Do you have What It Takes to Be a Community Manager?

December 27, 2013

In this day and age, chances are high that your clients or brands have some kind of presence on social media and they may be also involved in any number of online communities that are relevant to their industry and target audience. But who is responsible for managing all of these accounts so they work together, sharing one coherent point of view and value proposition? That’s where Community Managers come in.

Community Managers bridge the divide between paid, earned and owned social media efforts by strategically engaging and participating in the online conversations relevant to your brand. Community Managers administer, or co-administer, a brand’s online channels, often working with earned media (PR) and paid media (advertising) partners to provide fans and consumers with a seamless online experience.  An empowered Community Manager will monitor organic social conversations and respond on behalf of the brand proactively instead of waiting to react to issues when they reach owned channels. In some cases, a Community Manager may even be the public face of the brand at offline activations, such as events and conferences.

Above all the Community Manager must strive to be relevant and relatable to the brand’s followers at all times. Here are some other qualities of a successful Community Manager:

  • Articulate: Communicates effectively across a variety of media
  • Social: Engages in authentic conversations and interactions
  • Professional: Acts as a responsible ambassador of the brand
  • Adaptable: Makes decisions quickly, handles crisis situations effectively
  • Enthusiastic: Energetic, passionate and engaged in relevant topics
  • Connected: Has ties to the right people within the community
  • Organized:  Keeps track of data; manages relationships, content calendars and a variety of assets essential to maintain a community

Arm Your Community Manager Well

Before you send your Community Manager off into the trenches though, you’ll need to have a clearly defined sense of purpose, tone and response protocol. Remember, for CPG and consumer brands, dealing with customer service issues may be a major part of a Community Manager’s day. Without a larger strategy in place, your social engagement channels can quickly be drowned in consumer complaints. These questions are helpful as you begin to formulate a community management strategy:

  • What is our brand’s purpose for being active on social media? What do we hope to achieve?
  • What is our brand personality and tone of voice? If our brand were a celebrity, who would we be?
  • Who is our ideal brand fan? What does this person care about?  How can we provide real value to our fans?
  • What is our protocol for addressing customer service issues? What kind of customer service processes are already in place? How will we evaluate issues and complaints?
  • What is our social content strategy?  Do we seek to be content publishers, content curators, or both?

The role of Community Manager may sound like a “professional web surfer,” but in reality, the person who excels at this job will be a foreman, a traffic cop, a copy-writer, a customer service representative, a spokesperson, a data analyst and an on-the-fly strategist – so you’ll want to make sure the person or people who serve this role are well-supported. After all of the time you’ve spent planting the seeds in your field, do you really want to leave the future of the crops to a scarecrow?

Nancy leads the Social Media Group at Ketchum’s New York office, where she counsels a wide variety of companies on how to engage with consumers online and become a part of the conversation. Working with brands like Kodak, Frito-Lay, ConAgra Foods, H&R Block and IKEA, she has developed strategic influencer programs, local events, Twitter and Facebook content sourcing, and event sponsorships. She often works with companies to develop their internal social media guidelines.