I read a fascinating blog post at The Community Roundtable entitled The Value of Community Management. The blog post considers the value, specifically the financial benefit, that community managers provide to managed social communities. Several readers who manage online communities wrote in to offer their data about the difference community managers make. Reading the discussion, I realize there are a number of points that are fully applicable to social networks such as Facebook Pages and Groups, Linkedin Groups, Google Groups, and others. They apply equally to for-profit and nonprofit-sponsored communities.
1. Active management of an online community creates real value for the organization
Tom Humbarger was the paid, active community manager until his position was eliminated. From that time forward, his company chose to manage the online community passively. Tom wrote a blog post about what the effects of active vs. passive community management. His data shows that growth, number of visits, number of page views, and time on site decreased dramatically during the absence of a community manager. The full article is well worth reading here.
As an example, this graph illustrates the dramatic drop-off in the number of site visits once active community management ceased.
2. Similarly, active management of a Facebook Page creates real value for the organization
I was the active manager of a corporate Facebook Page for a period of three months in 2009, until the company decided to eliminate all managed social media. From that time forward, the company decided to auto-fed blog posts to the Facebook Page, with no added interactions. During the time of active Facebook Page management, the Page grew at a rate of about 8 fans a week, had a post quality of 21, drove about 8 visits a day to the site, but had a conversion rate from Facebook Page to website registration of almost 25%. Since the Page became inactive, the number of new fans/week has dropped to less than one, there are almost no website visits, zero conversions, and the post quality is zero.
Community Roundtable blog reader Maggie McGary also saw similar stats in her nonprofit’s Facebook Page: she writes in the comments that the number of visits from Facebook to her nonprofit organization’s website plunged during a one-month absence from active Facebook community management.
Community management, whether you define it as managing a private community, or a community on a social media platform, is critical to community growth and moving people from the managed community towards organizational goals.
3. Active management also encourages relationship-building, which leads to loyalty and community growth
When I was a community organizer, we used to call this “relationship organizing.” Simply put, friends bring friends to organizations, and remain involved because of them. I used to try and map friendships, recruit influencers, and ask them to bring friends into the cause. In online communities, we develop cyber friends that influence us to participate and keep us active. I have started participating more actively in certain online groups because I have developed friendships with other members over time. I also recommend these groups to my friends, and feel increased loyalty to the sponsoring organization. I would never have created these online ties if the group wasn’t active and well-managed.
I asked Hildy Gottlieb, who managed the monthly twitter chat for consultants to community benefits organizations, if there are online ties between the participants of the monthly #npcons chat, and if these ties arose from the chats. She responded emphatically: “Oh goodness yes. There are many people who have met through these chats, who are now having some pretty engaged and higher level conversations throughout the month because they feel they know each other from that involvement. It’s just like any other involvement or community- the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”
Simply put, a well-manged online community leads to real value for both the members and the community sponsors. That’s a win-win situation.
Have you managed a social network? Can you add your data to this conversation?
Have you seen the effects of passive management on a social community?