E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Community Managers and the Art of Facilitating Communities Effectively – Part Deux

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes in the WinterOne of the many great things from sharing your blog posts on Twitter (And I am sure that would apply as well to other social networking sites), to alert folks that new, fresh content is available in your blog, is the fact that shortly after there is always a great chance that you will get back a bunch of replies, retweets and Mentions from your tweeps sharing some additional commentary to your blog entries or perhaps a bunch of new links to related and relevant articles already available out there. Yes, I know! I, too, love it when that happens! And that’s actually the main premise behind this Part Deux from “Community Managers and the Art of Facilitating Communities Effectively“, continuing with that series of blog posts talking about online communities and the key role of the community managers or community facilitators.

So let’s go then! Let’s get started with this rather interesting and helpful article put together by Glen Gilmore under the heading “4 Tips for Social Media Community Managers“, where he shares a bunch of nice tips on how to survive being a community facilitator in the social media world, combining having fun, sharing what inspires you (Once again, let your passion shine through!), looking for others to join in the fun and when things get really hot, look for a hydrant to open up! Great points altogether shared across by Glen, specially, the fun aspect of being a community facilitator, which helps us reintroduce, once again, the whole concept of fun@work, which I will talk about in an upcoming blog post, as I feel it’s got enough meat to discuss it separately.

Another interesting, and rather relevant, read is that one put together by seasoned community facilitator, at Sprouter, Erin Bury, who a couple of days back put together this wonderful read over at Mashable, under the heading “The 5 Qualities of Highly Effective Community Managers“, and which surely describes some of what I, too, consider the most fundamental traits from a good online community facilitator, whether you are getting involved with social networking tools or not. To name:

  1. “Passion for Your Industry
  2. Varied Experience
  3. Resourcefulness
  4. Flexibility
  5. Personality”

I am not going to spoil it further for you, but I think that summary of those traits that Erin talks about in that article would give you a hint or two of what you can expect. However, I can certainly recommend you have a look into the entire article as she has put together plenty of know-how and first hand experiences on what it is like building and facilitating a healthy growth for your online communities. My personal favourite one is #5. Personality, which also reflects on my own perception of how I view online facilitators as the “corporate” brand, i.e. the visible “heads”, of the communities they facilitate; great personalities make up for great individual brands, which, eventually, turn out to help improve the overall community brand. It makes it contagious, It thrives on passion and willingness to help out others. It’s the glue that helps community members stick together, have a strong sense of belonging and a willingness for them to become the next natural leaders. In short, great personalities in online facilitators will help develop further healthier, mature and self-aware communities where conversations flow naturally. The way they should.

Finally, another interesting resource that I thought would be really helpful to include in this blog post is the one that one of my favourite people, Howard Rheingold, shared across on a recent tweet under the title “The Art of Hosting Good Conversations Online“. This is an absolute must-read for any online facilitator out there and for anyone interested in communities, in general. Absolutely wonderful read with so many golden nuggets that it will keep you busy digesting them all for a long while! The really fascinating thing though from that particular resource that Howard shared across is the fact that he put it together in 1998!, yes, that’s right, you are reading it correctly, in 1998!! and 13 years later it’s still as valid and resourceful as it was back then!

I am sure you may have noticed how Howard doesn’t use the wording “Community Manager“, term that, like you all know already, I don’t feel too comfortable with altogether either. He uses the term “Host” instead, which I think is rather appropriate, because, in a sense, that’s what an online community facilitator does on a regular basis: hosting an engaged group of people willing to converse, learn and share their knowledge with one another on a topic most of them are really passionate about. And that’s where the art part kicks in, because like any host of any party it’s that art of managing interactions amongst party attendees the one that confirms whether the party has been a great success or a total failure! Yes, indeed, I really like his concept of a Community Host.

Another brilliant, and rather relevant, connotation to the concept of “Community Host” that permeates throughout the entire Web site Howard put together back then is the whole concept of the community facilitator as a helpful, accommodating, obliging and serviceable community member, realising that perhaps the needs of the community and its many members would probably be ahead and before his / her own needs, which surely is a notion I would agree with 100% if he / she would want the community to thrive along and eventually succeed. No much room for egos to fight one another to see who is better at doing something. In online communities there are hardly ever any hierarchies in place based on those egos and somehow I feel we are much better of without them.

I guess at this point in time there would be very little more that I would need to add to such a wonderful resource that Howard put together back in the day. However, to summarise things further a bit, I have taken the liberty of putting together over here the headings of the different sections covered by his Web site, so that you can have a look on what to expect as you head over there to read the rather lengthy, but well worth reading, article in itself:

  • “What an online host wants to achieve
  • Good online discussions
  • A host is … “(Highly recommend you check out this section as well about online facilitator characteristics)
  • “What a host does, what a host tries to grow
  • Host behaviour” (Another essential read, if you ask me)

And that’s it for now! I hope you get to enjoy all of these wonderful resources on online community facilitation as we all come to realise how building and sustaining helpful online communities is a whole lot more than just worrying about the new community social tooling, and more around the art of having AND facilitating engaging and long lasting conversations to take place. So, what are some of your favourite tips to keep your communities going strong? Care to share them in the comments? We would surely love to hear them! Bring them on! 🙂

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