Industry Analysis: The Value of Community Management Report
The Community Roundtable recently published a report on The Value of Community Management, part of its annual State of Community Management research initiative. The report sets out to answer two key questions:
- What do business communities look like and what is the value of community?
- What does community management look like and what is the value of community management?
The report comes as a result of a survey of 40 organisations, mostly in the technology, telecoms, and software sectors. The full list of participating organisations is available in the report’s appendix, but some particular stand-outs are brands like ING, Spotify, and Hearst Magazines. The Community Roundtable asked these organisations about how community management works within their organisations, and how they measure its value.
A key finding that is referred to throughout the report is that only 37.5% of the surveyed organisations feel that they are able to measure the value of community management. What’s interesting is that those which can measure the value of community management consistently answer the survey’s questions differently from those who do not feel able to measure its value. Some examples:
- 40% of all organisations surveyed report having only one community manager. Within the subset of those who do report being able to measure the value of community management, 80% report having a larger CM team. This indicates that organisations with a firmer grasp of what community management can provide for them want to capitalise on these benefits by expanding their roster of CMs.
- Organisations that report being able to calculate the value of community management tend to be the same organisations that also report having a greater degree of collaboration between their CM teams and other departments within their organisation. In particular, value-quantifying organisations were almost three times as likely to report frequent collaboration between their community teams and finance departments. “Value” can encompass a lot of things, but I think we all know that our work ultimately needs to contribute to a healthy balance sheet. It makes sense that a finance department working closely with a community management team can get a greater insight into how their work is affecting sales and reducing costs.
- Organisations that can calculate the value of community management measure more metrics than those which report that they can’t. To know the value of community management, you need to be looking for the signs that their activities are working and producing results.
As well as exploring organisations’ exposure to and understanding of community management, the report also highlights some information on the individual community managers.
Community manager experience
The report found that the average CM has eight years of work experience, three of which are in the field of community management. The average salary that might fit this community manager profile is reported as $65,778, which equates to roughly £43,000 in merry old England. A similar report published by Social Fresh in January arrived at an average salary of $57,732, which would be closer to £37,500.
The 90-9-1 rule analysed
One fascinating aspect of the Value of Community Management report is its exploration and analysis of the 90-9-1 rule. This is the common rule of thumb that says 90% of the people in your community are likely to be non-contributing lurkers, 9% will contribute to discussions but not create them, and just 1% will create new content.
Lurker, contributor or creator
However, survey data collected for this report indicated a lurker-contributor-creator split closer to 55-30-15. While lurkers are still the majority, it appears that content is created and modified by a larger percentage of members than would typically be expected. The numbers are pushed even further towards creation over observation when the survey sample is reduced to communities the report compilers consider to be “best-in-class”. Here there are more creators than lurkers, with contributors making up the bulk of the numbers.
Of course we must remember that the 90-9-1 rule is a concept rather than an empirically evidenced phenomenon. We also have to consider the wide variety of different kinds of community present across the internet, and represented in the survey sample, that will all have different configurations of lurkers, contributors, and creators. There will be no magic combination of numbers that fits them all. However, if you’ll allow me to speculate for a moment, I do wonder if the number of creators and contributors is increasing, as indicated in the report, as the internet’s barrier to entry falls.
I remember online communities of 10 or 15 years ago being more closed off, with a them-and-us mentality and a clearer hierarchy of who was in charge and who should only speak when spoken to. Yes, there were exceptions; friendlier, more welcoming communities, but far fewer people were online and the early adopters held dominion.
There are now roughly four times as many people online as there were in 2003, and the early adopters are very much outnumbered. Kids grow up with the internet and have no fear or reverence for the keyboard warrior on the other end of the modem. Working across Twitter and Facebook every day, wading through the deluge of content, it makes sense to me that the 90-9-1 model would have significantly shifted towards greater numbers of creators and contributors, and that’s great news for community managers!
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