Strategic Importance of Ecosystem/ Community Managers

Talent powering platform network effects

Platform network effects do not just happen.  They need to be catalyzed.  Once catalyzed, they must be cultivated—continuously.   This requires proactive management and therefore specialized talent.  

The table below lists 15 active searches posted within the past two weeks for ecosystem/community leaders.  These roles at their core are network effect catalyzers.   A quick scan reveals that these roles come with a variety of titles.  For example, Nike is currently looking for a Community Manager, Cohesity is seeking a Vice President, Ecosystems, Facebook wants a Head of Gaming Creators, and Wix is on the hunt for a Developer Advocate

If we dig through the job descriptions it becomes clear that they seek to fulfill two broad functions.  One is to activate network effects on the demand side of the platform.  This is a critical function as this is what generally drives revenues from users/customers.  The other is to activate network effects on the supply side of the platform.  These are the third-party complements that provide the content or functionality of the platform.   The diagram below illustrates these two core contributions.

Demand-side roles

Let’s look at two roles that have been posted on the supply side.  One is for Senior Manager, Community, posted by the fitness platform Peloton based in New York.  This role will report to the Vice President of Community at Peloton and support developing and leading Member messaging across all Peloton channels.  The fitness platform has added a host of features designed to encourage same-side network effects.1   For example, users can now send a fellow Member encouragement by tapping their avatar next to their Leaderboard name. This sends a notification that will pop up on the left side of their touchscreen during class and the same will happen if someone sends one back.

The Senior Manager, Community position has the following specific responsibilities:

  • Work with the Marketing, Communications and Product teams to develop Member messaging for new campaigns, features, and product launches

  • Write concise and engaging Member messaging across all Peloton owned channels

  • Track trending topics and sentiment among our community and report out to the broader team

  • Monitor, organize and report on Member feedback across all Peloton channels (social media, reviews, support, etc.) to help inform the company's strategic priorities

  • Develop and execute Member-specific initiatives that align with the Peloton Pledge

  • Develop engagement strategies and maintain a timely and collaborative content calendar for official online communities/groups

  • Assist our field/research teams in developing Member communications and support data collection

Another example of a supply-side community role is the position posted by Noom, also based in New York.  Noom is a wellness and dieting platform used by over 1.5 million people.  In addition to personalized meal-planning, the platform provides access to a large support community and, for upper-tier subscriptions, one-on-one coaching options.  The company is looking for a Senior Manager, Social and Community to drive the growth, development, execution, and measurement of multi-platform social and community strategies. The role requires working with internal cross-functional teams and agency partners to deliver content and community strategies.

The job post lists the following responsibilities:

  • Develop Noom’s global community and Social Media strategy (including channel definition, purpose, messaging) by partnering closely with our Coaching and Influencer teams to drive advocacy, increase positive word of mouth, and increase awareness of Noom’s brand

  • Lead development of social editorial calendar, translating the brand's voice into timely, inclusive and engaging stories that resonate across media and culture

  • Partnering closely with our Comms, Coaching and Influencer teams to drive advocacy, increase positive word of mouth, and increase awareness of Noom’s brand

  • Regularly monitor & report on performance, optimizing content accordingly. Develop internal dashboard to track performance at the post level, series level, and channel level (48 hour reporting windows).

  • Translate the brand's voice into timely, inclusive and engaging stories that resonate across media and culture

  • Increase our sophistication in earned media marketing techniques, understand their impact and to increase audience size, engagement and loyalty.

Supply-side roles

Platforms have found that they can harness powerful positive feedback loops by building communities on the supply-side. One area where these communities have exploded is around software development.  Rather than hire all the developers they need directly, many platforms rely on third party developers to provide new applications and innovation.  However, experience shows that these third-party developers are more effective if they are organized and cultivated as a community.2

The position posted by Microsoft for Director, Developer Audience illustrates this type of supply-side role.  The objective of this role is to lead and motivate the team of Developer Audience marketing managers; set strategy for engaging developers and drive integration across Microsoft’s cloud business Azure BG.  There is also a strong educational component.  In addtion to actively engaging developers and tell the Azure story, the person take the role is expected to advance “technical understanding of the Azure platform (200 level) and be able to translate Azure value propositions into a locally relevant narrative that carries an authentic developer voice.”

Further, the position requires:

  • Go-to-Market Planning & Business Orchestration

  • Plan and execute the local Developer Audience engagement strategy for Microsoft Azure to professional developers through local Microsoft marketing engines and Global Engagement Programs, in alignment with the Corporate marketing strategy and plan.

  • Set local community strategy (online, offline) and influence local cloud developer community leaders (Influencers, MSP, MVP, RD, non-MS) to earn Azure advocacy. Use influence within your network to evangelize Azure.

  • Conduct reviews across the business to drive aligned execution and provide timely feedback that will shape the corporate engagement strategy.

  • Identify and orchestrate strategic market-making plays. Own local business management strategy, partnering with fellow leaders to interpret opportunity and risk.

  • Determine key insights and drive recommendations to accelerate adoption of Microsoft Azure back into the local leadership team.

  • Capture, analyze and report key performance indicators, insights and metrics and drive informed feedback into Corporate teams to improve global and local execution plans and outcomes.

  • Build a community advocates team to help recruit other communities and manage them against KPIs

The supply side is not all about software developers.  It can involve many other sources of value for a platform.   In the case of Influence, the supply-side community is made up of social media influencers.  Influence is an open platform founded in 2016 that matches social media influencers with brands, agencies, managers, and other professionals in the influence industry founded in 2016.  There are now over 100,000 influencers and 40,000 businesses on the platform. 

Influence has an opening for Creator Community Development Specialist to lead the planning and execution of new community recruitment efforts.  The platform has new community features that enhance same-side and cross-side network effects by enabling creators to connect, chat and collaborate on anything from brand deals to teaching each other how to build Lightroom presets. Creators can join existing communities or build their own.

The position will take creators through the full process of joining from recruitment, to onboarding, and optimizations.  Reporting to the Head of Marketing this role will also interface closely with product, community, and customer success teams regularly to ensure the community product is evolving to meet customer and community needs.

The responsibilities of this role are to:

  • Own our community recruitment efforts and pipeline building programs

  • Reach out to targeted segments of creators to pitch them on our community product

  • Onboard new community owners and get them familiar with the product

  • Build materials both for outreach as well as selling (some creators will need to be convinced or will have other options they are considering) and onboarding

  • Influence long-term strategy for our community product

  • Track and report on outreach, onboarding, engagement and retention metrics for communities

  • Build a community advocates team to help recruit other communities and manage them against KPIs

  • 5+ years of relevant experience in community outreach and developing digital communities

  • 3+ years of experience in growth marketing and/ or sales

  • Demonstrated success in process management and developing client relationships

  • Above all else, this role requires critical thinking, constant learning, and an entrepreneurial, hands-on style with a strong bias towards action, and a passion for the influencer and creator space

The strategic significance of building and sustaining communities as lead to a surge in interest community-driven business movement. The Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled: “When Community Becomes Your Competitive Advantage.”3 There is now a member organizations that cater to community professionals. One of the largest, CMX, now boasts having over 20,000 members. The co-founder David Spinks just released a new book this month: The Business of Belonging: How to Make Community your Competitive Advantage. There are also specialized consultancies, such as Shoshin Works, which focus on community and ecosystem strategy and advisory for large enterprises.

In short, the 15 positions I’ve reviewed here are part of a larger strategic shift by companies to secure the specialized talent they need drive network effects—on both the demand and supply of the platform.  Platforms must actively create the conditions—not just with technology— but by hiring specialized talent that enables the value that one user experiences to increases as more people use the same product or serve and attract more complementary innovations.

The investment in ecosystem/community building talent is opening many opportunities for platform professionals to engage and build rewarding careers.   

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