Rise of the platform, and its impact on Community Managers

(Nick Donoghue) #1

Morning all,

Keen to get your opinions & wisdom…

I’m currently reading Sangeet P Choudary’s ‘Platform Scale’ - about the platform business model (Ebay, Uber, Instagram, etc etc). It’s really interesting.

A big theme throughout is the value of the network, and community, in this emerging business model.
[Essentially, that new businesses are popping up which provide the infrastructure to facilitate one main form of value exchange (through an interaction), with producers & consumers of this value exchange interaction forming the network/community. The interactions are filtered and prioritised by smart use of data, which sits between infrastructure & community.]

Anyway, it’s of interest because it’s a look at the possible future of community management in main-stream business - less mass scale facilitation, and way more data analytics & psychology to help grow & scale the core interactions (with an opportunity for smaller and more directive collaboration projects with spin-offs from the main community).

If you haven’t read it, and are interested in technology & community, I’d certainly recommend it.

This is just one perspective. Be interesting to hear from others CMs on this ‘rise of the platform’ business and the implications for Community Management / Communities as they stand today…

Will community software start being less about nice looking discussion boards and more specifically designed around knowledge exchange interactions (like stack-exchange on speed)?

Will Community Management become a mainstream role, or will be it merged with data science, behavioral psychology, and collaborative project management?

As a profession, what can we learn from the ‘Community’ Teams of existing successful platforms? Is this forum a good place access them?

(Sarah Hawk) #2


This is a really interesting topic Nick. I’m excited to see what discussion develops. Thanks for starting it.

I think we’re already seeing this. Over the last 15 years I’ve seen the CM role change from a forum admin one where we used to run solely on intuition, with success measured by ‘how busy the place felt’, to today’s hybrid marketing/psychology/technology/UX/analytics/KM role.

I used to consider my job a qualitative one that consisted mainly of soft skills but now I feel that the opposite is true. There is very much a science to this, and if you don’t have a handle on the quantitative side of it, you can’t prove your value and don’t communicate on the same level as business stakeholders.

(Darren Gough) #3

Interesting stuff @Nick_Donoghue.

I was talking (waffling on) about this on another thread but I still think the personal stories, interactions and experiences to be vitally important. Sometimes, I think the desire to be SO data led leads us to lose track of who these people are in our communities and what they specifically do.

It’s interesting but I’d never have considered Uber, eBay, as a community. I’ve always seen them as networks, which is a small but important difference. You could argue they are one and the same, but whilst we might lose a % of poorly run communities over time, I believe there will always be a need for places where people been lasting relationships and discuss, create content, get angry, get passionate in a way that a rating system or smart data will always struggle to replicate.

@Nick_Donoghue out of interest (and I’ve not read it yet) but was there anything that didn’t sit right with you from the book in your experience of our sector?

(Sarah Hawk) #4

So could both those things be considered communities with different motivating factors? We don’t belong to the Uber community to satisfy our need for relatedness, but we’re still motivated to be a part of it and we still rank each driver without being forced to do so, because we understand that it’s for the good of the wider community.

(Richard Millington) #5

I haven’t read the book, but a few things I would probably note.

First, these feel a little like ‘black swan’ businesses. Of the 1000 that try to build the infrastructure like these, only 1 is likely to succeed. Alas it’s only that 1 that gets talked about.

So I would be reluctant to deliberately try to build a network infrastructure as a strategy instead of a community. We’ve seen it done, of course, but it’s very rare and probably unlikely to work from a community angle.

I don’t consider Uber, eBay etc as communities as the audience usually don’t speak to each other. They only interact with the organisation (or very loosely with the drivers). Having said that, I’m sure there are a lot of opportunities for data scientists and others to build a career here. I don’t think it’s the future of community careers though.

(Darren Gough) #6

Do you consider Uber a community? For me, it’s a network with a couple of social proof functions.

The rating thing is interesting - i think i do it out of habit but what do Uber do with those ratings? Do people get kicked off as drivers if rating is too low. Reason I ask is I’ve rarely, if ever, seen any driver with a low rating and I wonder how many people actually do refuse to take a ride based on a 3/5 or whatever?

I’m not sure I’ve ever really considered the benefit of the community, more that it provides Uber with some quality control on the people offering rides.

(Richard Millington) #7

I think if the rating is below a 4.2 then drivers are removed from the service. It was something close to that.

I’m not sure you can really qualify ratings as a community though.

(Sarah Hawk) #8

No, I don’t on an holistic level, but it could be argued that there are aspects of community in that people rely on each other for safety.

Yes! They absolutely do. They have to maintain a minimum rating to keep their job.

(Nick Donoghue) #9

Interesting. Thanks for your thoughts Darren/Sarah/Rich.

I’m not in any way suggesting this model is any type of holy grail for community. Just than an increasing number of businesses are basing their profit model on the quality of the interactions in their network. This network does in many cases fulfill the basic criteria of community.
Not community of interest/practice as we know them, but an ecosystem of producers/consumers. One could easily envisage this idea as applicable to current communities - every idea shared or forum discussion answers is an interaction between producers/consumers. As these businesses rely on this, their community management (for want of a better term) becomes increasing critical to their revenue - which must serve to influence the rest of the industry (of traditional community).

Many of the key lessons/principles are the same - hook models, habit forming, low barrier creation/consumption, importance of trust in the network, etc. (interesting summary of the book in this MIT lecture, obviously there are other books, & other people in this field too. )

Regardless of the black swan effect, I’m excited as its
a) another emerging field that overlaps
b) brings a new set of brains & perspectives to the current field.

(Darren Gough) #10

I think that’s got to be a positive. Always interesting to see new work in the field.