Why Community is not Marketing

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Ok, I’ll admit. It’s a controversial title but what it comes down to is why I feel that running a professional community is different from running marketing. While looking for a new job I have a lot of time thinking through what I really like doing and why I do it. Why am I a technical marketer but still have so much issues with how marketing works? And then I had an epiphany; for me it all comes down to the intent of the conversation

Eureka

Company Structures

I started drilling down the types of conversation in and out of a technology company and found that the type of communication pretty much aligned with existing company structures. So here are my thoughts and I made a drawing to make stuff easier to understand.

First of all I moved the Operations <> Suppliers conversation out of the picture as that is not really public communication. I still consider this a little as internal communication.

  • Let’s start with Sales and Marketing: these people are driven by the numbers. Quarterly and Annual numbers. Every part of external communication is intended to drive either current or future sales. And that’s prefect!
  • When we look at everything that I put under the Technology Department we are looking at all communication that is intended to drive the quality of the current and future product.
  • And then I found that true community people are not driven by numbers and they are not really working on the products as such, they are actually listening to customers if they can drive the customer to a happy place. Not from a product perspective as they could be covering multiple products or product lines but from the company’s perspective. Are you happy buying from our company? Which makes them actually being closer to PR than to marketing.

Screenshot 2014 03 06 12 49 49

Chief Happiness Officer (CHO)

Now don’t get me wrong here. I did not say that Community People cannot be marketers. I also did not say that you cannot organise community management within the marketing department. All I am saying is that true community people have a different angle when approaching the conversation. They most probably will share the exact same platforms for communication: Social Media & Trade Shows. 

What I do feel is that you need all these different forms of communication at all times and you need specialised people for that. You absolutely need people that are thrilled by a mass amount of net-new-leads because a whitepaper went viral. They are still the first feed of the sales funnel when you nurture it well. But building a happy community will in the end become one of your most durable competitive advantages. The people who focus specifically on this type of communication is what I call true community people.

If you didn’t get the clue: I am still looking for a new CHO role 😉

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4 comments

  1. Interesting take Hans. I tend to view it from the standpoint that it can’t hurt if the community drivers are also part of marketing, or spun off from marketing as they tend to be the one department that has the most contact with the message that the company wants to convey. The bottom line is that companies engage in actions that contribute to the bottom line, they are not spinning up a significant community because its fun, they are engaging because it assists their image, creates customer goodwill, or provides them with a competitive advantage.

    Community for community sake isn’t going to fly at a lot of organizations. Resources are always scarce, and if you can’t provide an ROI for an engagement then it probably won’t get a green light. Just my .02

    1. There’s no right or wrong here neither is my view exclusive of the other. It’s just that most people that I have seen running a community specifically as part of marketing are missing a part of its true value. Example: I received a “community update” email this morning and it looked so much like a marketing newsletter that I haven’t even read it. Went straight to the recycle bin. Let’s say that if that email contains 5 subscription buttons you are probably not doing it for the community. So the result is that it works backwards.

    2. To clear up a few points I believe communities can fill quite a few roles for an organization; Not just marketing or PR. I think the word “just” is missing from the title :). When executed correctly and nourished communities should be assisting with Customer Service, Marketing, Sales, R &D and Relationship Building which is seen as valuable to every department. The Topic of ROI is tricky with communities because (with the metrics available) you cannot measure customer retention, satisfaction or good will. To demonstrate I usually bring up the example of a sales guy taking out a client to lunch. You will never measure the exact ROI of that task but every successful sales professional I know does this consistently and will never stop because they know it works. That being said I currently leverage traditional marketing metrics like content views, active members and content created to show ROI. Although these metrics are used they will never show the entire value of our community. Also Hans HO might not be your “official title” but this is open: https://www.cisco.apply2jobs.com/ProfExt/index.cfm?fuseaction=mExternal.showJob&RID=958848&smparam=twitter

      1. Hi Mike,

        You are spot on! In fact I am working on a second post where I touch all those different area’s where listening differently and transparently with your community can help building that exact community become durable. Where I actually was going with the post was that Community is not a department, it’s a state of mind.

        Don’t even get me started on community ROI 🙂

        And thanks for the tip! Definitely appreciated. Of course I was joking with the title but you knew exactly where I was going with that.

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