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The Four Types of Platform Community Builders
Which one are you? Or who should you be seeking for your next community project?
As a relatively young industry, there are still many moving parts out there. I think we agree you can lead a community without community in the title, and the best organizations live the community-led principles to the core. However, if a company has created a space for conversation and connection, someone hopefully, in the best-case scenario, is leading the charge from the front.
As you seek out a community professional or are a community professional yourself, consider these four archetypes, especially if you will be an individual contributor or lead by influence. Where do you fall, or what kind of community professional should you hire? Let's dive in!
The From Scratch Hero
These folks relish the bootstrap launch, but it can sometimes be a larger organization with a sizable budget. The key for this archetype is that project management and the ability to focus are essential. It's easy to get distracted by the shiny, the what's next, or a vision. Look to someone who loves Asana (or your favourite PM tool) and can easily distinguish between what is needed now and what can wait. For this person, managing personalities and internal groups will be vital in driving toward launch. So is consensus building. If you've been hired as this expert, you need to lead. And let's be honest, only some people are comfortable leading the charge from 0 to launch.
One crucial fact to understand is you will be building while the plane is flying. There is no such thing as perfect launches. You can't wait until everything is perfect - this can paralyze you from ever launching. You have to have the confidence and conviction to push things forward.
You should seek this person if you wish to migrate to another space. I can't tell you how many community folks I know were hired for their experience on one platform and then found out they would be part of the transition to another. Even if it's a platform they know, migrations also require some skills they might lack.
If you are moving amongst enterprise community platforms or using a third-party agency, you'll likely have a project manager, but still, you need someone on your side who is good with details and pays attention to them. Too often, I have seen trust placed in the process on the vendor side and not enough time spent on the details until after the migration process was finalized.
Besides being detail-orientated, communication is critical. They need to be able to communicate to stakeholders internally but also to the community impacted by the change. Now is not the time for silence. A surprise migration usually doesn't go over well with a community and can cause consternation for your internal teams.
Depending on the size of the community (and the database), the years the other solution was around, and the depth of the community attachment, there are many things for this person to consider.
I strongly urge any company doing a significant migration to consider twice before hiring anyone leading a migration for this first time. I'm not saying a neophyte can't do it, but make sure you choose someone with the right temperament for the minutiae of migration in the digital realm of any kind. As an example, do they consider analytics and SEO considerations? What features stay or change? How will internal systems, including CRM and SSO, be impacted? Do they know how to navigate internally to get things done and direct the team for these changes?
The Growth Maintainer
These are community builders who may have to come in to replace someone who previously managed your community. This is the most generalist of community positions. They have excellent community skills and are coming into an established ecosystem. They may tweak or change their style based on effective techniques they have seen.
Also, don't take maintainer as a negative or static. They may still bring in new programs and expand things. However, they are better suited once the community is humming along, and they are there to harness the energy while continuing the growth.
In many cases, this is the most fun, generally because the basics will already be in place, and an experienced community person can apply their knowledge to take things to the next level.
The Turn Around Specialist
This is the most complex of the roles because it combines the others. This person must assess whether the patient (i.e., the community) can be healed or fixed or is a lost cause. Sometimes, a drastic choice is made to start over; other times, it's to migrate elsewhere. It would be best if you had someone ready to go in and talk to members, staff, and anyone in between to understand where the issues lie. There may also be added complications if the community was working at some point or it just never came together. It requires someone with courage and the backing of management to make the call. Sometimes, it could even be the choice that the community in its current form doesn't work and requires a radical rethink.
The most challenging aspect of this role is getting buy-in and support from management. This is because you may need more money, resources and/or a change in approach. Only some people are comfortable in that role. However, turning things around is the most rewarding, primarily when most people have written off a space.
There are four archetypes I always keep in my mind. Now, why is this important? To me, this is the "Know Thyself" moment.
Not all community opportunities are created equal and require a different skill set, temperament and ability. Many community professionals can do all or some of these quite effectively, but being conscious of these archetypes is crucial to setting yourself up for success.
I'm also happy to hear from you if I missed any or any comments you have on the four archetypes.
Happy Community Building!
P.S. If you are looking to meet other community professionals or find one, come check out what we’re building at https://mycli.co