What is an Online Community Manager?

by Mike Fraietta on December 4, 2010

The Online Community Manager is a relatively new term for a job that is becoming increasingly important in today’s business landscape.  It’s a combination of customer service, sales, public relations, marketing and pure awesomeness.  Online community managers find your relevant community, keep them attentively engaged, create thought-leading content, measure success, educate, organize and advocate among a slew of other things all designed to raise awareness of your brand, serve your customers and ultimately,  increase your bottom line.  There is not a single blueprint for this position, but I’ll offer my insights gained during my experiences as the community manager for two social software companies, and from what I’ve learned through  those that I’ve educated in social media monitoring. I’ve broken it down to describe and define the qualities, attributes, and characteristics of a community manager, their duties, and finally some useful resources for community managers and those who hire them.

Qualities, Attributes and Characteristics of an Online Community Manager

Genuine Passion – Your community manager must believe in the brand/company and what it represents.  You can’t fake this or use an agency.

Vision of the CEO – Must know what the long-term vision of the company is and be able to represent the company in that fashion when necessary.

Social – It’s  called social media; social butterflies wanted. However, keep in mind that listening is most important when communicating.

Personable and Open-minded – Not only on the customer side, but the employee side as well.  Your community manager will be working with practically every department in your organization, along with people from all walks of life on the customer/consumer side. Whether they’re chatting with an intern, CEO, existing customer or new lead, they should treat each equally.

Writing Skills – It could be 140 characters, a blog post or a 140 page e-book, your community manager will be doing a ton of writing.

Multiple Hats – Your community manager will, again, be dealing with every department of your company so they should have an understanding  how each department works.  I highly  recommend they sporadically sit in on the PR, customer service, sales, marketing, executive and product meetings.

Costumer Advocate – They must want the customer to win.  I realize that this may seem contradictory at first, but if your community manager is bending over backwards for a customer (especially publicly) they are showing their (meaning your) following: marketing, PR, and customer service which equals  positive word of mouth that will spread beyond the online world..

Technology Enthusiast – Your community manager doesn’t have to be on every social network, but they have to be found wherever your customers and community may be.  You’d love to have your community live on your site, but that’s rarely the case.  Google them.

Online Footprint – While you’re googling them, take a look at things like their comments and other writings to get a feel for their writing style and personality.

Event Organizer - It may be a local tweetup or an online webinar; either way your community manager needs to know how to round ‘em up and keep them entertained.

Speaker and Rock Star – As of 2010, expect your community manager to be in demand as a speaker at local, national, even international events and conferences to share their experiences and provide thought leadership while representing the brand. This is especially important for industries not involved in tech; imagine the Metropolitan Opera Community Manager sharing their experiences and successes with ever-sharing, highly influential tech community. Mentioning your brand as a case study is priceless.

Teacher – Your community manager will be tech-savvy, knowing the hottest tools and will share those internally to benefit other departments and resources.  Currently, the methods used for online personal branding are still largely unknown to most of the world. Your community manager should be educating their colleagues on the importance of it, and how to do it right.

Please add anything additional in the comments.

Duties include, but are certainly not limited to:

Monitoring online mentions* – engaging, distributing internally for further action as appropriate, and measuring accordingly.

Producing content on behalf of the brand to provide thought leadership and humanize** the brand.

Educating the internal team on personal and product branding and keeping them up to date on time-saving and important technology .

Attending conferences in a wide-variety of industries, particularly where your target audience will be.

Scale accordingly. This is based on my experience at a 200 person B2B software company. Many companies will need multiple listeners and community managers.

*Monitoring for mentions of: brand name, product names, competitors and their products, industry terms and phrases, specific influencers + industry terms, executive team, and variations of all of the above in order to have a pulse on sentiment analysis, competitive intelligence, product development, market, intelligence, sales leads, customer service issues, crisis management, community building, and sales enablement.

**Humanizing is the act of making a company look and feel like a collective of individual humans as opposed to a logo and corporation.  Enhances the customer relationship.  The goal is to connect with hearts and minds rather than eyes and ears.

Additional Resources

Some of my personal favorite fellow community managers are Erin Bury, Maria OgnevaSaul ColtElaine Ellis, and Lesley Yarbrough.

While Jeremiah Owyang’s The Four Tenets of the Community Manager was written in 2007, the tenets still hold true today.  Also, check out Vadim Lavrusik’s 10 Tips for Aspiring Community Managers and Justin Olivetti explaining community managers to be the very definition of a paradox.

A helpful LinkedIn Group is Online Community Managers, but you must request access.

Finally, don’t forget Community Manager Appreciation Day is the 4th Monday of every January!

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