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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot Zaskoda's Avatar
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    For Hire Community Builders

    There must be companies that you can hire to build and mange a communities.

    Who are they? Who's the most well known for it? I don't know of any.

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    SitePoint Zealot csmarshal's Avatar
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    you mean paid forum posting? Im sure some would also do managment

  3. #3
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    I think he means companies that
    - take care of forum updates
    - moderators
    - advertising
    - administration

    But I would never let a company handle such stuff. Only if I had tons of money, no brain, no time and didn't know how he internet works. But such people wouldn't visit Sitepoint...

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot Zaskoda's Avatar
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    Kurisu, you're following what I'm saying...

    The company I work for is full of really smart people but they were getting way too busy to keep up with their forums... so they hired a community manager... (originally me, then someone else). I cite this only as an example of a company not having the time to dedicate to community building.

    There are a lot of companies that could benefit from community building but really don't understand the Internet well enough nor have the time to do it in-house.

    Community building has been around for a long long time.. was just wondering if any companies specialized in it. I'm guessing no.

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    Shouldn't those companies just hire some people to do this work?
    I wouldn't want to rely on an external company. After all, the community has to represent YOUR business. I doubt those external "community managers" would be that familiar with your business.

    I once came across such a site that offers "community building". But it was kind of expensive. Don't know the url anymore. I think I found it on an award site. Maybe that helps you...

  6. #6
    SitePoint Evangelist english-test.net's Avatar
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    I agree with Kurisu. Outsourcing the task of building and managing a community doesn't make much sense because an outsourced community isn't a community. Look up the definition of 'community' in any dictionary and you will see why.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Zealot Zaskoda's Avatar
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    Ok guys, that's a very fair argument... However, I think I still have some good retorts...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurisu View Post
    Shouldn't those companies just hire some people to do this work? I wouldn't want to rely on an external company. After all, the community has to represent YOUR business. I doubt those external "community managers" would be that familiar with your business.
    Couldn't you make the EXACT same argument about building a website? Shouldn't a company hire someone to build and maintain their website? Shouldn't a website represent YOUR business?

    Quote Originally Posted by english-test.net View Post
    I agree with Kurisu. Outsourcing the task of building and managing a community doesn't make much sense because an outsourced community isn't a community. Look up the definition of 'community' in any dictionary and you will see why.
    "a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists"

    "a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage"

    I don't see anything in there to tell me why it doesn't make sense to outsource community development and management.

    I think that we tend to consider community in terms of 'a forum' and then relate monitizing that community to 'advertising'. Can't communities be valuable to existing business models that aren't focused on community development?

    I recently ran across a snowboarding community that was also an e-commerce site. They would give out product to the community via random drawing on a regular basis. They didn't need to advertise on the site because their community was loyal and bought product from the store.

    Building a community, as folks here are surely aware, is a specialized field to - at least - some degree. Understanding how to promote the community, get traffic, retain users, promote good posting habits, manage trouble makers, find moderators, etc. is a developed skill. A lot of it is common sense, but I'm sure most physical world business owners are relatively unaware of a lot of the most basic elements.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurisu View Post
    Shouldn't those companies just hire some people to do this work? I wouldn't want to rely on an external company. After all, the community has to represent YOUR business. I doubt those external "community managers" would be that familiar with your business.
    Quote Originally Posted by english-test.net View Post
    I agree with Kurisu. Outsourcing the task of building and managing a community doesn't make much sense because an outsourced community isn't a community.
    How is hiring an employee much different than hiring a freelancer to do the same work? With both there is always the risk of them leaving the business and community at some point.

    For communities to have a continuity value they must be developed in a way that minimizes the reliance on any single forum member (for example, the founder of the community or the owner of the business). That is not to say that founders or owners are not important to a community. But, the community itself (the members and the connections/friendships that they develop with each other) should be the "glue" that holds the community together, unless you don't mind the risk of the community falling apart if at some point a key member leaves.

    One of the benefits of building a business is the value built within, during the process of building the business. If at one point an owner would want the option to sell in the future, that owner/founder cannot be so important to the community that it would cause problems for them to sell or leave.

    Imagine, a forum founder being so important that they are the "heart" of the community. It's great for the founder, but not so great for the community. What if one day the founder leaves, sells the site or even if the "worst" happens? This is an issue faced by many blog owners... what is the value of a popular blog when all the readers are fans of the author and have no other loyalty or "glue" connecting them and keeping them interested in the site?


    I think for those reasons it is definitely possible for a community management type business to be able to provide valuable services to other business that have forums as a service to their customers.


    A community management service could do many things, without being too important for the "community" (to where losing them would be very bad) while providing a great benefit to the community and community owner at the same time.

    - maintaining updated software
    - possibly handling hosting for the community
    - maintaining database backups, on and off-site
    - having a recovery plan in the event of server failure
    - maintaining forum add-ons/hacks
    - keeping notes / documentation that could be useful for a future community manager
    - organizing the forums
    - organizing the forum moderating staff/team
    - keeping forum spammers off the site
    - taking care of problem users, or having methods in place so that the forum moderators can do this
    - etc, etc

    There's a lot that a community management service could do to provide value without being an actual member of the "community."

    Imagine a forum owner/founder outsourcing much of the "behind the scenes" work to another company and doing so enabling the forum owner to be able to spend much more time participating and being active in the community...

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaskoda View Post
    A lot of it is common sense, but I'm sure most physical world business owners are relatively unaware of a lot of the most basic elements.
    I think very little about it has to do with common sense. Look at the ratio of truly successful forums to those that are not. There are many developed forums that never, sometimes even after years, are able to successfully establish the "community." They are there, you can use them and they are maintained.... but they never quite achieve "community" status. There is no "glue" that connects members to the community and helps them to become loyal members. I believe it takes a certain level of "uncommon sense" to be successful in the forum business.
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  9. #9
    SitePoint Evangelist english-test.net's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zaskoda View Post
    Ok guys, that's a very fair argument... However, I think I still have some good retorts...



    Couldn't you make the EXACT same argument about building a website? Shouldn't a company hire someone to build and maintain their website? Shouldn't a website represent YOUR business?



    "a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists"

    "a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage"

    I don't see anything in there to tell me why it doesn't make sense to outsource community development and management.

    I think that we tend to consider community in terms of 'a forum' and then relate monitizing that community to 'advertising'. Can't communities be valuable to existing business models that aren't focused on community development?

    I recently ran across a snowboarding community that was also an e-commerce site. They would give out product to the community via random drawing on a regular basis. They didn't need to advertise on the site because their community was loyal and bought product from the store.

    Building a community, as folks here are surely aware, is a specialized field to - at least - some degree. Understanding how to promote the community, get traffic, retain users, promote good posting habits, manage trouble makers, find moderators, etc. is a developed skill. A lot of it is common sense, but I'm sure most physical world business owners are relatively unaware of a lot of the most basic elements.
    Hi Zaskoda, your initial question was if there are any companies who offer community building services, you said you wouldn't know of any. I think reality proves that a community can't be created and managed from outside, it has to emerge from 'within', that is, from the organization or company themselves. Also, if there are any companies that have been building and maintaining communities what type of 'community services' would they want to sell and why? There are lots of so called 'paid forum post' companies/free lancers out there but how effective are they when it comes to building a community? The concept somehow doesn't add up. Let's say I have a company website with a forum/online community. If I outsourced the forum/community section, would that community still be the community of my company or the community of that other company? Wouldn't the community members feel and sense who is running the show? Would they regard my company as capable of organizing a community? Can you throw in your heart and sould into a community if you know it's one of many you are running for another company that is paying you for 'your services'?

  10. #10
    SitePoint Evangelist english-test.net's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by john2k View Post
    Imagine, a forum founder being so important that they are the "heart" of the community. It's great for the founder, but not so great for the community. What if one day the founder leaves, sells the site or even if the "worst" happens? This is an issue faced by many blog owners... what is the value of a popular blog when all the readers are fans of the author and have no other loyalty or "glue" connecting them and keeping them interested in the site?
    If a forum owner really loves their community/forum then they will be able to attract other people who are more than happy to support and and grow the community. This process is an integral part of forming a community anyway. What is a community without a strong leadership? But why do I have to pay money to attract true community leaders? Why would I have to hire a company or a free lancer to build 'my community'? I think the true value of any community is the fact that the people behind the community are building the organization NOT because they are hired and are getting paid. What happens to your community if your hired managers want more money or you can't pay them anymore? Then your community falls apart while a true community wouldn't be affected because it doesn't depend on hired people.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard
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    My point was not about outsourcing community leadership or community participation. Refer to the list of tasks that I mentioned in my previous post.

    The idea with outsourcing these tasks would not be to make the service provider indispensable to the community. It would simply be to handle specific issues. It would be important for a forum owner who outsources any part of the forum management/building process to be able to easily and effectively replace the service provider without it having negative effect on the community. To do otherwise would be a significant risk for the forum owner.

    Whether a community is developed as a hobby or as part of a business probably makes a big difference in how all these aspects are considered.
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  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Bleys's Avatar
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    Enterprise forum companies like Prospero (http://www.prosperotechnologies.com/) offer community building and moderation services, beyond just technology solutions. It's very expensive, and they're very successful at it, which many high profile clients (just look at their list).
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  13. #13
    SitePoint Evangelist english-test.net's Avatar
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    As far as I can see Prospero offers "moderation services" which means you first have to build your community up to a level at which you require a team of moderators to "visit the forums approximately four times per day distributed over a 24-hour period." I don't think that it makes much sense to hire them to "build your community". All those large corporations they cite as their customers had already built huge communities before they hired Prospero.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Bleys's Avatar
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    Well, paying that much for community building doesn't really make sense without an installed user base, already (i.e., NASCAR already had a popular website and millions of fans/users).

    I'm not sure you'll find any company that will build a standalone community from scratch--that is, no established website or product/service to support it.

    But if you have a product/service/website to support, a company like Prospero could build and manage a community -- there are others as well. We're talking about enterprise solutions for organizations with cash. If you're a famous athlete, for example, you can afford to hire a company to build and manage your community, and another company to handle PR and marketing for the community.
    Josh is a ghost
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  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard
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    If someone is looking simply to increase members, threads, posts & etc - another option to consider in addition to outsourcing would be just to acquire an existing community. That option could potentially be way less expensive than the long term expense of outsourcing the community development.
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