Grace Clapham is the director of Community Partnerships for Facebook in the APAC region, based in Singapore. In her role, she supports community leaders using Facebook’s family of apps to grow their communities, whilst also providing access to funding, social networks, and educational programs.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
KrASIA (Kr): Which communities are you part of right now?
Grace Clapham (GC): I take part in hundreds of Facebook groups. Even before joining the company, I was already engaging in and running a few of them on my own. At the moment, groups centered around motherhood and parenting have been the most helpful for me. In Singapore, there’s one called Stork’s Nest. I can go in there, ask questions without worrying about being judged, and get various opinions.
Kr: Please tell me more about the GovLab study, and what the term “accidental leader” means from a community perspective.
GC: We recently sponsored an independent study run by GovLab and NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. The research explored when and why people were joining online groups, the effect they have on people’s lives, and how well they operate. The study found that people experience a strong sense of community despite the lack of physical proximity and interaction. More than 1.8 billion people use Facebook groups monthly.
The study also showed that many leaders are ‘accidental leaders.’ With very little idea of how a group’s leadership would unfold, many of them underestimated the importance of the community they built and how it impacted other people’s lives. We continue to see how these leaders step up to develop unique skills and navigate evolving roles as managers of groups. They run them as a labor of love, and it’s humbling to see the significance of these online communities amongst everyday people, especially during the pandemic. In a global survey conducted for Facebook by YouGov, in 11 of the 15 nations surveyed, the largest proportion of people said that the most important groups in their lives are primarily online.
Kr: What is the role of a community manager?
GC: Community managers are trusted in the communities that they build. It is about ensuring that the community is safe for building relationships with the members. These leaders have to do everything from managing conflicts to making members feel supported and respected. There are a lot of soft skills that a community leader needs, but it is also about how to use the group to run a community effectively and efficiently.
Kr: How does Facebook help these leaders to sustain their communities?
GC: We’re investing in various initiatives. Amongst a range of support, we provide leaders with educational material through our community websites, along with programs to empower community managers. The newly launched Facebook Certified Community Manager Program helps community managers to build, scale, and sustain their community whilst connecting them through a set of curriculum and exams. These programs tend to impart the best practice frameworks to help community leaders do what they do best. At the same time, it also helps them to adapt and navigate increasingly complex environments as their respective communities grow. There is also a range of other tools available to help community leaders manage, grow, and even monetize their groups. We’ve recently launched Admin Assist, a tool that helps group administrators set rules to make moderation more manageable.
Kr: Have you seen a growing shift of full-time community managers due to monetization options?
GC: We’ve provided leaders with a tool called the Brand Collaboration Manager (BCM). With this, community managers have an opportunity to earn money to support their work and manage engaged communities. With BCM, they can partner with brands and monetize their communities. We’ve had community leaders who have successfully collaborated with brands like Kinokuniya, Sunbeam, and Westinghouse. Some community leaders have shifted to working for their communities full-time.
Kr: How do you ensure that there is a balance between authenticity and sustainability when communities start to work with brands?
GC: It comes down to values, and what aligns with both the brand and the communities. When working with brands, communities often look at their core objectives and the added value a brand can provide before they work with them. It is also important to educate brands on the power of communities. Just like how social entrepreneurship was very new ten years ago, this concept is also nascent.
Communities are a really new sector. It’s key to build recognition and empower leaders. Our focus is on figuring out how we can recognize community leaders more, and how we can amplify their stories.
Kr: Is there anything new coming up in Facebook’s space?
GC: We have a community accelerator that will be launched soon. Our first edition of community accelerator which was announced in March 2020 was a six-month program focused on helping community leaders grow. It was part of a global program called Facebook Community Leadership Program, and we had different cohorts from various regions. Last year, we had participants fromAustralia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. This year, we’re looking to expand on some additional markets.
Our community website has tips and best practices from various community leaders around the world. It is also where users can find out more about the community accelerators and certification programs. These certification programs support users and help them in the workforce, especially if they go into community management. It benefits a whole gamut of individuals, from non-profits to brands and agencies.