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Back to the future: Community managers are going back from shared media to owned media

We’re going back? To like forums and stuff? Why? Because now we can, or at least we will in the near future.

I’ve just heard Harold Kip, Joke De Nul, Rachel Happe, Dion Hinchcliffe and Fedor Skuratov talk about the future of community management. Although I found the discussion very interesting and agree on the meaning of what is to be a community manager, I didn’t necessarily agree with their practical vision of where we’re going. What they claimed we’re moving away from (Eg. Forums) is what I think we’re moving towards. Maybe not today, but tomorrow is just around the corner.

So here is my prediction: Community managers are going back to owned media and it will be awesome. Here are four insights to back my story.

  • Friends are no fans and there’s a proliferation of interests;
  • The Open Community is reclaiming the internet;
  • The new media literate digital natives are helping them do achieve that;
  • And so we’re moving from managing to facilitating communities.

Friends are no fans and there’s a proliferation of interests

“Connect with friends and the world around you”. Ever since 2008-ish I’ve been more and more connected with my friends and family through Facebook, but not necessarily with people who have a shared interest with me. In fact I’m noticing that such a diversity in lifestyle, work and interests today is creating what MICT calls “Digibesitas” (Dutch) or “Digibesity” for our English readers. Something I believe is not because we use multiple screens and digital services that overrun our attention span, but by the notifications and constant switching between the online personas that we have today. I’m family PJ on Facebook, Professional PJ on Twitter, Music loving PJ on Soundcloud, etc etc. Having that constant switching between interests and finding a decent environment for each of them is a real challenge. And it’s stimulating a shift from social networks that are very noisy (lot’s of notifications and less of them relevant), to more specific and less noisy channels.

The Open Community is reclaiming the internet

OK less noise, more relevance. Right? But where will they flock to? That’s where the open community comes in. They’re building community tools whilst avoiding major social networks themselves for years. Reasons go from not wanting to share data to not rooting for a corporate institution, but that’s not the breaking news here. What’s awesome is that they’re becoming good at creating stuff, sharing those creations with other while taking down barriers, and making it easier to set something up yourself. I’m thinking about supercool stuff like, Discourse, Gitter,, and so many other tools that enable us to create an own online space for our specific interests.

The new media literate digital natives are helping them do achieve that

And while today this is still something primarily used and useful amongst open source geeks, I’m noticing that with more media literacy and awareness, combined with more digital skills through stuff like CoderDojo’s and a culture of online learning platforms, that the adoption is transcending out of this Open niche. SO the knowledge gap to use these tools is diminishing. Hence why online communities and the people are evolving and I believe community managers should follow too.

And so we’re moving from managing to facilitating communities.

A first step in that is killing our darling called “Community Management” and start using terms like “Community Facilitation”. Although it doesn’t sound as sexy, the truth is, in the future I don’t think we’ll be managing communities more than they are managing us. It’s more a matter of making sure that people find people with common interests and find you when you’re needed. This used to be done by looking up a theme or brand up on social networks, hence the whole confusion on the difference between social media managers and community managers, but I believe this will evolve to a diversity of smaller channels that can serve specific communities better.

Maybe I’m just wrong, bored and really just tired of Facebook, but our online media use and our control over it is definitely shifting. What do you think we’ll be moving towards? Let me know and I’ll happily discuss it on an shared or owned platform.