident you can answer those tricky questions yourself.
4. AI/Bots in Community Context
Of course, I can't end without a note on the hot topic of the year: Bots or AI are currently presented as the modern conversation paradigm. I can’t see them replacing natural human conversations on communities, but I do see them as a possible enhancement for a CM’s toolbox in the form of “cybots:” bots enhancing human intelligence in chat or conversations especially in customer support/service interactions. AI can help, particularly, support communities to answer common, repeated questions and leave the unique cases to be routed to be answered by the experts. I think we can expect some exciting developments over the next 12 months in this field and we should approach this new technology from this angle as an enhancement and not a replacement.
Let me know in your comments which of these areas you plan to focus on. Or maybe what important predictions for community managers in 2017 I missed.