As an organization’s front line leaders in driving, curating and managing conversations about the brand, community managers hold a unique and critical position in social business. Day-in and day-out they are exposed to unedited conversations about every aspect of the company, from its offerings, brand, and customer experience to competitors and the overall public perceptions of trends in the marketplace where the company plays. Unlike other public-facing staff in a business that may only have isolated or limited exposure to customers around a specific need such as sales or support, the community manager is immersed in the endless flow of customer and influencer dialog that has become prevalent on the social web. This puts the community manager in a position to be one of the first to identify leveraged or unexpected outcomes from social business activities as well as identify potential fires while they are still just sparks.
The relatively new role of community manager has become business critical in today’s dynamic business environment. Those who have begun to establish best practices for interacting daily across an expanse of forums and issues deserve a resounding “thank you” today as we celebrate the second annual Community Manager Appreciation Day.
Community Management and Social Business
For businesses to extract real, measurable value from a community, the community has to be integrated into the business and the business has to be both willing and able to collaborate with the community. This level of collaboration and integration does not happen on its own. While organic process of community is essential, it’s important for the business to acknowledge that a live person connecting the dots between external and internal audiences improves the experience for both. Most community efforts that fail do so because the community is treated as an island or an initiative off on its own. This approach only frustrates community members who perceive the community and company as one but cannot get an answer about a product or service via the community. It frustrates executives who paid for a community, but have yet to understand the broader impact it has on the business. Bridging corporate and community agendas in a way that satisfies all constituents is key to what a community manager does. It’s new territory to be in the middle and, as Blaise Grimes-Viort puts it, no easy task.
“…you often find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you are bringing in community opinion to people who often would rather not hear or act on it. On the other, you are trying to maintain an equilibrium within your community, all the while standing by the company line which may not be a publicly agreeable one. The community might be happy, but the company isn’t, and vice versa. All the while, you are serving two masters with little recognition of your daily actions and successes, and continuous pressure.”
Source: http://blaisegv.com/community-management/5-ways-your-community-manager-is-the-glue-of-your-organisation/, March 2010.
Successful Community Managers Bring Diverse Skills to the Table
As you begin to solidify the role of community manager in your organization and define an approach to staffing it, be sure to take into account the critical position a community manager plays. Community managers are the connectors between information, ideas and people for your business. They learn first-hand about community member attitudes and preferences related to your business, therefore generating key insights that should be integrated into the overall business strategy. These tasks require a skilled and experienced staff member with a strong instinct for crafting communications within a rapidly-changing context. They must be agile, resourceful, and empowered. Dion Hinchcliffe has created one of the best graphics to illustrate how community managers are the “jack of all trades.”
Data Supports the Efficacy of a Good Community Manager
Tom Humbarger is one of the few to gather actual data to support the critical need for a community manager. Tom compared health metrics for a community before and after the budget was cut for a community manager position. Without a community manager, Tom observed that membership growth slowed significantly, a fall-off of more than 63% on a week-to-week basis. Additionally, the number of community visits dropped 60%, number of pages viewed per visit drops 22%, and time on site decreased by 33%.
Three Reasons to Hug Your Community Manager Today
Community managers tell us that their work is largely very rewarding, but being the face of the community daily is an extreme position and a bit of reinforcement goes a long way. As you consider why you should give your community managers special thanks today, consider the following:
- Community Managers Are Your Sherpa Guides. The difference between what even the best weekly report can tell you versus what a community manager knows about your brand is the difference between looking at a map versus hiring a local guide. Community managers absorb an incredible amount of information about your customers and fans by interacting with them on a daily basis in a genuine, organic way.
- The Best Firefighters Are Local. When a crisis breaks out, you’ll probably hear about it from your community manager first. And when it comes time to formulate a response, your community manager is your best asset, because they’ve been a part of the community all along. They’re not an outsider coming in to deliver a message because they have to; they’re a trusted source of information with an existing relationship with the core members of your community.
- Community Managers Put a Face with the Brand. Community managers receive a plethora of messages from users who are delighted that they’re able to directly contact a real person who responds in a timely manner (which is often uncharacteristic for large brands). The fact that customers are able to consistently contact a dedicated representative establishes trust and loyalty with the brand, and makes the customer feel like their needs and suggestions are actually being noticed by the brand.
Don’t Wait Until Next Year to Appreciate Your Community Manager Again
As with any other business-critical professional position, you want to let your best players know that their work is not only appreciated but important. Take time regularly to thank your community managers and promote them in your organization. The results will benefit every constituent in the business and help drive those emergent and leveraged outcomes we’re all searching for.
Special thanks to Jeremiah Owyang who established every fourth Monday of January to be Community Manager Appreciation Day. This year events are taking place all over the world to honor community managers. Dachis Group will be participating in the Boston and Austin events this evening. Follow the related #CMAD conversations on Twitter.