The makings of the ideal Community Manager
In a recent post on Smart Insights, Steve Kitt laid out some solid reasons why companies should consider having their own online community. Steve makes a good argument, but even if you have your own community and manager, your brand will be fodder for discussion on other communities you have no control over and that’s why having a community manager (CM) is important for every company.
The reason you need a community manager is not only because you need someone to build or manage your own “walled” community, but because you need someone to represent you in all communities across multiple channels where people are talking about your brand. A company does not have to have its own online forum to have a community manager. A brand’s community stretches across a multitude of channels.
A virtual diplomat
A community manager is not like a building superintendent or a camp counsellor – rooted to a spot or area. A community manager is your brand ambassador and customers advocate all rolled into one. And sometimes they end up as the referee of a pool noodle brawl in a bouncy castle. Oh yes, flexibility certainly is part of the skill set.
In today`s interactive social media charged world where word-of-mouth is so powerful, your brand really does need a voice and that voice needs to be strong and mellifluous. By that I mean your community manager (much like a diplomat) must understand what approach to apply depending on the situation at hand. Or to put it another way, one of the most important skills of a good community manager is knowing that it’s just as important how you say something as what you say. Of course, this gets even trickier when you are bereft of such things as intonation, expression and body language — much like diplomacy, this is more art than science.
A thick skin covering a warm heart
Perhaps a seeming contradiction for a community manager’s skill set is that one has to be both very empathic and yet, have a thick skin. It’s potentially disastrous the moment a community manager takes negative comments personally. It’s important to keep in perspective that most of the time, a negative comment is an opportunity to demonstrate how effectively your company reacts to such feedback.
Effective communicator externally and internally
A community manager also needs to be able to bundle up their natural enthusiasm and passion and conduct successful campaigns across multiple departmental lines in an organization. You have to know how to talk to different levels of the corporate pyramid and effectively put unfamiliar terms and situations into a comfortable frame of reference for various decision makers. It`s entirely up to the CM to communicate social priorities and situations to the C-suite people in any given company. If these priorities are being overlooked, the first place to look for a problem is in the approach of the CM.
Unlike a social media manager, the CM isn`t responsible for the channels, but the interactions which take place on them and that means one has to be a people person. I might go even further and suggest a good community manager should be someone who`s not just a people watcher, but a committed student of human nature. That fascination with human nature is something which drives many of the best community managers I know.
A CM has to be both a good listener and a good talker, but be a good listener first and always. Understand the issues and concerns of the communities the brand serves and communicate them clearly to the organization. The CM also has to be good at gathering information and connecting people to solutions, where often those solutions are in the form of other people. The community manager is essentially the host of the cocktail party, making the introductions and keeping things humming.
When your brand does decide to recruit a community manager, make sure you seek someone who understands that they must be part of the communities the company serves to be effective. This means making a sincere effort to understand the community members and most importantly, adding value to the community and not just a sales pitch.
Good results take time
The benefits which come from effective community management are almost never quickly evident. In fact, those positive results may take months to be apparent to stake holders. I know when I was recruited by GetResponse, I made it clear it would take up to a year for them to see results of my work. Just less than a year later and I think I can safely say I`ve shown results for the GetResponse brand.
What`s the trick? There is none. I build relationships through hard work, sincerity, good nature and a sincere desire to help people. Perhaps what I like most about this career is that nice people can actually excel in it. This is one gig where caring and sharing really is important.
The front man profile
Look for a CM candidate who also has that “front man” profile. Someone who thrives at stepping out in front and grabbing that microphone, but also someone who understands they are part of a team. If your rock star doesn’t understand that it’s the whole band that rocks, then they need to have their guitar tuned.
CM is the new PR
Social media is impacting how brands view public relations. Communication is interactive now, so the focus is shifting from telling people what they should think to asking them what they do think and why. This means the community manager role is going to become more and more important to brands who want to be socially relevant.