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Your Product and Community are One

fusionThere are many people that would tell you that “community management” is most closely related to marketing.

Many go as far as to place their community manager in the marketing team.

I believe that’s a mistake.

I’d argue that community management is much more related to product than it is to marketing.

 

I’ll explain…

1)   They both directly impact user retention.

When someone signs up for your site, their experience is determined by both product, and community.  It’s the features they use, and the people that they interact with that will determine whether or not they have a positive experience and come back.

When someone feels like they’re a part of something, that’s an extremely powerful experience that will create much stronger bonds between your product and your members.

2)   Community can directly educate product.

There’s a good chance that your community manager is the person who is closest to your customers.  They speak to them every day, and understand their needs on a deep level. That knowledge MUST be applied to your product.

Your product team and community team should be as one.

3)   Community as a feature.

Community creates added value for products. Where a product experience is enhanced through the high quality contributions of its members, building a healthy community can completely change the product experience for the better.

Examples: Codecademy, Ebay, Amazon

4)   Community as a product.

Sometimes, the community IS the product. Without the community, the product wouldn’t function.

To take it further, I run some communities that exist solely for the purpose of bringing people together around a common belief or interest. The “forum” is the only product.

Which leads to the next point…

Example: u30pro, Airbnb, SkillShare

5)   You build both product and communities the same way.

Building a new product and building a new community are very similar. In both, it’s absolutely vital to focus on learning as much about your target audience as possible, to start simple and to figure out how to create as valuable of an experience as possible for your members. We talk in much more detail about this in the Lean Community Model.

 

Are marketing and community related? Yes. Pretty much to the same extent that product and marketing are related. You need people and if it’s not happening organically, then you need to market your product, or community, to drive more members.

But where marketing is like community’s helping hand, product is attached to community at the hip.

So community managers, next time you see your product manager give them a big ol’ hug. You’re in this thing together.

 

There’s an awesome event bringing community managers and product managers together coming up on Feb 7th. If you want to learn more about product, and how product teams work, we highly recommend registering.  

Register for the Startup Product Summit.

Use the discount code “TCM20” to get 20% off.  We don’t get anything if you register. We just think it’s an awesome opportunity.

 

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About the author

David Spinks

TheCommunityManager.com, CMXSummit and LetsFeast.com. Lifelong student, community builder and writer.

13 comments
frankthomas
frankthomas

One way to COMBINE community and product is by adding a forum to your website. A popular form software that is free is phpbb. You can google it.

You can also add a social networking software to your website to create your own community. There are several opensource scripts you can add to your website including oxwall.

The important thing is to moderate it daily so that people engage one another in conversation. 

Jmodio
Jmodio

You mention product. What if you're offering a service instead? Would you say the same holds true?

nickcicero
nickcicero moderator

I agree with all these points.

JoeManna
JoeManna

I think a great example that supports your points is Turbo Tax by Intuit. If you've ever used them in the past few years, you'd discover that they literally put community elements directly into the product and have "crowdsourced" the guided help and assistance to the users who pay for it. It's a brilliant approach. 


However, being a community manager for a growing software company, I can attest that a community manager's role is to build relationships across the organization. If they do this right, they will have the right amount of influence and voice in the product and marketing teams no matter whose budget they are compensated from. 

evanhamilton
evanhamilton

I love this and agree with it...save for one small point. Your community manager may be the closest to some users, but your support team interacts with more. Part of why I think support actually belongs in the community Department.

DavidSpinks
DavidSpinks moderator

@Jmodio Great question.  I think that the service you're offering is the product.  You can still gain a lot by integrating community with your service.  For example, if you're an interior designer, perhaps building a community around interior design, where people can share ideas, their own work, and connect with each other will help you build loyalty, learn more about the needs of your customers and adjust your service to better fulfill those needs.

cindyfsolomon
cindyfsolomon

@Jmodio The service you're offering is essentially your "product" - if you define product as the thing that generates revenue for the biz you're in.  I've been recognizing that events, content, launches - different activities that require community involvement are all aspects of the "big product" and products in and of themselves as they may require the same kind of planning, strategizing, team work, and effort required to guarantee success of product overall

cindyfsolomon
cindyfsolomon

@JoeManna agree - Apple used the term "evangelist" for what essentially was the community manager, although they were focused on the developer community. However, the great ones got involved in all interactions around the product

DavidSpinks
DavidSpinks moderator

@JoeManna Well said sir.  Just because you're under the umbrella of one department over another doesn't mean that you'll actually have the proper impact on the product, or any other department.  It's up to the community manager to make sure that's happening, and the leadership in the company to make sure those communication channels are working.


Nadia Eghbal
Nadia Eghbal

@evanhamilton I think it should all go under the umbrella of customer experience, but maybe that's too broad :) Definitely agree that support and community are the two teams closest to the users and that their feedback is what eventually drives product development. We really want to see support team members represented at Startup Product Summit.

DavidSpinks
DavidSpinks moderator

@evanhamilton interesting point.  I've never thought about whether customer service should always fall under community.  Sounds like a good blog post *wink wink nudge nudge*

nickcicero
nickcicero moderator

@evanhamilton I'm noticing your point in action @Livefyre myself actually, there's definitely a place for support in the community department in my book. 

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