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Where does the Community Management Function Sit Inside a Company?

The community manager role becomes essential when your brand’s online community starts growing. This person is the connection between your community and your organization. They ensure that both the community members and your business benefit from the community-led collaboration and engagement.

Despite being a critical role, there’s often confusion about how the community manager (and the community in general) should fit in an organization. There is a good reason for that–here is the list of key benefits that a community offers to an organization:

  • Customer support
  • Customer education
  • Branding and thought leadership
  • Customer engagement
  • Relationship building
  • Feedback collection
  • Evangelism
  • Content generation
community flywheel - customer engagement

Traditionally the community function starts inside other departments, typically customer success, marketing, or product. The community, and therefore the community manager, becomes a part of this team.

This often works well because communities provide these departments with immense value. Making the community part of customer support makes sense if members mainly use it to troubleshoot issues. If the goal for the community is to drive product awareness, thought leadership, and evangelism, then it makes sense to align with marketing.

But, there is a fundamental issue with this approach—the community doesn’t just help a single department—even if it was built with just one use in mind. An engaged audience provides significant benefits to different teams in an organization.

So, what’s the Solution?

At Tribe, we are taking a different approach—we have made the community a distinct function within our company. While community used to be part of customer success, it no longer sits inside this department.

Instead, the community management team will work collaboratively with other departments independently. This means they can focus on managing the community and helping every part of our business.

Here are the four ways community management helps different teams:

They create community spaces for each department

Not being tied to a specific department means the community manager isn’t stuck working with a single goal in mind. Instead, they can work alongside all teams in our organization to help them overcome their unique challenges.

One way this works at Tribe is that we have community spaces for each use case.

For example, we have a Space just for feedback collection and a Space only for ideation with a small group of most engaged customers. Our community manager works closely with our product team to find ways to help community members reach value when using our product.

The product team then creates and shares relevant resources that help our customers provide feedback.

Another example is the searchable knowledge base. Employees from the customer support team use it to create help articles our customers can use. And this happens with the help of the community manager, who guides them in framing and structuring the content so that community will find it useful.

Here is a brief breakdown of how some of our departments work with different Spaces in the community:

department and community space mapping

Note that there is some overlap when it comes to the mapping of Spaces. For example, the Community Insights space is a collaboration between both customer success and marketing. This again shows how deeply a community is ingrained in a company.

They keep all information relevant

It’s one thing having these features in place. But it’s another to ensure that they are up to date and relevant. So our community manager works with other teams to ensure the information in the community reflects the current state of our product.

Our employees are encouraged to be active in the community, so they can interact with customers and get a pulse of how the product is working. But working alongside the dedicated community manager leads to more effective engagement in the community.

A good example of this is what happens when we add a new feature or integration. The marketing team works with the community and product team to share the updates and explain the benefits of the new feature as well.

product updates shared by marketing in the community

They collect and share relevant customer insights

Community is by no means a one-way channel. And customer insight gained in the community helps us improve our product to meet the needs of users. But while all our team members are actively consuming content from the community, presenting insights from the community discussions to the relevant teams requires cross-team collaboration.

This is where the community manager comes in. Since the community manager is active in the community, they know exactly what customers are saying. They are well-placed to gather insights for different departments, document, and handoff to relevant teams for review.

The most obvious example of this occurs in the product feedback section. Here customers tell us how they feel about new product updates as well as request new features. As mentioned earlier, the product management team at Tribe works with the community manager to engage with the customers.

But it happens in other ways too. For example, if customers continually post about a certain issue, the community manager can advise the support team to create resources that help people with this issue.

They can focus on community growth and engagement

The final benefit of making the community independent is that the manager doesn’t have external goals. Instead, their main job is to create a thriving community that helps our entire organization. Our community manager does this by implementing a variety of programs for community events. These include webinars, AMAs, surveys, contests, and more.

They use their knowledge of the community to create events that are helpful to members rather than to meet a specific department’s goals.

Now, everyone benefits from the community

This is what we’re doing at Tribe. And we have found that treating the community as its own department can help a business integrate the community experience across the customer journey.

This ultimately leads to a better experience for members. Community members have access to more help and resources than ever before.

Duncan Elder

Duncan Elder

Duncan is a content marketer with a passion for all things digital marketing, SaaS, and online communities.

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