Who Owns Community?
As community becomes increasingly integral to B2B customer success strategies, the question of who owns it has arisen. But what does ownership really mean?
NBC cancelled Community in 2014, but the Dan Harmon series has since been picked up by Yahoo Screen and Hulu. NBC streaming service Peacock has even ordered a movie, bringing Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie and Jim Rash back to Greendale.
Community Marketing is a brand growth strategy focused on connecting customers around a topic that aligns with, or is directly related to, the brand in a way that puts customers first. This approach fuels word-of-mouth and reduces support costs.
Communities allow customers to gather around a topic or goal, and connect organically. This allows them to get answers, tips and advice without being marketed to. As a result, they build loyalty. For example, Sephora’s Beauty Insider community is a hub for sharing tips and recommending products.
Marketing departments often own communities, but that doesn’t mean they should. Evaluate each community’s goals to determine who would be the best owner, and then find ways for other departments to participate in valuable, non-promotional ways. Make this a project that breaks silos and helps your entire organization work together. Getting other departments involved in your community can also increase the likelihood of success and help you avoid the dangers of community apathy.
In its original run on NBC, Community grew a cult following thanks to a unique blend of traditional sitcom tropes and meta references. It also infused its characters with oddball riffs on pop culture and TV history.
Corporate communication is the process of curating a company image and conveying that message to stakeholders like the media, channel partners and general public. This is the job of a communications team, which is often referred to as public relations.
Marketing departments are the most common owners of online communities, according to the 2017 Business Impact of Communities Study, but that doesn’t mean they should own all of them. Look at the primary goals of your community and determine where it would fit best. For example, a community focused on customer support would likely be owned by your customer service department, while an association community might be the responsibility of the marketing, communications and membership departments. Streamlining your comms efforts also increases efficiency, which can help your bottom line.
As community programs grow in scale, it’s vital that we set up a dedicated role for optimizing the program’s processes and tech stack. These professionals work behind the scenes to ensure community initiatives align with the organization’s goals and help measure their impact.
They’re responsible for setting internal and external goals, establishing community roadmaps, and ensuring that all internal and external knowledge bases are kept up-to-date. They’re also tasked with evaluating and improving the community management technology stack, identifying opportunities for process improvements, and making data-backed decisions about next steps.
While some departments may naturally own a community (customer support communities are a natural fit for customer service), others will require further exploration. For instance, an association community will likely benefit the membership, communications, and marketing departments, depending on its primary purpose. It’s essential that these teams get on board so they can effectively support and promote the community. The best way to do this is to create a partnership between the department and community operations.
Community ownership models promote increased civic engagement, economic empowerment, and the political power of communities to shape local decisions and institutions. They work to address the structural barriers of systemic racism and white supremacy that have shut Black, Indigenous, immigrant, and people of color out from shaping city, county, and state laws and policies.
It’s not uncommon to see a department like Customer Support build an entire community initiative as part of its strategy and then take full responsibility for it. In B2C environments, this is often a smart move that helps to create a more holistic and proactive approach to support.
Association communities can be trickier to determine an owner for, since the primary goals of a private member community may align with several departments, including communications, marketing, and membership. Ultimately, the best choice is likely the department most impacted by the community, but this will depend on the specifics of each situation. The key is to make sure the chosen department has the time and staffing capacity to run the community effectively.