The Four Stages of Community, and How They Relate to Your Community Management Goals

by Kate Brodock on 10 April 2012

Posted in: From the Field,Toolkit

The Community Roundtable recently released a report giving an in-depth assessment of to what point community management has evolved over the past several years, and highlights four stages of communities as a framework under which to run your community management team and processes within your organization.  Each stage lays out key indicators to identify which stage your organization is in, along with several great prescriptions and initiatives to follow while actively managing your community (Note: Even if you find yourself pegged into one community type or another, I suggest looking at the descriptions and suggestions in the other community types, as they are very insightful).

Key takeaways:

    • The CR definition of community is “a group of people with unique shared values, behaviors and artifacts” (they “share unique characteristics, shared goals and have a relationship density much higher than you would see for a general group of people using a common social network).
    • There are three common community structures: Exclusive, Discrete and Distributed.
    • Usually, communities become sustainable only when members feel they - not the organizations sponsoring them - have a say in the future of the communities.
    • Community management is continuing to mature, with best-practices and definitions still being worked through. Now is the time to start laying more of a foundation for the space.
    • Internal employee communities are on the rise, which have different adoption patterns and participant needs than external communities focused on marketing or customer service.
    • Technology is the key enabler of online communities and yet it cannot alone ensure a successful community.
    • Community leaders are seen as Explorers, Builders and Translators.
    • Using their framework, communities are described using the Community Maturity Model (CMM), and are bucketed into Level 1, 2, 3 or 4, with CMM1 being the least mature and CMM4 being the most mature.
      • CMM1 organizations are described as either new to the social media space, or in a state of “chaotic jumble of different teams using different technologies with an inconsistent understanding of the opportunity, risks, challenges, needs or interests of the organizations.” Much of the prescriptions for these organizations lie in putting some level or organization and strategy to this process.
      • CMM2 organizations - or “Emergent Communities” - are “consumed with the task of organizing, assessing opportunity, researching, learning, developing an operational approach, and marshaling resources.”  At this point the process is more proactive, with more budget likely being allocated to the process, and prescriptions focus on ways to incorporate more of the organization and work towards scalability.
      • CMM3 organizations have reached full-blown Community status.  The major milestone in this phase is that organizations are seeing real business returns from their community. This comes, however, with new challenges around sustaining and managing growth, with prescriptions that focus on doing just that, as well as adding more depth and sophistication to the processes.
      • CMM4 organizations - “Networks” - are those that have “undergone major philosophical, cultural, and structural chances or have been built a networked organization from the start” and multiple areas of the organization fall into the community. Shared decision-making and networked communication are key characteristics and there are significant documented resources on all aspects of the network for the community to access and use.

You can view the full report here.

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