Rock Stars, Tribes, & Community Management

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Yesterday I entertained an engaging conversation with a young professional working her way up through the industry. She made some interesting observations about the company I work for. She observed that we had a very active “tribe” in multiple social systems. She also noted that she associates one of our community managers (Suzanne) with our practice site (

These two things made me very happy. I see them as a sign of maturity. Organizations who wish to move into new areas often look to hire “rock stars” to help make make rain, attract talent and garner attention. Rock stars do in fact produce results, but they don’t scale well and you can’t clone them.

This is where tribes come in. Tribes form as a business grows and begins to prosper. The benefit is that there is strength in numbers. Attack a member of a tribe and you attack the entire tribe, activating members to come to the defense of the single individual under duress. But tribal culture has it’s limitations and this is where community management comes in. Community managers can act as connecters of tribes. Within a complex organization, they are the ones who can connect tribes across geographies and disconnected business functions. Externally, community managers frequently cross pollinate areas where “rival” tribes mix things up.

What’s interesting about each of these archetypes is that they all play an integral role in any business environment. The next time you go to a networking function, you can see these constructs in action. The rock stars tend to draw small crowds around them–they are like magnets. The tribes cluster together in groups emitting a bond that you can almost feel physically. The community managers who are comfortable in multiple communities go from one cluster to the next, creating new connections each time they engage.

A social business model is one which understands and embraces the roles and traits of these individuals and their associated behaviors. More importantly, it looks to scale and replicate the successes which the combination of these roles can bring. Who fits the rock star, tribe and community manager descriptions in your organization? Are you tapping their behaviors for the benefit of your business?

Image by: AdamNF
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