The Role Of The Community Manager

We’ve been talking a lot about ‘facilitation’ recently, where I work at NixonMcInnes. The role of the facilitator is very closely aligned with that of the community manager. Here’s some thoughts on the overlap and how it might be useful to practice some facilitation techniques in a community management type role.

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I often hear people ask the question, “why would anyone want to interact with a brand?”.

Community management, however, isn’t about trying to get your customers talking to the brand as such – rather, it’s about creating a space for people interested in the same relevant topic, ethos or discussion which can then become associated with your brand.

According to FeverBee, this can be achieved by creating a psychological sense of community whereby those members will want to interact with each other. But, how can you create that psychological sense of community where people will be motivated to do this?

For Richard Millington at FeverBee, the community manager becomes a moderator. However, for me, the role of facilitator has a stronger connection.

If we take a look at John Heron’s facilitation model then, we can see that there are six dimensions of facilitation and three modes of which these dimensions can be handled. It’s these ‘modes’ that provide the most use to me, especially for this example. These are:

1. The hierarchical mode

Here, the facilitator directs the learning process, exercising power over it, and doing things for the group; the facilitator leads from the front by thinking and acting on behalf of the group.

2. The co-operative mode

Here the facilitator shares power over the learning process and managing the different dimensions with the group” s/he enables and guides the group to become more self-directing in the various forms of learning by conferring with them. S/he prompts and helps group members.

3. The autonomous mode

Here the facilitator respects the total autonomy of the group: s/he does not do things for them, or with them, but gives them freedom to find their own way, exercising their own judgement without any intervention.

It is the mix of all three of these modes which provide a useful framework for the group’s ‘learning process’ (or for this example, ‘process of participation’ might be a better phrase). Essentially this means that the facilitator, or community manager, needs to be authoritative (or ‘hierarchical’) but also gives the community space to interact with one another (illustrated by the ‘autonomous mode’) in order to create this psychological sense of community.

In this way, the facilitator will use different behaviours for each of the different modes highlighted below:

1. The hierarchical mode can be demonstrated by removing spam/ innappropriate materials, resolving conflict which are all things that can put people off participating.

2. The co-operative model can be demontsrated through simply asking a question and providing other prompts for discussions.

3. The autonomous mode can be demonstrated by allowing the community to ask and answer their own questions.

By moving between these three modes of facilitation as you need them, you will ensure that you get the balance right between a) removing barriers to participation and b) motivating participation, whilst also remaining visible enough to your community without being overpowering that it will put them off.

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