"For me I see how easy it is to get caught up in the exciting side of the business, e.g. the technology, the platform, the shiny, bleeding edge new feature. But from my experience the way to make an impact is absolutely on the strategic planning and organizational development side of things. It’s not sexy and it’s certainly not easy, but ultimately the real impact if you work on the brand side is found through fundamental organizational transformation."
So says Jordan Williams, Manager of Digital Engagement at REI. I completely agree that this is the more difficult and time consuming aspect of community management, whether on a national level or smaller group. :)
One of the great features of Ning, is that creating networks is easy and free, which means you can create test Ning Networks. This is something I always encourage, to provide a place to test out changes to design or format. In terms of planning and organization, the test network can also be used to scope out goals for the main network, brainstorm or discuss issues that come up. An alternative is to have a private Group on the primary Ning Network for this, though that provide a bit less freedom in testing ideas.
I'd argue that representing a major brand like REI brings its own challenges and expectations. However I encourage all to read this interview of a seasoned Community Manager!