Defining Community Management

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Yesterday, I decided to join the #cmgrchat (which takes place every wednesday at 2 p.m. EST) to discuss with other fellow community managers on what community management is. There were some very good interventions, and today I’d like to say a bit more about this matter (Twitter has a 140 chars limit, my blog doesn’t).

To begin, we need to define what a community is. The way I see it, a community is a group of people that is connected by a common passion. That passion may be anything: a game (my field of interest!), food, a place, anything really. Be it online or offline. Although internet has allowed us to cross the oceans and connect with people from all over the seven continents – and that’s one of the greatest human achievements -, the truth is offline communities existed since ever and will continue to exist, since face to face interaction tends to create stronger bonds between people (sure, it’s possible to get a boy/girlfriend online, now try to keep the relationship without you ever knowing him/her in person…).

Everyone is and was part of a community. Our family is a community. Our neighbourhood is a community. You and your friends are a community. No one can live their life in loneliness, because “Man is by nature a social animal” (Aristotle). No matter what we do, our instinct will always make us meet and engage with other people.

That’s why being part of a community is so natural – what’s unnatural is not being part of one. If you look back, you’ll see the best moments you had in your (offline and online) life were well spent with other people, you’ll see you shared those moments with someone else in the world – and probably that person will also remember the moments he/she shared with you.

To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince.

I know I’m probably too cheesy, but these are wise words. It’s everyone’s life purpose to create bonds with someone else, and if you share a passion you’re already getting started!

Online communities have helped people from all over the world meeting other people with shared interests, and some people really create strong relationships with people they meet in online communities and then take to their offline lifes. I can think of the Learn Na’vi online community, whose members share a passion (the AVATAR movie/Na’vi language) and have regular offline meetings. I know lots of people have kept in this community for years, helping newcomers and getting along with the old ones. I’m a member myself (srane, oe tsun pivltxe nìNa’vi! Yes, I can speak Na’vi!) and it’s a great community with great people.

Now, if man is by nature a social animal and it’s our instinct to get along with other people, why are community managers needed? What’s the purpose? Shouldn’t communities creation and management be natural? Not really. It happens that community managers are actually quite important in keeping the community healthy. As I said in another article, community managers have existed since ever, they just weren’t called community managers. And up to this day, community managers have played a huge role in the society, building relationships and helping people fulfil their life purpose. As I said before, it’s everyone’s life purpose to create bonds with someone else, and that’s what community managers do: make it possible for you to meet, engage and create bonds with other people that share the same passion as you. That’s the beauty I see in this job. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than this.

So, what’s community management after all? I don’t know what you think, but, to me, it’s building relationships and helping people fulfil their life purpose. And when a community manager achieves that, the community manager is doing it right.

Edit: TheCommunityManager has released an article and last wednesday’s #cmgrchat storify here: http://thecommunitymanager.com/2014/01/31/the-definition-of-community-management/. It’s worth checking!

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