Successful online research community moderation – part community manager, part focus group moderator
What does it take to be a successful online research community moderator? Is there a difference between “community management” and “community moderation?” That’s a paraphrased version of a question I was asked a few weeks back and have been meaning to write about. After some thought, I think that being a successful research community moderator is a blend of one part “community manager” and one part “focus group moderator” (and qualitative researcher) Read on to see what I mean about both.
Research community moderator – one part “community manager”
The role of a “community manager” is something that is discussed fairly regularly in social media blogs. The best definition I’ve come across happens to be from Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategy Blog . In his post on “What a Community Manager does,” Jeremiah claims it’s about (among other things):
- Listening – He defines this as using various listening tools (e.g. Technorati, blogs, forums, etc.) from around the web to find out what people are talking about. In the online research community world, I would say this is translated to finding out the hot topic issues that are going to make for great discussion and survey fodder in the community.
- Responding – Jeremiah defines this as “responding quickly when appropriate.” In the context of a research community, this can be critical to help guide the conversation in directions that will be relevant to the research objectives.
- Inform – Again, Jeremiah says this involves “tell[ing] the right stakeholders in the company what’s happening.” In a research community, this is about regularly communicating the findings to the research/consumer insights team and helping them disseminate them throughout the organization.
All of the above are critical skills to have in order to be a successful community manager in an online research community. However, this is missing one critical element – the role of the researcher in selectively probing to dig deeper.
Research community moderator – one part “focus group moderator”
Allow me to draw a quick comparison to illustrate the difference. In my (humble) opinion, anyone who is fairly “presentable,” articulate, smart and likable can walk into a focus group room and keep a conversation going for two hours. What makes a great focus group moderator? From what I’ve seen, it’s someone who can:
- Manage the conversation in such a way that it feels effortless for everyone involved
- Keep people on task and on topic without “forcing” the conversation
- Dig deeper than the surface level feedback
- Acknowledge the role of the unconscious in decision making
- Acknowledge that the best question is typically not the most direct question
- Generally work with the group to build rapport, trust and a sense of openness
It’s the combination of “community manager” qualities with “focus group moderator” qualities that make for an “ideal” research community moderator. Am I honestly this way when I moderate our online research communities? I wish! I’m merely pointing out the range of qualities that are desirable. Balancing all of these qualities at the same time can be quite a challenge, but is something that can be very rewarding when done right.
What do you think?
Am I arguing semantics here, or is this something you’ve noticed? Are there attributes of both managers and moderators that I’m missing? Leave a comment and let me know how you feel.