Community Management: What it is? Who does it? Why do they do it? How do they do it?
I can certainly provide my own take on the first and last of those questions . 'Who does it' and 'Why do they do it' are unique to each individual so I won't touch on those any further, except to say that the conversations around 'Who' and 'Why' are among the most interesting aspects of what makes the role of the Community Manager so very interesting between peers.
What is it?
Well, Software Developer Community Management is, even as promulgated by many a flowery definition from esoterica, just another set of services driven by the many roles and responsibilities constituting community management. The challenge is in defining those services as needed on a per-community basis, pairing those services with the appropriate tools and communication mechanisms, then providing the resources (the CM and and support staff) that can in turn provide those services in (hopefully) an iterative, programmatic manner to serve the community.
How do they do it?
That could be considered a loaded question, as it's assuming 'they' do
indeed do 'it'. Unfortunately not all of those with the Community
Manager title do their jobs in line with what it takes to properly manage a community.
As I assert above, Community Management is a set of services.
So what is a service? Or more to the point: What is Service?
Webster's On line Dictionary defines Service as: "The work performed by one that serves b : help,
use, benefit c : contribution to the
welfare of others"
To me this strikes at the very heart of what it is to be a Community Manager.
So, 'How do they do it?' They lead the community by serving its needs.
The Community Manager can't know all or do all, but that person does
serve to connect all the dots between questions and answers, between needs and the resources to fill those needs, in order to ensure the community operates smoothly and to the benefit of its members.
The Community Manager represents the community. This doesn't necessarily equate to being the poster child for the community, though that can happen with the right, rare person. But that does equate to evangelizing the community at every opportunity.
The Community Manager works to find how the community can be improved. Be this by gathering requirements for improvements to the hosting technologies (read: Features and Enhancements), by revamping the processes used for operating the community or perhaps even by convening a blind study focus group (though the average developer has no qualms about stating exactly how he feels).
The Community Manager engages in regular communication with the Community's leaders, members and consumers via summits, conferences, conference calls, webinars, weblogs, microblogs, emails and over coffee. The Community Manager is the voice and the ears of the community, with the former driving the latter for response and vice versa in order to disseminate the items of vital interest throughout the member base.
I could continue on. And every next statement on the roles and responsibilities of Community Management will stay tied to the same mantra:
Lead by serving and your community will flourish!