More on community management (part 3 or “what’s in a name”)

Otto's ear
Creative Commons License photo credit: os♥to
I hate titling these blog posts with the words “community management.” After writing post 1 and post 2 on this topic (triggered by Chris Brogan), the words just feel wrong. But because this is the label that has been floating across our blog conversations, I’m keeping it in as “connective tissue.” I was actually thinking about “The Giant Ear!”

So why am I writing a third post in three days on community management? (Instead of going for a walk this morning. Uh oh.) It is “in the air.” For those who have had a baby, it’s like once you get pregnant, all of a sudden you notice all the other pregnant women walking around town! Once you start putting blogging your ideas on something, you notice others who have thought/said/tickled around the same thing. The waves of blogging conversations about community management seem to be washing on the shore closer together these days.

While catching up on some feeds, I saw Matt Moore’s bit on
chief conversation officer.

Organisations need Social Media Relations people. And because of the participatory nature of the social media, these people will have to blog. And comment on other blogs. And Twitter. And all that other stuff. They will encourage, advise and look out for bloggers and social media headz in their own organisations. And they will have to believe in what their organisations do (be it curing cancer or causing it) or else they will get found out.

Everyone wants to be Chief Talking Officer. Who wants to be Chief Conversation Officer?

Hm. Matt is talking about something different than this animal we’ve been calling community manager, but some of the functions he lists hearken back to Chris’s list. But do you feel the dissonance that I do? Just the title “officer” shows us the polarities that we activate when trying to reconcile a network activity with a corporate structure.

Control <–> Emergence
Talking <–> Listening
Planned <–> Evolving
Being in charge <–> Being able to be an effective network actor

We are recognizing these polarities or tensions. (YAY!) They are showing up in thousands of blog posts and creeping into books. They emerge from deep roots and cannot be ignored or wished away. Yet it seems to be hard to talk about them within organizations and even the “job descriptions” we see more of every day. (Check the listing of online community manager blogs on Forum One’s site or on Jake McKee’s.)

Let’s make them discussable, and we can discover the way forward. Let’s discuss them — with every boss and leader who will listen. Let’s encourage the network around organizations to tell them how they feel about being managed – or listened to. Let’s find a way to use the power of the network for our organizations, and with it, the multiplied, nested power of the communities that live in and spring from the network. (Oh heck, I’m getting all riled up and haven’t even had a cup of tea this morning!)

To circle back to this idea of “community manager,” and what it is becoming in a network age, the first thing is to be brave enough discuss the idea that it may be “management” in the frame of business structures and some “older ways” of doing things, but in terms of the action in the network, it is not management as we know it. It is is about being connective tissue between an organization and the world/network it lives within. It is about activation, listening, pattern seeking and then bringing that back into the current context of the organization – at whatever stage that organization is in becoming a network organization. It is about reconciling that businesses, in their interaction with the world (customer, vendors, regulators) have opened the door to a new way of being in the system that requires more than management. More than measurable data. More than targets and goals. It requires intuition, intellect and heart.

Heart? Community Managers and HEART she says? INTUITION???

Yes. Heart and intuition, but not in the absence of intellect. Because systems include that beautiful, irrational, impulsive part of human life – emotion. “Community” and “network” both imply human beings. The person you entrust to guide and represent and help your organization learn – this person we have been calling the “community manager” – is your person who stewards your connection to both hearts and minds. Who listens with every available channel, including intuition. How do you measure your ROI on intuition? On heart? I’d ask, what are you losing every day by ignoring them.

So what would you call that role? Magician? The Giant Ear? Elder? I’m currently stumped.

(edited later for a silly typo)

23 thoughts on “More on community management (part 3 or “what’s in a name”)”

  1. I’ve always liked Community Advocate or Ombuds (which is why I guess that these are the titles that I used at MySQL and Mozilla)


  2. You know Nancy, I’m not sure if the word is just wrong or if there is a paradigm shift happening. I can see the whole kit’n’kaboodle of community becoming more and more mainstream with an actual executive level recognized role a business organization.

    As I said on Chris’ blog — I’ve got a brainstorm working. Maybe we should have a CM Expo/Conference (online of course) and discuss some of these issues. I’ll be happy to help organize and coordinate. What do you think?


  3. Nancy –

    the old fashioned (pre web) names for this role have included

    fairwitness (the Well)
    “list mom” (for mailing lists)
    moderator (from Usenet)
    sysop (from bulletin boards)

    I don’t think any of these terms represent “management”, in the traditional sense of goals and metrics and deliverables and accountability. More often they suggest a service role, someone who deals with the rough parts of whatever software you are dealing with and makes sure that the needs of the group are met even if the system doesn’t meet them.

    I don’t actually like the “community manager” name for any of the work I do, even though I clearly take on some of those roles – in large part because most of the community work I do defies management per se at its edges.

  4. I just started working with and my new title is “Community Producer”. I don’t feel comfortable with that title. For SCoPE ( I’ve always called myself a Community Coordinator. That feels like someone who, simply, helps to make things happen in the community. Producer feels like someone who delegates…or something. I haven’t quite figured out why I can’t bring myself to add my new title to my email signature!

  5. I’ve seen some cases where there’s confusion in an organization around the “manager” role of the community, e.g., there’s a community “project, “”product” or “program” that needs a more or less traditional role of a project, product or program manager. Then, of course, there is this other role that you are talking about–of liaising with and in and from the community.

    In general, I think the “manager” designation in community manager sometimes ends-up merging two very different roles into one. Sometimes, one person can do both roles, but they need to figuratively be able to switch hats very clearly.

    I always have liked using the word “host” in describing the non-management role: e.g., the organization provides community hostesses and hosts who help the flow of the “event” that is the community.

  6. (Oh, I was thinking I was being more gender inclusive by using the word “hostess,” but that doesn’t look right. So, just: “host,” but a host of any gender!)

  7. thinking of names. not only a big ear… as you say eyes, heart, intellect, too.
    sensor? for scanning the universe with all senses, to make sense of some of it. Interesting to see who would spell as censor…

  8. I started a new job with and my title on paper is “Community Producer”. I just can’t bring myself to put that on my email signature. At SCoPE I’ve always called myself a “coordinator”. That role seems about right because the title suggests that I help to make things happen in the community. Producer sounds kinda Hollywood or something! Or like someone with big bucks who delegates! 🙂

  9. Pingback: matt moore
  10. I. Don’t. Know. Heh.

    I do know that I am not overly fond of my title and have never been overly fond of any of my “community” titles. Maybe it’s that I just don’t like titles and I am not sure they are conducive to community growth.

    Now I’m shuddering again, looking at my signature block.

  11. It is interesting that the idea of our IDENTITIES as community/network whatevers is coming up. That would make a fascinating conversation as well!

    Cortney, as for an online expo – if it went beyond the borders of “community manager” I’d be interested! I’m ready to expand the horizon!

  12. Nancy,

    Isn’t it a shame that we depend so much on a workplace name to define the actual work we do, and more importantly (and hopefully), the impact of that work?

    Having said that, I quite like CCCM: Convivial Community Conversation Maker

    I’d like to see Microsoft ask me for permission to use that moniker!


  13. Что то Автор совсем перестал писать сообщения и даже админить блог? Может что случилось?

Comments are closed.