Community is a Job

i.oSeveral years ago pre-Loyal, when I first started freelancing, a new friend I had just met, Karen Schoellkopf (now a good friend, and awesomely, a client), told me that I absolutely must read Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro. She said that it would change my work, and it did.

It might seem a bit odd for community people to be reading a book about the job, discipline, and craft of design. Yet, there are actually many similarities between design and community:

  • Both are equally discipline and craft.
  • Both are investments realized over time.
  • Both serve business and audience goals; while for designers this is usually product and/or marketing goals, this is usually a bit more “purpose” oriented for community folks.
  • Both designers and community managers advocate on behalf of end users.
  • Both solve problems within business and resource constraints — designers solve within content and UI constraints, and community managers solve within values, human, and platform constraints.

Let me repeat that first point again: Community is equally discipline and craft. I’ll explain:

Up until a few years ago, design was still perceived as the arrangement of pixels and images; it was understood as aesthetics. Today, designers are one of the most coveted hires in startups. Design is now understood as the process by which product, service, and system problems are solved. Design touches product development from every angle: product design, information architecture, front-end development, user interface, user experience, research, and finally, the icing on the cake — pixels and graphics. Designer roles are segmented accordingly. Design is now recognized as both discipline and craft. It’s creative problem solving.

Community today is where design was several years ago. When most people think of community now, they think of tweets, the pixels and graphics of design. Yet, there is actually science and an emerging process for community. We’re already seeing community roles begin to segment: social engagement, content, growth, offline, support, “social” information architecture, and product. This will only continue over the coming years. It’s becoming clear that community is the process by which human engagement is solved within products, services and systems – and that extra nice human touch you see on Twitter is just Community’s version of icing on the cake. Just like design, community is both discipline and craft. It’s creative problem solving.

Because of this, Loyal’s work is more closely structured to a design agency rather than a marketing or PR agency — we’re extremely process driven. At this point, we know from experience that any shortcuts in our discipline often results in missteps in our craft, and we’ve learned to never compromise in either.

We could not be more excited to help shape community as a discipline and craft in the coming years. Today, we’re attending an entire conference dedicated to community. We couldn’t be more excited to be at the CMX Summit in San Francisco with so many leaders working within the discipline of community who we respect and admire. If you weren’t able to make it, they’re live-streaming the entire event! And you can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #cmxsummit.