I’d happily find any old reason to visit Melbourne, but this year’s Swarm conference promised to be a good one. I’ve been helping founders, Venessa Paech and Alison Michalk, put the concept of an Online Community Managers conference in front of more eyeballs, and I’d already known Alison through her professional forum moderation roles in the past. The opportunity to meet in person was something I’d already been looking forward to, but Swarmconf gave us all the opportunity to hear from established Community identities including Laurel Papworth, Yammer’s Global Head of Community, Maria Ogneva, and HuffPo’s Community Manager, Justin Isaf, amongst others.
It was certainly the most comfortable conference I’ve ever been to, complete with hammock, beanbags and in-room coffee cart with baristas; and being at Hub Melbourne’s co-working office, there’s plenty of power for laptop and phone charging. But despite the hipster environs and the hipster-gourmet catering of Kinfolk Café, the functions community managers perform aren’t just the purview of, well, hipsters and their start-ups. There were delegates from “stodgy” financial institutions, “conservative” motoring organisations, other large corporates, plus a healthy representation of not-for-profits and consultants.
Kicking off the event, Maria Ogneva took us through the cast of characters that make up a community and busted some myths common to enterprise social tools.
She also highlighted the potential $1.3 trillion in value from untapped internal communications. We were then onto Huffington Post’s Justin Isaf, who explained how, aided by technology, a team of 28 moderators working 6 hour shifts from home (or anywhere), 6 days a week, pre-moderates 9 million comments a month. Think about the maths on that. Phenomenal. Justin believes in moderation for the safe environment it provides for community participants
After morning tea academic, Matthew Allen, presented his paper Is There Room For Community in All These Social Networks? As the “person becomes the portal”, we no longer go to Facebook; it goes wherever we go. And so it was good timing that the next speaker, David Hood, concentrated on the always-on nature of our modern lives. Those with community management roles are nourishing their communities often at the expense of their own time to reenergise.
As we moved through the afternoon, Laurel Papworth warned us of the coming “shitstorm”, where community management as an emerging profession will need to navigate legal decisions and changing paradigms. One of the problems is our inability to define the role of community management. As Craig Thomler revealed from a recent industry survey, people identifying themselves as community managers are doing a mix of marketing, PR, moderating and social media management.
These are the comments that have resonated the most since Swarmconf—the emerging nature of community management and its ill-defined parameters. There’s no doubt an industry body will need to form as legal rulings around social networks begin to impact companies and communities in new ways.
In knowledge management, communities of practice are part of the toolkit, but as a greater percentage of employees work remotely, our CoPs will be formed online via company forums or other enterprise social tools. And, as ITSM advances to promote more self-service, the vehicle on offer may well be a self-help forum. Therefore, understanding the functions and concerns of community management comes under the umbrella of KM and, for that reason, I highly recommend future Swarmconf events.
Official Swarmconf blog.
Laurel Papworth’s 9 Step Social media Strategy