A Sneak Peek into CMX Summit 2023 with Ilker Akansel: Exploring Community Intentionality

Jennifer Serrat
October 17, 2023
October 19, 2023

CMX Summit 2023: Shine might be over, but learning and fun never end at CMX! We are super excited to invite each and every one of you to our virtual conference, CMX Summit 2023: ReShine, where you will have the chance to rewatch the talks from the summit and connect with speakers and CMX'ers worldwide.

One of the speakers you will get to hear from is Ilker Akansel, and just to give you a preview of what kind of a treat you are in for at our conference, we want to share this amazing interview led by the one and only Jennifer Serrat. So, for now, dive in!

Let me introduce you to someone you probably already know – the one and only Ilker Akansel. In the world of communities, he's the rockstar we all secretly want to be. With a passion for tech, innovation, entrepreneurship, and, of course, building incredible communities, he's been making waves in the professional scene for years. 

But here's the kicker – beyond the impressive resume that includes stints at Google, Cisco, and even the London Olympics, Ilker is hands down one of the kindest and most compassionate person I've had the privilege of knowing. 

As one of Turkey's earliest Community Building & Strategy consultants, he's been helping organizations, big and small, level up their community game. But Ilker isn't just any community expert; he's the one who sprinkles a little extra magic into everything he touches. 

Now, brace yourself for his upcoming talk, titled 'Community 'Intentionality': Setting, Promoting, and Enhancing Community Purpose and Focus.' It's going to be a game-changer. Ilker’s on a mission to leave an indelible mark in the community-building universe, and I can't wait to see what he has in store. 

Now, let's dive into the heart of the matter. 

Ilker, you've often emphasized the significance of intentionality in the ever-evolving landscape of community management. Could you share your insights on why intentionality is becoming increasingly vital?

The case for community intentionality is plain and simple: community is an environment where all stakeholders seek to meet their expectations. It is shocking that, in this day and age, we are still abhorrently bad at expressing, managing, meeting, and adjusting for expectations in professional and social settings, so it is super important to do it right in a structure such as community that is, well, expected to be all things to all people. 

Communities come in all shapes, sizes, and intentions. Many communities have been traditionally designed and offered as havens of belonging and safety, with the pace of things being set by members. This is all well, and safety and belonging must constitute the basic layer of any community; however especially with online communities taking center stage in current times, and playing an increasingly crucial role in their members’ lives by impacting their career progression and personal lives through better equipment of skills and support mechanisms to deal with day-to-day matters - all this on top of the massive social benefits that communities naturally bring. 

In many cases, this all indicates a marked increase in the benefits and impact expected from communities, and that’s where intentionality comes in. People are joining communities to do things such as reaching new opportunities, getting better at their craft, and getting inspiration in making the most of their lives, and the best way to offer what these members want is to greet them within an intentionally designed community environment where everything is taught in the lines of would-be members and their journeys. People are then more likely to start frequenting these communities more, becoming advocates and enthusiastic contributors in due course - which is what community management is, well, all about. 

Now, let's explore the potential pitfalls of neglecting intentionality. In an era where member and stakeholder expectations are shifting, what are the possible consequences for communities that lack intentionality in their approach? 

It’s well known in the industry that the archetypal community horror story is a community where there’s no activity or members leaving in droves - the reason is very basic and clear and is that they can not find what they are looking for. Amongst others, this is due to a lack of intentionality in the community.

,In a world where people have the ability to discover and choose which communities they would like to take part in from the comfort of their seats, it is imperative that communities are designed to the exact details to provide the experience these members are looking for. The biggest risk in designing, investing, and growing communities is this lack of intentionality, and even though it's common sense it's so easy to oversee and discount.

Consequences are dire - communities are very intelligent, sensitive structures where members will pick the lack of intentionality and value proposition quickly and become disillusioned with the community at speed, leaving the community and the community team scratching their heads and scrambling for all sorts of engagement tactics where the issue is much more fundamental, which is the intention.

Speaking of your personal connection to communities, I'm curious to know if there are any particular communities that capture your fascination, whether as a manager or a member. What is it about these communities that draw you in? 

I’ll throw a curveball and drag this back into my profession if I’m allowed to - I am a big aficionado of community management communities - I believe that I am present in pretty much every one of them and am a true believer that collaboration and support that we champion as professionals in our communities is a crucial aspect of progress in our own careers.

I’ll go ahead to say that the community management communities such as CMX, Community Club, the Community Community, and Led by Community are places where I learned the vast majority of the things that I know about community management, and these are strong and safe ecosystems where community professionals of all levels of experience can talk shop with peers, grow professionally and access new and interesting professional challenges and heights!

Okay, it’s only appropriate to provide an alternative, and I’ve got a good one - I’m a big aficionado of alternative ways of and takes on work such as remote work, digital nomadism, DOAs, and other self-managing mechanisms. One new concept that I am currently practicing is fractional leadership; I am contributing to a wonderful wellness tech startup as a ‘fractional’ CCO (Chief Community Officer), that is, in broad terms, committing fully to the organization as an executive and board member yet on a part-time basis, and am also a member of an incredible community of over 4000 fractional executives around the World called Fractionals United. 

Fractionals United is also one of the most intentional communities I’ve ever encountered, with the founder Karina Mikhli and my wonderful community manager colleague Tammy Bavishi making sure that every conversation is in line with the ethos and goal of the community, that is to be the premier destination for fractional executives around the World. Join my talk at the CMX Summit, and you may hear a little more about the amazing intentionality in this particular community! 

Let's shift our focus to your remarkable experience managing CMX Connect Istanbul. Could you generously share with us some valuable insights and the unique challenges and opportunities you encountered while building and nurturing that community? 

It’s so wonderful to be able to talk about CMX Connect Istanbul, thank you for that question! While I’ve stepped away since the beginning of this year, I started CMX Connect Istanbul in the fall of 2020 as Turkey’s first community of community professionals; the profession is not that old around the World but is quite nascent in Turkey, so it was designed to be the premier destination for those who’d like to know more about community management as a profession.

There were some wonderful moments during the three years that have passed since that day - we grew to a small but very capable team of community organizers, and started a Medium channel that, to this day, is the only source of professional community management source in Turkish, and even did a series of weekly voice bulletins over Twitter/X talking about various developments in the world of community management, eventually making us the runner-up for the 2023 CMX Awards for best CMX Connect Chapter! 

So, did we succeed? We gave ourselves three goals at the beginning: to be the premier destination for community management in Turkey, support anyone who would like to enter or pivot into community management, and establish community management as a viable, respectable career path for professionals and a division worth investing into and expanding for organizations. These were actually the particular challenges that we had over the other CMX Connect chapters around the world, and I think that with the content, activity, and energy we’ve collectively brought together we did! 

Lastly, Ilker, it's clear that community management is evolving and expanding its reach. Can you shed light on any emerging trends or industries where you've observed community management practices being applied, possibly in surprising or unexpected ways? 

Well, we’ve been witnessing the rise of the usual suspects such as community-driven product development, growth, and the community’s ever-increasing role in areas such as customer success, but it appears that people in many other verticals, industries, and professional focus areas are starting to consider and apply the benefits of community building. 

I see community management as a wonderful possible catalyzer, disruptor, changer, and innovator in perhaps more traditional industries and practices that are yet to see its benefits. One example I can cite here is related to my personal and professional focus area - under my own partnership that is talentled.co - is talent management and workplace culture. 

As much as we like hearing about new and novel ways of working such as remote or distributed work, the traditional processes of work such as recruitment and performance management are not going to go away any soon; however, they need a drastic update.

The pandemic and bolder, shifting expectations of Generation Z indicate that talent is becoming increasingly selective about their choices of company and responsibility, and matters such as employer brand, organizational values, available career paths, challenges, and skills and experiences promised along the journey are taking a front seat, and over more traditional factors such as title and pay in many instances. 

On top of this, the words ‘talent community’ have been used as a massive misnomer and, as an underutilized pile of virtual CVs/resumes, is anything but a community in many organizations that seem to adopt these structures. However, real, well-supported, and proper talent communities - not only for candidates, but also for employees, and even the organization’s alumni - can provide massive benefits for organizations and reduce the divide they have with the expected workforce of today, enabling these organizations to be clearer in their employee experience offer thus making them the premier choice of the top talent of today. 

And the benefits? A well-managed talent strategy is a massive boost to the employer brand and can bring great tangible benefits through improvement in performance indicators such as reduced attrition and time-to-hire. And, excitingly and interestingly, supporting talent as they move across an organization through communities is a great way to do that! 

It is evident that Ilker is not just a community expert but a genuine advocate for the power of intentionality in the community. What's even more exciting is that the community is not confined to its traditional spaces; it's expanding into new and unexpected territories. Ilker's vision of intentional communities is reshaping the way we connect, learn, and grow. 

Now, here's the juicy part – mark your calendars for Ilker's talk at the CMX Summit 2023: ReShine on October 26th! It's not just another talk; it's your golden ticket to the heart of community management and intentionality. Prepare to soak up wisdom from one of the industry's brightest minds and take home insights that can supercharge your community-building endeavors. 

Ilker, our heartfelt thanks for sharing your brilliance, passion, and precious time with us!

Join us at ReShine!

​​Missed the CMX Summit 2023: Shine? Join us on October 26th, for our virtual conference, CMX Summit 2023: ReShine to watch the recordings from the summit, and connect with speakers and CMX'ers worldwide. It's free! RSVP here

About Author 

When not immersed in the world of community and tending to CoachHub's coach community, Jen indulges in some singing, and unleashing her creativity through interior design, exploring new destinations, or diving into both fiction and non-fiction books, she weaves her own adventures.

Jennifer Serrat
October 17, 2023
October 19, 2023

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