The more I immerse myself in my role as a community director, the more something has become vastly apparent to me. I know I'm speaking from my own perspective here, but maybe this sparks some ideas for you.
When we talk about community management roles, we're often talking about the customer facing aspect. The idea that you are there to shepherd your clients, prospects, customers, and community at large to build a better relationship between them and your business.
All that is true. It's the customer service role blended with sales and communication, both internal and external. I often refer to it as the bridge between a company's community or potential community, and the business itself.
But there's more.
I am more clearly focused than ever before on the idea that social business is what we're striving for. The media is just the carrier. The set of tactics. The mechanisms behind the intent to connect. But that's all on the surface, and if we leave the idea of Chris Brogan's "human-shaped" business languishing at the front lines and dicker about whether it's PR or customer service or marketing or whatever, without taking it to the foundations of an organization and engineering a new bedrock, it's all going to fall flat.
I am also learning that as a communicators at our essence (part of what I think makes people like us suited to our roles and so passionate about what social media illustrates), we are uniquely positioned to help build that framework inside our company, and help other companies learn what that looks like.
So as community-minded people....
Think about your role as an internal communicator as well as an external communicator, no matter how officially that fits into your role. What can you bring to the core of your business, what can you make happen inside your own walls based on what you learn "out there"? How can you be the bridge between those silos in your organization, or the catalyst for conversations that no one has had before (but might desperately want to)?
There is opportunity hiding in routine. Even yours. Even mine. Even if it's never been done. Even if community isn't your job description, but it's your passion and something you understand.
When we are embarking on new lenses through which to view business of all sizes, we have the chance to question what's come before, and establish things that have never been.
Can community intent inform your actions?
I know it's not always easy to change the mechanisms that have been in place. I've worked in bootstrapped non-profit organizations. I've worked in corporate environments, both rigid and more open, and both have their sets of challenges. Established brands and new ones. Change isn't easy.
But one thing remains abundantly clear.
As a relationship builder, connector, communicator, it's my responsibility to take on the challenges of immersing my company in that however I can. Small steps or major innovations. I am a communicator. It's what I do. Communication is the very essence of community building. Of all the social networks we love so much but are trying so hard to understand. It's what separates misunderstanding from clarity. Ignorance from education. Stagnation from innovation.
I don't deny the challenges. I don't deny that we have work ahead of us. I don't deny that the very foundations of business truly are shifting under our feet, and that paralyzes people with fear. I don't deny that there are charlatans and shiny objects and fear and misunderstanding in our way. And I don't deny that we will leave some lost causes behind.
But as communicators, as those with the deep-seated notion that a community mindset can bring the best out of a business, we can be the change-makers. We can form a gathering point for those ideas that need a place to take root. We can be the bridges. We can retool what we know, one bit at a time, by shedding the verbal shortcuts and excuses and using our skills to untangle the most thorny of challenges and the laziness of jargon.
If that scares you, if you're focused on why that won't work instead of how to jump the gate, stop now. Find an easier battle to wage. Focus on guaranteed "wins" based on safe ideas. There are plenty, I assure you. And many of them will live long lives and give you comfort and job security.
But for the rest: This isn't marketing. This isn't PR. It's not customer service. It's elemental business. So, why not us? And why not now?
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