Community management in journalism and beyond…

Nick Petrie

Nick Petrie is a communities manager for the Guardian. He also works for Wannabe Hacks and Within Reach. He tweets here.

So you’re a Community Manager huh, what’s the job description?

Well they hadn’t written one when I started, but essentially its responsibilities include building relationships with people on the networks (consumers of our content) entering discussions – promoting opportunities – writing a bit of copy and what not.

And in English? What exactly do you do?

Engage and respond to members of the Guardian’s community i.e the audience and readers.

How many people work as Community Managers at the Guardian?

Well for the ‘professional’ network there is about four at the moment and I think between six and 10 for editorial (News, Comment Is Free and Culture).

How important do you feel your role is?

It’s pretty crucial to the running of our network, we need highly engaged members who partake in discussions, contribute content and are willing to pass on best practice advice.

What’s the most important tool, program or gadget in doing your job?

Twitter plays a huge role in keeping up with what is going on in our sector and connecting with interesting individuals.

What’s the best bit about your job?

You actually have time to connect with people in the sector you’re covering, rather than always just demanding information or a quote you can afford to chat and build relationships because that is what you are there to do.

And the worst?

Sometimes people ask awkward questions that you don’t know the answer to or you miss a tweet or a facebook message asking a question and then people feel let down or ignored by the network.

Do you think that the internet community is a tangible community? It’s all a bit vague isn’t it?

It’s very tangible when you think of a community as like-minded people or people who share a common interest, you just aren’t limited by location, geography, time zones and all the other ‘real world’ constraints of holding a community together.

Isn’t it better to meet people face to face in order to interact with your community?

It is always good to cement relationships in the flesh, but nothing wrong with getting started online – you are after all interacting with real people, just via a different medium. I think we will see more and more media groups offering conferences. seminars and other opportunities which mean that their audience get to meet the journalists that produce what they read and continue to develop their communities both on and offline.

What does the future hold for community managers in Journalism?

It is going to be huge – community has always been important for journalism but know we have the tools for real-time, instant feedback and information sharing. Consumers and the audience make use of them, so we have to as well.

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