Boost your content with a community

Have you ever met a person whose job title is ‘community manager’? Thought not. But according to Carmel DeAmicis, tech startups in the US are placing increased importance on communities, and employing community managers to create interconnected, and altogether warm and fuzzy audiences.

As the title suggests, a community manager’s job is to create a collective of users who engage with each other, often in a meaningful way. The community manager’s means are plentiful, and can include organising community meet-ups to ensuring that users fist bump each other when they meet (what users of travel sharing service Lyft are encouraged to do). The purpose is to get people to feel as though they are in a community of users rather than simply engaged in the more client-provider relationship associated with usual transactions. It’s perhaps no coincidence that many of the startups that employ community managers are active in the sharing economy, where success is predicated on the existence of a community of users with a civic outlook.

Communities mean commercial success

Yet the warm, fuzzy feeling community managers are trying to create shouldn’t belie the fundamental business case for creating them. As DeAmicis suggests:

When individuals interact in meaningful ways in relation to a product, they associate those positive — or negative — feelings with the brand. Encouraging that kind of communication requires experts who understand group connectivity and how to scale it.

To many in the content creating industry, this logic will seem familiar. Much of the rationale for creating content is to convince the reader to trust the content creator and enquire about the paid-for services or products offered by an affiliated company. So why not try to create a community with content?

The limits of content

It’s at this point that the limits of what content can achieve on its own start to appear. By its nature content marketing is at most two directional – the content provider shares content with a reader, and there may be some two-way discussion about it afterwards. In most cases, it’s one-directional – consuming content is a headphones-on experience, and there’s little scope for readers to interact with one another.

So where does content sit in all this? Part of the answer is in seeing content marketing as a parallel exercise that supports those communities created by a manager. Content should certainly aim to create those positive feelings mentioned in the quote above, and a closely-knitted community of members with similar interests are likely to share your content, especially if it is useful or engaging. Content may essentially be one-directional, but that doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from the community approach.

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