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Online Community Management: Communication Through Gamers
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Online Community Management: Communication Through Gamers


April 1, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 8 Next
 

The Community Manager

As we said earlier, a community needs almost nothing to start, but to keep it growing, you will need someone able to help it, and this person is the community manager (or CM).

Role and Behavior of a Community Manager

Basically, the community manager is the link between the community, and the publisher and/or development team. Positioned between customer support and the public relations, his role is really diverse and includes the management of community tools provided to the players, the organization of events (both in-game and real), the transmission of information from the dev team to the community, and the transmission of reports, feedback and suggestions from the community to the team.

The community manager is the official interlocutor of the community, and bears the word of the publisher and the developers to the players. It means that he is in charge of the direct communication in times of crisis, but more important: it means that the CM is the first person bearing the image of the company and contributes to building it.

The community manager is a vector of image building and branding, and that is the reason why his behavior has to be without any blame, because one and only one mistake can spread very quickly through the communities, meta-communities, networks, and so on, all over the internet, in less than six hours.

The community manager also bears the authority of the developers among the players, and he has to be respected as such, because if he doesn't earn the respect of the community, everything he says will have no value, and his mission will fail. He also has to make sure the rules are respected by making sure everybody knows them and can understand them.

A community manager is not just a player; he is a communication and customer support professional, and that is why he needs the proper skills and experience -- and thus proper consideration and remuneration.

Recommended Skills

In the past five years, plenty of companies have hired community managers with no skills or experience. Why? Because experienced CMs are very rare, because they didn't want to take the time to provide the right foundation, or simply because they didn't know, and thought that talking to players wouldn't require any special skills.

That lack of experience and consideration from higher management lead some of these companies to bigger problems -- because when a community manager loses his nerves and insults players in the official forums, the word spreads very fast and the public doesn't appreciate it. What can the players rely on, if the representatives of the developer are not reliable anymore?

When you need to hire a community manager and think it doesn't require many specific skills, just ask yourself a question -- would you hire a marketing manager without any particular skills just because selling a good product is, in fact, not that hard?

It is important not to underestimate the importance of the people you hire to talk to your community, just because community management doesn't provide you immediate and calculable results, as marketing can. The people who currently say that community management isn't important are the same who said almost 100 years ago that public relations was not important -- before Ivy Lee came and proved them the contrary.

All the same, that's a fact, as community management is a new profession, and experienced people are extremely rare. To balance this lack of staff, once again, look to your community. To help you find out the good one, here are some of the skills a community manager will use in her work:

Communication skills

  • Talking: A CM will have to be present at conventions and shows, talk on stage and answer interviews. Self-confidence will be useful in these exercises.
  • Writing: The majority of the communications will be written, on the forums, via press releases, chat, or other formats. It sounds obvious, but don't hire someone who isn't capable of writing a one page article without one spelling mistake on each line, unless you want to give your company a "special" image.

    A standard of academic writing is also recommended. I've seen a few community managers writing about their game like "This game is so cooooooool ! There are monsters and fighters, and even cars ROFL!!!!! Come and play to have fun LOL!!! <3 :))))" This doesn't show me the ability of the publishers to manage a game, and even less a community. As a player, I don't want to rely on someone who behaves like an 8-year-old to run a game correctly.

Knowledge

  • Gaming knowledge: The CM has to have a basic knowledge of the type of game she will be working on -- enough to fully understand the point of view of each person in your community. Hiring a member of your game's community could be a good idea, but it's also a great risk. The CM is not a player; much more, she's a communicator, in touch with both the community and development team. If she comes directly from the community, she might have difficulties with the perspective change -- and fail to understand the dev's or the publisher's point of view.
  • Linguistic skills: Video games are now international -- except a few exceptions (I bet hurling games are only sold in Ireland). Players take their information from different sources. For the CM, she must of course be fluent in his community's primary language, as well as English. German basics could be a plus, because German video game networks are huge and active -- even compared to the English-speaking ones.
  • Media: Depending on the responsibilities the CM will undertake, having a good knowledge of the gaming media is a strong advantage. As she communicates with her community, she might be able to do it through several different channels -- and magazines and websites are important channels to use. Media knowledge will also help in coordinating communication plans with the PR and marketing departments.

Experience

  • Community: Fan site, forum moderation, game server administration experience is very useful. All type of community-related experience is a strong plus.
  • Media: As we saw above, experience in relations with the media is always good to have. If you hire someone who already knows how to behave in front of a camera, you don't have to teach her.
  • Development: A background in developing games or other software would help the CM to understand better the dev team's point of view.

 


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 8 Next

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