Community Managers Firmly Take Their Seat on the Front-Line
Community Managers Firmly Take Their Seat on the Front-Line
Community Managers Firmly Take Their Seat on the Front-Line

As digital marketing evolves we are seeing more formal social media roles emerge within companies. This could mean that as companies are taking social media more seriously they are hiring individuals with sole responsibility for social media functions, rather than simply adding it to the plate of already overwhelmed employees. We’ve seen titles such as Social Media Strategist, Social Media Director, Social Media Manager, Community Director and Community Manager become more common place. However, the lines between these roles are still blurred as companies try to figure out the skill sets they need while balancing that with the budget they have available. Many times that makes hiring difficult as job descriptions commonly seek an all-in-one solution for social media. The challenge with that approach is that the all-in-one solution is trying to hire the skills that are difficult to find in a single person. Therefore, in appreciation of Community Manager Day, we seek to bring clarity to the role of the Community Manager for organizations.

What is a Community Manager?

Today, Marketwire and Community Manager released a collection of community management advice from over 600 Community Managers. One of the first questions in the reports was “what is the difference between Community Managers and social media managers?” There were a lot of really interesting insights and perspectives in the report.

A Community Manager is an Active Community Member.

I’d break it down this way. A Community Manager is your front line to the online conversation about your company, industry and competition. They are responsible for facilitating and moderating conversations that are already happening. They are responsible for helping to create new conversations with customers, prospects, partners, and even competitors. Ultimately, a Community Manager is a conduit of information right from the front-lines. Their primary responsibility is to understand the online community’s perspective and advocate for their needs inside the organization. The only way to do that is to be an active participant and member of your online community. That means really good Community Managers are loyal to the community, not the company. After all, they are a community member who happens to work for the company. They aren’t an employee who happens to be a community member.

What Role Does a Community Manager Play Inside the Organization?

Community Managers are Cross-Functional Team Members.

Because Community Managers are on the front-lines of online conversations, they should be empowered to work cross-functionally across the departments that are impacted by the information they find. This can include product teams, customer service teams, marketing teams and human resources teams. Ultimately, they will likely work closely with marketing to provide input on the content marketing strategy being used to start conversations with the online community. They will implement community strategies created jointly with the marketing team and help refine strategies based on day-to-day interactions and results.

When they receive feedback regarding the organization’s product or services, they will provide that feedback to the product team and possibly collaborate on solutions that can address concerns. They can be a conduit for quick feedback from the community on upcoming product changes and help prioritize initiatives based upon community response. Many times, they are also providing answers to daily customer service requests as well as escalating and managing complaints while working with the customer service team to highlight areas for improvement. For the Human Resources department they may play an active role in helping to find and source new candidates from the community that already supports them. They may help spread the word about open positions or even crowd-source candidate recommendations.

What Skill Sets Do Community Managers Need to Be Successful?

A Community Manager is the organization’s master communicator.

This cross-functional role requires a great online and off-line communicator. Community Managers must be team players and work to better the organization through multiple departments based upon their interactions with the front-lines.  They must be advocates for their community, but also be able to explain when the company can’t meet their demands with sincere reasons the community can understand, all without inciting an online riot.

A Community Manager must be an eloquent writer. They are someone who understands the nuances of the written word and their inability to communicate tone. They have an innate ability to sound professional, caring and genuine in their responses despite social media’s character limits. They know how to kill them with kindness and not take negative feedback personally. They can turn online complainers into raving fans with a few key strokes. But they can also smell a troll from a mile away and know how and when to engage and disengage.

Where are Community Managers Headed?

Today, a Community Manager is a position that a company looks to fill. It’s an individual or small team of individuals that man the online conversation. As artful masters of the written word, they are poets, with unique skill sets that are difficult to train. They should be acknowledged and thanked on this important day. Social Media Explorer extends a heartfelt “thank you” to every individual who cares and participates in the online community.

But the outlook for this position is very different. Sooner than many of us think, the Community Manager role will not exist inside organizations.  Eventually, every person in the organization will be a Community Manager. Everyone will be on the front-lines of the online conversation and will be held accountable to the community. What is an art form today will become the standard of tomorrow. At least, that will be the case for the companies who “get it”. The companies that “get it” will look for Master Communicators in all levels of the organization, in every position, online and offline. Because tomorrow, every employee is a representative of your brand and companies can’t afford to take risks when our customers hold megaphones and can reach millions with the click of a mouse. And for those companies who don’t? Well…let’s just say…the community will take care of them.

What do you think? What is a Community Manager? What role does a Community Manager play? What skills do Community Managers need to be successful? How will this role change in the future? Leave a comment and join the conversation!

Check out the entire report from Marketwire and The Community Manager below.



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About the Author

Nichole Kelly
Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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