Your community manager has been hit by a bus…

Josh writes about “The Corporation’s Dependence on Individuals“…

One of the elements crucial to corporate social media initiatives are the individuals who blog for organizations. Often these individuals become somewhat official spokespersons for the organization, but that’s what they’re supposed to be correct? It’s the humanization thing. What are the downsides though?

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But let’s go back to my initial example, if/when that person at a small operation leaves there would be huge consequences. That person is a communication channel and that suddenly disappears. It is possible to move on, but since much of the community is built upon relationships with an individual, you can’t easily swap people out. That’s been standard operating procedure for companies though. If it’s a faceless corporation, then you can swap out the ‘faces’ as much as you want 🙂

I’ve talked for years about the Bus Test. It’s a simple test – ask yourself:

“If ___ [your name]___ gets hit by a bus, what happens?”

I’ve preached for years that if you fail the Bus Test, your community efforts are on in a constant state of potential failure. To some extent, Josh is absolutely correct: the channel is the individual, the individual is the channel. But there is (or should be) more to it than that.

Community teams seem to be more effective when it’s more than just one person (not 40 either). We almost always see community managers working nearly alone, a rogue within a company. Lately it’s been hard enough to convince a company to hire a single community manager, much less two at a time.

But when two people work together as a community manager tag team, great things can and will happen:

  • The Bus Test is easy to pass
  • Daily frustrations are easier to handle because you can take a break without seeing a “service interruption”, so to speak.
  • Brainstorming and innovation is inherent in the daily activity
  • The workload (both political and tactical) can be divided in a more effective way
  • Two voices means double the internal buy-in

Even with all this, you still get the benefit of the personal interaction. Two people working together have the same personal association (if done right) as a single person, without the downsides of a failed Bus Test.

UPDATE: Josh posts Part II