Not All Community Managers Created Equal

Oh where oh where does a community manager originate? Is the job of a community manager ever complete? What is the afterlife of a community manager? These questions have been rolling around in my mind for several years as I have assisted with building community teams from scratch. My job never felt complete and yet while developing personal stretch goals, I continuously asked myself the question, “Where do I go from here?

Whether you view community management as a lone wolf role, team effort, or mindset of many in the organization, there are numerous areas of responsibility. There will always be the opportunity and advantage of having a Jack-of-All-Trades available, but more often than not, as you build your community team or wrangle those with the mindset, one size management or community work does not fit all.

What makes the team (whether a defined team of community managers or those with the mindset) really rock and roll is the understanding and willingness to expose strengths and weaknesses. This is where process meets strategy and leadership. Seriously, who wants to tackle personal demons and customer issues all day? A functional community team must do this all the time. This is where tiers or engagement responsibility and niche content focus areas come into play.

Tiers of Responsibility

Many organizations are so eager to jump into social media, they dismiss the value of a sound structure. Such a foundation is built with a listening strategy in place. After determining the areas of conversation your organization is choosing to listen and engage, consider dividing and conquering the response among three tiers of response:

  • Tier 1: This is a role operates the main monitoring post for the organization or brand, and ensures the posts get to the right members of the team or organization for response. This person’s job is to filter the posts as they come in and workflow, properly tag, classify, and assign them according to our engagement processes. This role also includes analysis of activity in the form of reports on team activities and trends.
  • Tier 2: The community managers answers questions, contributes to the larger dialogue through blog comments, and participate in the organization’s outpost communities (to include, but not exclusive to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and LinkedIn). This tier is second level response/support after the community or conversation operator.
  • Tier 3: This tier is third level response/support after Tier I. Response and engagement is still within scope of work, but focus of daily work is content development and industry engagement.

Just as you would not hand over the keys to your Porsche to a kid who has yet to have some driving time under his/her belt, you would not hand over the keys to engagement on behalf of your brand to someone without the depth of experience and knowledge that comes with maturity. This maturation process does not have a set time period, but if the team management and leadership work with members to grow their strengths, and recognize and develop areas of weakness, the external communication process will be smoother.

Niche Areas of Expertise

Community managers wear a plethora of hats these days, from community ambassador to storyteller and back again. There is no one job responsibility or hat. Each organization has to find the right mix and balance of hats a community manager must wear. Consider adding verticals or niche areas of expertise to your team. For example, divide your team into four sections (slotted using tiers explained above):

  • Brand Engagement: These community managers are responsible for engagement on behalf of the organization or brand. Such engagement occurs on the organization’s outposts and nurtured in the areas of conversations outside of organization management.
  • Content Creation/Curation: This position stewards any content that’s thought-leadership and social media industry related and oversees organization’s outposts, includes, but not exclusive to blogs, webinars, podcasts, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies – anything that helps contribute valuable, educational content to the community (with focus in the social media space).
  • Industry Engagement: Those tapped for this responsibility cultivate conversations external to brand engagement and hone in on understanding and authentically engaging in conversations of interest to the industry.
  • Internal Communications: The focus seems to be on external community management responsibilities, but just like an iceberg, the hard work and socialization of ideas, content and the closing of feedback loops comes down to internal communication – and this is not to be obvious by the community. While all community managers need to master social skills to work within organizations, it is wise to explore the addition of a person or responsibility with sole focus on the needs of your true first responders and evangelists.

Big Picture Realization

Just as you would diversify any other group or department within your business, consider doing so with your community team. Give them a place to grow and a desire to push themselves. Help them understand their role in the larger organization’s communication strategy and business goals. Helping these team members to stay relevant and push the envelope will assist in increasing the positive perception of your company and form a deeper bond with your community as both sides mature.

Give your community managers stretch goals. Give them a place to learn and grow that not just helps them, but your organization. How have you developed community teams?

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