Though the community manager role continues to evolve, there’s still confusion as to what an online community manager is and does. I’ve seen both potential employers and community management job seekers who are confusing the role with something else.
Because community management does tend to touch on a little of this and a little of that, it’s easy to get off track. However, if you’re looking to hire someone to handle your online community, or if you think you might want to do this sort of thing for a living, it’s probably a good idea to have a picture of what a community manager’s job actually entails. It’s probably not what you think.
Here’s what you might think community management is, but it isnt
A common complaint among brand new community managers is that their superiors have no idea what to do with them. They think they need a community manager and they know it has something to do with being online, but that’s where it ends. Many community managers are lumped in with other departments, but really managing a community and strategizing community programs is a department into itself.
1. It’s not marketing
The community team works closely with the marketing team, for sure. The marketing team often taps the community team to help with messaging and demographics, but community management isn’t marketing. Branding, advertising, and promotion isn’t what the community manager does. He or she is essential in implementing these programs and campaigns because no one knows the people who follow or use a brand like the community team. However, it’s not necessarily their job to create the messaging.If anything the marketing folks consult with the community folks and they create the messaging together.
2. It’s not customer service
Your community manager is not the person who sits by the phone all day taking calls from customers. Sure, we do take calls and we receive email, lots of email, but our job isn’t specifically to assist customers with their issues. Because we’re the people who many customers see online, they reach out to us for guidance and assistance and we’re good with that. However, our role in customer service is more to refer issues to the proper parties and follow up to make sure said issues are taken care of. Having one person as the face of the brand helps to instill trust and loyalty within the brand. So a community manager will help to make sure the customer is receiving a positive customer service experience, but he or she doesn’t necessarily provide that experience.
3. It’s not tech support
We don’t fix computers, we can’t tell you why your hosting is spotty and we’re not the keeper of your password. When you reach out to a community manager with a technical issue, he or she will be more than happy to assist you. And by assist you I mean he or she will be more than happy to help you find the right person to troubleshoot your issues. We’ll also follow up with you and/the technical support person to make sure your issue was fixed to your satisfaction. However, we’re not troubleshooters. We don’t break out the tools and tinker around, we’re there to make sure you have the most positive experience possible.
4. It’s not social networking
It looks like we spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter, doesn’t it? While we do use the social networks to reach out to our community, we’re not on there all day providing friendly banter and tips for making the most of your (insert name of product or service here). More likely than not it’s the place you’ll see us the most. The social networks are one of the most important places for us to get to know our friends, followers, customers and community, so it makes sense this is what we’re known for. However, if you’re planning to be a community manager because you like to tweet, you need to get on your career research a little better because the gig is heavier than that. Social networking is a very small part of what we do.
5. It’s not P.R.
We’re not here to put a spin on your brand, handle crisis control, or write your press releases. Though we do community outreach, our job is more or less to spread the word about what we do and make sure everyone is (again) having a positive experience. It’s not solely up to us to do blogger outreach, hand out free samples, or make sure the right things are being said. Again, we help with the messaging because no one knows our community like we do.
What does a Community Manager do, anyway?
What’s funny about the above mentioned duties is that we do a lot of that stuff anyway. Part of it is our job to do, and the other part we do because the people who created our job description thinks things like marketing and public relations fall under the umbrella of community management. While we do many of those tasks to some extent, those department are not our job. Our job is to act as the face of the brand and the voice of the community. We’re there to ensure trust in the brand, give key information about our community to various departments, and offer a channel of open communication.
1. A community manager is the voice and face of the brand
Doesn’t it get confusing when you visit a company’s website or navigate about a thousand names on a telephone menu because you can’t figure out who to talk to with your specific issue? There’s only one name you need to know and that’s “community manager.” Community professionals answer your questions and make sure your question or feedback reaches the right ears. Not only do we speak for the brand, but we also speak for the community. We make sure community concerns are heard and that the brand acts in the best interests of the community. Always.
2. A community manager is a strategist
Community managers don’t just slap together a few tweets and call it a day. We’re very strategic about everything we do. We carefully weigh our words and actions. We gauge action and reaction to help put together campaigns and promotions. We may be spontaneous with our banter but make no mistake, even the simplest actions are planned out.
3. A community manager is a content creator
It’s our job to communicate with the community and we use a variety of channels to do so. You’ll often see community managers creating videos and blog posts. What we post on the social networks is also considered content and we take great care in crafting these messages. You have to have a way with words and be well versed in grammar and usage to be a successful CM.
4. A community manager is a numbers cruncher
Many aspiring community managers are surprised to learn what a numbers game online community management can be. We spent a lot of time analyzing numbers. We research demographics, how people are interacting with us on the different platforms, how our community is reacting to our different campaigns, and whether or not our community efforts are driving sales. In fact, it’s safe to say that a community manager spends a lot of time looking at numbers. If spreadsheets and reports aren’t your thing, you may wish to reconsider your career choice.
5. A community manager is a communicator
Online community management is perfect for those of us who have the gift of gab. Our primary job is to communicate. We communicate with our brand and we communicate with our customers and potential customers. It’s for this reason a community manager MUST be eloquent and be able to do so with brevity. We’re the voice of the brand and we wear that title with pride.
Community Management is its own department
I’m sure I’m not a hundred percent correct with everything discussed here, either. Community managers often talk about wearing many hats, and it’s true. Any list you see of community management tasks is incomplete, because there’s always more that we do and we continue to pick up more tasks as we evolve. Every day we’re pulled in a thousands different directions and being able to adapt is essential.
A community manager IS NOT the company assistant. We’re not there to handle every small, mundane task the marketing or customers service teams don’t want to handle. Online community management is its own department with its on set of duties. Successful community managers are those who don’t get confused with the overlap.
What’s your take?
I just shared my take on a community manager’s job – and many of misconceptions folks have about this job. Is this a correct assessment or am I way off base? What isn’t a community manager’s job – and what is?