Understanding the Community/Evangelist Role, and profiles of a few of my Favorite Folks

Social Media, and the web in general gives way to individuals to connect, in which they share their real human face, thoughts, and opinions.

One way for companies to adopt to this is to hire or create a role called a “Customer/Community” + “Evangelist/Advocate/Manager/Guy/Girl” or some variation of. I know many of those that are the leaders, and at my previous company, I had that role. They often use the tools that the people in the community use, today, this toolset primarily involves blogs, and is now spreading to video, twitter, and who knows what.

The rules of a Community Manager are simple, here’s my ideology around it, feel free to share your own:

This “Customer/Community” + “Evangelist/Advocate/Manager/Guy/Girl” role typically has the following traits:

1) Community First
Puts the community or the customers as a priority over the company. This person is an advocate for the customers, and will often go ‘join’ the community, rather than try to build it. (I learned this from Tara)

2) An Educator, two-ways
Teaches the community about the company and it’s products, often in a non-invasive manner.

3) Uses the tools and communication style of the community
In 2007, this is primarily blogs, online pictures. I see this moving to Video, Twitter, and a vast array of emerging tools.

4) Puts a Human Face on the company
This person actually shows their real face, both online and at events. Forget those stock images of the pretty Asian woman at the computer, and use a real person, who can relate to the community.

5) Not just a Marketing Role
This is not just a PR or marketing role, this role actually extends to:
Customer Support
Product Marketing and Engineering

6) Knows when to get out of the way
Sometimes this role is to connect the right people in the company (who know more about the product details) with the right customers. Also this role will connect prospects with customers, in a new form of “customer references”.

7) Pushes the “Membrane”
Scoble told me about this in 2005, he pushed the corporate membrane at Microsoft, which is a pliable movable invisible wall. Once he felt he pushed it, and was just about to poke through, he would back off. If Corporate Comms and Management gets uncomfortable with the community manager, then you’re doing the job right.

Additional Resources:

  • What a Community Manager does
  • Can a Community Manager really sit back and shutup?
  • Project Manager, Product Managers, and Product Marketing Manager
  • Social Media changes Product Managers and Product Marketing
  • Update: Inspiring upcoming potential Christopher Salazar has added some additional thoughts, a must read.

  • Some of the profiles of the Evangelists or Community Advocates in the Technology Industry:

    Guy Kawasaki – Former Apple Evangelist and current VC
    Most well known for being one of Apple’s most vibrant Evangelists, in addition to his many endeavors of his own. Guy is the author of eight books including The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way. Guy has some of the most infectious evangelism, people are drawn to him, and this was very apparent when he started his blog and it instantly became a hit. Check out his wikipedia profile.

    Damon Billian – PayPal, SimplyHired
    I’ve actually known Damon longer than most folks on this list, I knew him from some mutual friends before I started my career. Damon was one of the early evangelists in the web industry, while at PayPal, he compassionately reached out to customers to help answer their questions. Damon is now involved with SimplyHired and is the Community Manager, I myself have interacted with Damon in the SimplyForums where Damon was facilitating some great discussions. Damon can be found either in Silicon Valley or Thailand visiting his sweetheart or on his blog.

    Scott Beale – Laughing Squid
    Scott is the founder of Laughing Squid Web Hosting for over 10 years, as a well-respected photographer, he takes pictures of community events and personalities and spreads his stickers that end up on all kinds of interesting places. He’s also know for throwing some amazing community parties, all this without pitching his product.

    Tara Hunt – Pinko Marketer, Citizen Agency
    As one of the most visible web company evangelists, Tara’s credited by giving to the community that she serves by becoming one of them, as a result of her generous nature, her former employer Riya yielded incredible early signups for it’s initial launch. She founded the Pinko Marketing religion which spurs an emerging generation of marketers that listen rather than talk. Last summer Tara left Riya to start her own consultancy appropriately named Citizen Agency with sweetheart Chris Messina. Today, Tara’s seen on the speaking circuit, stirring up traditional marketing memes, being a mom, or working hard in her swanky SF office loft near SOMA’s South Park Tech corridor. I’m constantly amazed at her energy, I doubt you’ll be able to keep up, so to learn more check out CenterNetworks has a great interview or check out her blog Horse Pig Cow (or as I affectionately refer to it, Neigh, Snort, Moo) .

    Will Pate, Community Ambassador, Flock/Rockstar
    Out of all the evangelists out there, I’m likely to be the most jealous of Will Pate. Not because of his dashing good looks, (or so my wife tells me) or that he’s constantly surrounded by the ladies, or stylish garb, it’s because he makes it look so easy. I recently caught up with Will at the Community Next conference in Palo Alto and he described his role at Flock to be part community advocate, and part company evangelists. He helped to bring the requirements together, connect them, and build a better product. Today, Will can be found in Toronto, and he’s switched to a part time role at Flock, what’s next for Will? Greatness I’m sure.

    Robert Scoble Geek Blogger – Former Microsoft Blogger, now at PodTech
    The Scoblizer brought a human face to the evil empire. Although an employee, Robert was the biggest critic of Microsoft. He would point to the ‘evil’ faster than anyone else could, centralizing the conversation and opening up a transparent conversation. As a blogging evangelist, Robert changed how many felt about Microsoft. We now work together at PodTech. He’s most often seen in one of our meeting rooms interviewing a CEO for his show ScobleShow.

    Thomas Hawk – Photographer, Zooomr Evangelist

    In my opinion, Thomas has the most unique style, hired a few months ago as Zooomr (a Photo sharing site) as their Marketing Evangelist, rather than pitching the product, he uses his camera. Thomas takes pictures of just about everything and anything, and they all turn out interesting. By being an example of the photographer community, he brings the experience of photo sharing (and that means zooomr) closer to his community. He also never ‘hard-pitches’ his company, buy by just demonstrating his mastery of photography he draws the community in closer.

    Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist
    To me, Craig is a very fatherly character in the drama I call the internet. His website is about giving, sharing, and helping others. He’s a serious community guy, who gives his time, effort to those who also need help. If you’ve ever seen him speak, he’s very humble and generous to others.

    Micki Krimmel – Revver
    Micki is the video Starlet of our time. As the Director of Community at Video Sharing site Revver, she walks and talks the business. Her highly captivating videos express her unique style, signature tattoo, and impecable fashion forward LA fashions. If anyone should get her own dedicated video show it should be Micki. I’ve met up with Micki a few times, and her online persona is exactly like her real life one: engaging, interesting, captivating and very babelicious. It’s no doubt that Revver has so wisley chose her to be the front face of the company, like Thomas Hawk, she lives the product without pitching it. But more than anything even Galacticast thinks The Micki is sexy.

    Martin McKeay – StillSecure Blogger, Podcaster, Videoblogger
    Martin is a personal friend of mine, and has recently started as the Security Evangelist for StillSecure a security solutions company. While still too early to sing any praises, we’ll keep an eye on him. Martin is a Security Blogger “A-lister” Podcaster, VideoBlogger (with PodTech), and Speaker.

    Mario Sundar – LinkedIn

    Mario announced his succession as the Community Evangelist at Linkedin a few hours ago.

    Others?
    I realize there are other people that could make this list, (such as the wikipedia entry on Technology Evangelist I pulled from those that I’ve met or followed, feel free to add a comment to add your own!

    Who am I? Master Blogger Shel Israel has documented my experience as the Online Community Manager at Hitachi Data Systems. I now work as a social media consultant at PodTech, helping our clients with their own Community.

    Update: I’m no longer at Podtech, but instead am an Analyst at Forrester Research covering Social Computing, in fact, I’ve published a report on this passion topic of mine, how to staff for social computing.