When I was first getting started in my professional career I read a book called Microsoft Secrets. The biggest takeaway was a tiny fact embedded in their hiring process.
According to the book, Microsoft had no trouble hiring developers or marketing staff. They’d just visit the best computer science schools or MBA programs, respectively.
The real effort was finding their program managers that connected both groups. It was the missing role that once put in place, really helped them grow by bringing more (and better) products to market.
Today, if you look at WordPress companies that focus on plugin or theme development, it’s easy to spot the designers, developers or support folks. But I think there’s a different missing role that could also really help drive growth?
Community managers and evangelists provide a different kind of glue than the work that program managers do when connecting developers and marketers. They connect customers, prospects and company employees.
I was working with a startup recently that had already had their core engineer and their designer. As we considered what they needed next, to round out their team, I have to admit I was considering the recommendation of a business person. But with so many ways to get business help, we realized the better move was to find a community-oriented person.
Where do you find them? What do you ask them to do? How do you qualify them? They’re all good questions. And while I don’t have all the answers, I know at least three things I’d want from any community connector.
1. They help get the word out by consistently listening.
I know it’s strange to think that people can get the word out by listening rather than speaking, but here’s the thing… There are tons of conversations already going on out in the social spaces we all travel through. The trick isn’t shouting. The trick is watching and finding the places where critical conversations are already happening and stepping in. That takes more listening and less shouting. Great community folks excel at this.
2. They help get answers without giving answers.
Another dynamic that I love about great community connectors is that they’re not “know it alls.” Instead, they’re folks who know how to connect you with people who have answers. At one point, it used to be other employees of their company. But more often than not, it could just as easily be others who aren’t employees. And community folks know how to connect one part of the community with another, so that answers are found—without ever giving an answer.
3. Instead of evangelizing, they create spaces for evangelism.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, today’s evangelists are a new bread of folks that aren’t running around telling everyone how great their company is. Instead, they create the contests, the platforms, and the opportunities for happy customers to tell their stories to everyone else. In doing so, they create a stronger and more vibrant message because of its diversity.
The result of bringing this kind of person into an organization early is that it’s a magnifying role. It’s a replicating role. There’s incredible power in the multiplying effect that a single community-oriented person brings as they help get the word out.
This takes nothing away from the developers and designers who create great products daily. Instead, it’s the role that I think enhances their work the best and offers the greatest opportunity for organic growth across most WordPress businesses.
Chris Lema is the VP of Software Engineering at Emphasys Software, where he manages high performers and oversees product development and innovation. He’s also a blogger,