Is a question that I get asked a lot. Um, only the most awesomest stuff evar!!
It's hard to believe, but this week, I actually celebrated both my 7th anniversary of being a community manager (CM), as well as my 1 year anniversary of being one at HP. I often get asked what exactly a CM is and does, so I thought that with these anniversaries, now was more a fitting time than ever to reflect, shed some light, and share a bit about my story. I could probably write a novel about CMs and community management, but I'll try to keep it to one blog post.
What's a community manager?
This used to be a tough question to answer. The role is a fairly new one in the digital age, existing in this form maybe a couple of decades ago, and the term "community manager" is even newer, being maybe about a decade old. As more people and companies see the value of CMs, though, and thus more of these roles are created and filled, it's becoming more defined.
In a nutshell, as the name implies, a community manager "manages"... "community". A lot of people immediately feel dimwitted and have an "OHHHH" lightbulb moment when I tell them this, but don't worry -- there's more!
What does a community manager do?
As in, what does managing a community consist of? Well, this is one of those "It depends..." questions. Contrary to popular belief, I don't manage physical properties, nor do I sit around writing tweets and posting on Facebook all day
Taking into account a company's product offerings and the size of its community, it really varies from company to company. But at a high level, a CM acts as the liason between a company and that company's members, users, or customers. A CM acts as the go-to person to deliver feedback and updates back and forth from one to the other. In turn, through those interactions, a CM humanizes a company by guiding, nurturing, and engaging with the community. Or, what I like to call giving people "the fuzzies" and "the feels".
To give you an example of a CM's breadth of responsibilites and scope, at a very small startup, a CM would have very different responsibilities than of one at HP. With a smaller community that's just starting out, that has different product offerings and fewer resources, community management might involve community engagement, moderation, content creation, content curation, customer support, social media management, social media marketing, guerilla marketing, blogger outreach, SEO, QA testing, event planning, and growth hacking, among other responsibilities. If those companies were to grow and scale, more team members would be brought on board to focus on each of those tasks.
I got my start in community management in the tech startup world, working for new companies that employed between 5 to 30 people (much smaller than the tens of thousands at HP). I built and grew communities from the ground up, and at several points, was the sole CM at the company, so I was pretty much the jack of all trades, partaking in many of the activities above. Which brings me to...
What does a community manager do at HP?
Given the size of HP and subsequently, the size of our community, the communities team has been scaled to properly accommodate. That means that sometimes, there are entire teams to do each one of those tasks listed above, versus one person doing all of them. This also means that I get the opportunity to do what I love the most: truly be able to focus on nurturing and building relationships with, and among, my community 🙂
Specifically, I'm in HP's support organization, on the social care team, as one of the CMs on the HP Support Forum in the English language. We have 7 different language communities. The other 6 language communities are smaller than the English community, so there are three other CMs who manage two of those language communities each. The English community, though, is so large that there are two CMs for it alone -- the hilarious @Bill_F and myself. We help nurture and grow our group of HP Experts as well as our community as a whole.
Who are the HP Experts?
Within each of our community's member bases, we've got our amazing group of superusers who we lovingly call our HP Experts. They're our top contributors and the lifeblood of our community. These folks so passionately volunteer their time to help others in the community that, of course, we have to recognize them and show them how much we appreciate them, so that's why the HP Expert Program was created.
As a CM, I make myself available to them to hear their feedback, answer their questions, route messages to the right person within HP if need be, or heck, just to chat. Whatever they need, they know that I'm just a PM, email, or a tweet away. Likewise, if the team ever needs any feedback about forum features, changes, or design, we go to our Experts first because their opinions matter to us and we consider them stakeholders in our community.
Hanging out with our HP Experts
How do we show our community love?
As a CM of the HP Support Forum, I also find relevant ways to show our thanks to our Experts who are so integral to our community. One way that we do that is through our Product Loan Program. Whether tablet, PC, printer, or a combination of, we allow our Experts to choose the products that they are most interested in, and have them on loan. At the end of each loan cycle, we ask that they donate the products to the non-profit of their choice. After which, they can choose a new set of products.
The Product Loan Program is a triple win as 1) Experts can experience the latest and greatest in HP products, 2) Thus, they're even better equipped to help out folks in our community with their new hands-on knowledge of a wider range of products, and 3) Non-profits in our Experts' local communties benefit from the donations. I absolutely love hearing about the non-profits that our Experts so enthusiastically choose to donate the products to, and I know that it's one of the favorite parts of their whole Product Loan Program experience as well.
Another way that we show love to our Experts is through meetups. We fly them out to a destination for several days of bonding, learning, and fun. This is one of their favorites as they're able to hang out in person with people who they interact with in the community on a regular basis, and in some cases, have known for years. Last year, we organized the HP Experts Global Meetup where all 7 language communities descended upon San Francisco. This year, each CM is organizing a meetup for their own community. We can't wait to announce the next destinations!
At these meetups, not only do Experts get to hang out with one another, but they get to see and touch new products, see product demos, listen to talks, panel discussions, and breakout sessions from tech industry leaders from not only HP, but also partners such as Microsoft and Lithium Technologies. But it's not all technology talks -- we also organize fun activities to let folks explore the destination. Many times, it's to a city that most of our Experts have never been, and in some cases, a few Experts had never even been to the country!
The above are just a few of the things the that I do as a CM at HP. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes action and collaboration with my amazing team to pull it off, but hopefully this gives you the gist of it. No two days are ever the same; every day's a new and different adventure, which is part of the beauty of it for me.
The catalyst of this post is actually the photo below, which I excitedly shared with friends and family to let them know of my CM and HP birthdays earlier this week. On the left is a selfie that I took on my very first day on campus, moments before my new colleague came to fetch me. This week, I tried to find that same HP Labs sign, but discovered that post-HP/Hewlett Packard Enterprise split remodeling, that sign no longer exists, so I found a new one. On a side note, while I'm celebrating anniversaries, HP Labs is celebrating their 50th this week. I can't tell you how awe inspiring it is to be a part of such a dynamic company with such a rich history.
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I first step through those doors that fateful day, but one year later, I can confidently say that accepting this job offer was one of the best decisions I've ever made and this past year has been one of my most amazing. I am truly grateful for the wonderful company and team who I work with, and for our equally wonderful community. Thanks for being such an awesome bunch!
Time truly does fly when you're having a good time. Here's to more of that
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