Social networking have given rise to a new phase in business software, dubbed Enterprise 2.0, and many tech pundits say that with its emergence will come the need for insightful community management. Communities and forums are expanding within enterprise solutions, as they offer key customer insight and accelerate customer service. Enterprise strategists Dion Hinchcliffe and Dennis Howlett are two experts encouraging companies moving into the 2.0 space to pay appropriate attention to community management.
Hinchcliffe argues that community managers must be dedicated to the post—not volunteers within the company who are splitting their time between it and another task—and thinks they must be a jack of all trades, versed in the corporate culture from HR to IT help desk practices. Howlett, on the other hand, does not think community managers need to be so widely versed, but he does acknowledge the asset they are to companies wanting the greatest ROI from implementing forums. Howlett’s argument comes as a slight surprise, as he has written of “Enterprise 2.0” as a space that only deserves a fraction of the consideration it has lately received. Still, the two both agree that community managers are a must.
Both Hinchcliffe and Howlett suggest a few guidelines for selecting a community manager, but perhaps more importantly urge employers to remember that these people will be the public face of their corporate culture. These ambassadors will need to be versed in social networking mediums, and naturally be very good with people. On this note, Howlett rightly points out that employers shouldn’t assume that community management is a simple task just because the tools of Enterprise 2.0 are pervasive and cheap. The extent of the community manager’s role will be better articulated with time, and according to the dictates of a company’s culture. The underlying message is to have one—from the very beginning if possible—to fully exercise what could be an extremely useful tool.