How to do a Good Job as a Community Manager

I’ve worked as a community manager for a range of brands and businesses, including the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the Whistler Writers Festival, The North Face Canada and Origin Design + Communications. This is a recent post I wrote for Origin’s e-news and blog on what it takes. 

Call it whatever buzzword fits your #culturecode: social media manager, community manager, practitioner of the dark twittering arts, ephemeral content strategist, chief instagrammer, social executive or social moderator, but the short answer is: Yes, your brand needs one. If you’re on social, (and you categorically should be) someone needs to be in charge.

A community manager is a builder of relationships. This person engages and nurtures customers and key members of your community. They make the brand personal and they advocate for the customer.”

– Hootsuite –

Then, who? Intern or executive? In-house or agency? In-country or in India? How many languages do they need to speak? How much do you need to pay them?

Actually, those aren’t the first questions you need to ask.

First, you need to ask, what does it take to be a good community manager? Walk this way.

1. CREATIVE FREEDOM WITHIN CLEAR PARAMETERS

A person can’t represent your brand online, in real-time “conversations”, tweets, posts, and interactions, if they need to run every single piece of engagement up the chain of command. If you cannot relinquish the reins, you have to do it yourself, (dear overworked control freak. Yes, we see you.)

It’s better, of course, if you can provide clear parameters for someone to operate within.

The brand’s attributes, values, above the line marketing campaigns, target audience, competitors, allies/partners, athlete team, a list of events you sponsor, PR initiatives and clearinghouse, recommended resources, creative assets and goals should be part of the social media manager’s kick-off package.

If they’re smart, this is what they’re going to be asking in their first week.

You better know the answers. (Or, helpful solution! You could hire an agency to develop this, as we’ve done for clients, to get a new hire ready to hit the ground running.)

2. A PERSONAL ALIGNMENT/AFFILIATION WITH THE BRAND

Does the person need to walk into the interview wearing your logo, with a personal instagram feed already seeded with product placement? Can you recruit them from your flow team or designate your most socially savvy brand ambassador with the task?

Malin Dunfors, a community manager at Origin Design + Communications, suggests interest over immersion.

“I don’t think you need to live and breathe the brand. But you need to be interested in what the brand is doing, whether it is the outdoors, food or cars. Interest is crucial. It’s going to make your job easier—and more enjoyable. I also think your audience can pick up on it if you’re not into the stories you’re sharing with them. I come from a journalism background so I see objectivity as a good thing. Not being a brand ambassador or influencer makes you more open to seeing the brand from different angles, and better able to connect with new and old customers.”

3. FAITHFUL OR MONOGAMOUS?

Is it better to hire someone who manages multiple social media accounts/communities for several clients, or do you need this relationship to be exclusive?

That is a question, as in the real world, that can only be answered by the parties involved. Whichever way you swing, success depends on being completely clear and upfront about your expectations.

Says Dunfors, “Expectations really tie in with time commitment. People often think that doing social media is quick and easy because of the nature of the medium. But doing great community management takes time. Plus, social media never takes a break. So it’s worthwhile for brands, before hiring a community manager, to figure out the importance of their social media channels and what their social media goals are.”

4. GIVE THEM A DIRECT LINE TO THE PEOPLE ON THE GROUND

An internal social account manager can obviously work the floor at the office, but anyone operating remotely, or from the chairlift, or even after-hours, needs a pipeline to the people who have the authority to make decisions like:

  • freeing up swag for a giveaway
  • responding to product warranty questions or complaints
  • what product we want everyone talking about this week
  • who will address media in event of a crisis or urgent request

That might be one specific contact person, or several. But the channels need to be open every single day. Responsiveness, in social, is key.

5. TIMELY INPUT

Most brands will provide a balance of curated and created content in their social channels. Make sure your community manager has a steady flow of fresh content to help them feed the beast.

Says Dufors, “Instead of thinking of social media as a last minute thing to spread content, the community manager, should be an extension of the editorial/communications/marketing team, so it should be natural to loop them in on upcoming events and news. The more the community manager is kept in the loop, the easier it will be for him or her to do a great job.”

6. SOME WAYS FOR MEASURING SUCCESS

Develop a dashboard of metrics from the outset and track them. You’re armed to provide at-a-glance information to the CMO or hard-nosed brand manager, having translated the fury of 140 character bursts and soft metrics, into something that spells ROI.

Set a schedule for status reports, so you can track effectiveness over time.

7. A WILLING EAR IN YOU

A great community manager can provide incredible insight to your community based on analytics about what resonates and what falls flat. If you just contract the gig out, and move on to the next item in your neverending to-do list, you’ll miss the opportunity to gain excellent soft data about how your brand is performing psychometrically.

Your community manager has a lot of insight to offer about your audience, content that resonates with them, what your competitors are up to, breaking news in your field. They can be worth their weight in gold-plated intell, and help manage your social assets, your creative assets, and your influencer PR, if you give them the chance to. It’s a relationship, after all. Know what you need. Be clear about what you’re looking for. Be willing to adapt. Be genuine. Don’t try to control everything. And let the love flow.

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