8 Too Many Responsibilities of a Community Manager

Photo cred: Thomas Hawk

Community Manager.

It’s a title that didn’t exist a few years ago.  Now, in 2010, every business and their mother has one.

…but what is a “community manager”.  Everyone seems to have a different perspective on the responsibilities of a community manager.

Here’s your (shitty) answer: It’s a broad term.

…and the problem is that so often, since the responsibilities aren’t clearly defined, they are ALL expected.  Then community managers end up having to answer for 7 full time jobs worth of results.

A title “community manager” can be broken down into countless other titles.  But since titles don’t actually mean anything (I make up a new one for myself every day), I’ll list out the some of the possible responsibilities that a community manager could have.  They might do one of these things.  They might do 3.  I hope, for their sake, they aren’t responsible for all of them.

Let me know if I forget any:

  1. Customer Service. Responding to customer complaints wherever they may occur.
  2. PR. Announcing new developments, responding to crisis, seeking media coverage, etc…
  3. Marketing. Improving brand recognition, launching contests, sharing content and media etc…
  4. Evangelist. Loving the crap out of your brand…in public.
  5. Content producer. Writing blog posts, creating videos, conducting interviews, tweeting, all that good stuff.
  6. Business development. Establishing partnerships, creating leads for the sales team to follow up on.
  7. Spokesperson. Attends and speaks at events.  “The face” of your company.
  8. Event planner. Hosts events and builds a community through offline interactions.

Don’t make the mistake of hiring a community manager because “everyone else has one”.  Know which specific responsibilities you need handled, and hire accordingly.

Then you can call them your “community manager”, or your “social media mega magician-ator” or whatever you want.

Good luck,

David

Chief Juggling Officer, Scribnia.com

28 thoughts on “8 Too Many Responsibilities of a Community Manager

  1. It sounds like a great opportunity for a young professional (like the “under 30” crowd, right? 🙂 ) I think this not only because of the obvious (and all-too-often assumed) niche for social media, but also because it’s a chance to try on many different roles and further identify where your real strengths are.

    1. It’s true, it can be a great opportunity for young pros. At the same token, so often you see a young pro being thrown into the position of “community manager” because they’re “tech savvy” or whatever other stereotype you want to throw in there. Then, when they’re in over their head, juggling 7 responsibilities that they’re relatively inexperienced in, the company doesn’t get why they don’t see more results.

    1. I’m learning every day. Since my start at Scribnia, my role has changed dramatically. Hard to even say I’m a community manager anymore!

      That infographic is a better description of my role now haha. Although I think all of the responsibilities listed there aren’t typically Community Manager roles.

  2. Well said David. It’s very, very true. Many companies/clients expect all of these roles to be filled by one person. I agree, they do fall under the role of community manager. However, that’s more work than any one person can do well. Solution? You need more people assigned to the task.

    I have a community management gig for a really, really huge brand. We have this argument all the time. They want it all, and should have it all, but one person can’t pull it off.

    1. Yea it really is. If you have a full “social” or “community” team, then you can handle all of these things. I think the problem is that companies are still viewing social as an “add-on” to existing positions, rather than a full time responsibility in itself.

      Without people to delegate these tasks to, it’s impossible to handle on your own.

      I’d love to hear more from your experience… if they have you telling them that it’s not possible to have one individual handle all of these things, what is their argument?

  3. Man, this is a timely post! I agree with your descriptions above about what “buckets” a Community Management role can contribute to/perform. That, and more!

    What I’d also like to add though, is that those buckets are perhaps the beauty of a community management role… the variety of it all.

    Hear me out!

    Throughout the decades, us marketers have usually remained a bit behind the scenes. We’ve been planning and launching mass media ad campaigns, designing websites, writing content, planning shows, sending out emails and writing collateral. All of these are necessary (and I’ve done many of them myself), but in my experience, all of these items are one (or more) steps removed from the customer.

    If I planned a show, it was a salesperson usually attending (if I went, it was for logistics, not to work a booth). If I wrote a collateral piece it was a dual effort with marketing and sales for content and messaging, but I rarely got feedback from sales (or even the customer!) about how these pieces were received or could be improved. Email got me a bit closer to the customer directly, but often times wasn’t the decision-maker.

    Now, I know that the above situations are often a function of who I worked for rather than the jobs I was doing, but it remained consistent across time and companies so allow me to draw some general conclusions :).

    I was always the person from the marketing department who would request to go on sales calls and take a few hours out of my day to do so when someone took me up on my request. A few of my colleagues also did this, but it was far from the norm.

    For me, the change has been from having to fight (sometimes) to get out behind the curtain, to being out from behind the curtain by design of the role.

    I, for one, really LOVE that change. I talk with all sorts of people on a daily basis and know that this direct contact has helped me improve in all of the areas I contribute to (many are listed above).

    Perhaps instead of looking at Community Management as a role that isn’t easily defined because it contributes to so much, we should be thinking of the fact that this role impacts so many other areas of our business as the definition of the role. Flip it around and use that definition to build out the description of the role.

    Just a thought, but this conversation thread seems to be happening in many places across the web and I’m interested to hear your thoughts on that flipped definition.

    Katie Morse
    Community Manager | Radian6
    @misskatiemo

    1. I agree, completely. I love the shift to communications professionals actually being able to communicate on a personal level, as well as on a brand level.

      It’s also true that being in a position can be great, as you get to have your hands in so many aspects of the business.

      I’m coming from the perspective of a startup…and you also have much more experience than I do, so I can only trust your understanding of the issue.

      I think where I run into issues is with accountability. If a boss holds a community manager accountable for 8 full time jobs, it’s unfair to the community manager. There is no way that a community manager, on their own, can juggle 8 roles when each of them could be a full time role on their own.

      You said “we should be thinking of the fact that this role impacts so many other areas of our business as the definition of the role.” Definitely. It’s when the community manager role BECOMES the many other areas of business, rather than “impacting” it that you run in to trouble.

      It’s also a matter of spreading too thin. If a single employee tries to do a great job at 8 different things, they’re going to end up doing a mediocre job at everything. Instead, is it not better to have each employee focus primarily on 3-4 things?

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Katie. There are definitely two understandable sides to the argument. Can’t wait to hear more thoughts.

      1. I’ll try and keep my response shorter. You’re completely correct when you say: “It’s also a matter of spreading too thin. If a single employee tries to do a great job at 8 different things, they’re going to end up doing a mediocre job at everything. Instead, is it not better to have each employee focus primarily on 3-4 things?”

        I think that the role has to be just as well-defined as any other role in your organization. Poor definition can lead to poor execution and mis-understood priorities and roles across the board, both on the part of the Community Manager themselves, as well as the people they report to/interact with on the regular.

        I think that Vince brings up a good point below me here. Often times, the role of a Community Manager is seen (like some SM roles) as a more junior role, yet one that requires experience far beyond perhaps “years of experience” or even pay. That’s another mis-match in my mind, and one that the businesses themselves help to create and perpetuate.

        Again – there are businesses that don’t do all of these things, but for the sake of conversation I’m bringing up the fact that some do.

  4. Hi, David, been a while since I popped in.

    Just want to say, don’t DO IT! well not exactly.

    I’ve looked at various positions in the past year, and like bloated software there is a decided “feature creep” happening.

    Companies are asking for players who are about one step down from God in a lot of cases.

    It’s cool to hire, and then be presented with a request for more staff or money down the road, because that’s basically what will happen.

    I am only saddened to find that younger workforce entrants must pretend to have mastered and be proficient in what is asked for.

    Today, I see requirement lists, and descriptions of areas covered by a position about twice as long as the resumes themselves.

    Sad and silly, really.

    1. Yea every job posting these days seem to want a jack of all trades. It’s great to get someone who is multitalented, but to expect them to be able to contribute each of their talents at a full time level is unrealistic..and a recipe for failure.

      And you’re right on about younger pros, being called to these positions, and having to pretty much pretend that they have the capacity to handle it all.

      Glad to see you back here (=

  5. David –

    Nice post – I would very much agree but also be even more expansive because there are plenty of internal community management roles that sit in HR, knowledge management, project management, product management, and other groups. We often think of community management not just as an explicit role but as a management approach to *any* role. It can be applied either way, depending on strategy and personal proclivities. Regardless, it is a very multi-disciplinary way of doing business that is hard to be successful at without broad exposure to the business and the various functions of the business.

    1. very true. There are a number of internal positions that a community manager could take on. As I work for a small start up, I’m not too familiar with this side of things.

      Where do you think the balance should be found? True, it needs to have broad exposure to different areas of the company, but at what point does it become too broad?

      1. Yes, keep an eye on new technologies, as well as competitors, but what I meant was be in charge of developing/deploying new features and services, based on customer/business demands. It is also important to follow what is happening outside the community, including marketing/recruiting. Share the voice outside the community!

  6. Great layout on the role of the social media dude/community manager/web 2.0 guru..

    As “one” for my company, my role changes daily depending on what is going on that day/week. And with the social platforms and web trends changing abruptly at time, you have to be on your feet to adjust to your environment that next day.

    I too have seen my role change over the past 14 months, and I know it will evolve a few more times over the course of this next year. But that is definitely what keeps the job interesting; the constant change and feeling that your job has meaning.

    I read an article on this book on the plane last week – I definately recommend reading this book: The M-factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace
    (http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061769313/The_MFactor/index.aspx)

  7. After reading a lot of the other comments, it seems like that the 8-million thing to do community manager is common. And that makes sense at a start-up or nonprofit with limited funds. However, cash flush organizations of any classification should be willing to spread out. One of my old supervisors told me(in the midst of a heated discussion), that it’s better to do a few things well than a bunch of things halfheartedly just to be doing stuff. That’s something companies should keep in mind when squeezing productivity out of fewer people.

  8. Absolutely agree that there are way too many responsibilities, but I find that it happens more with smaller companies, especially start-ups. They want the one person handling all of those related aspects. It works for awhile, but ultimately if the company is growing and the person doesn’t get the help they need, there’s definite burn-out.

  9. Love this post–so true! My main beef with community/social media manager jobs is the huge discrepancy in what people who do this job are compensated. In this past week alone, I’ve seen about 5 job postings for this position–but as unpaid intern. Meanwhile you will see essentially the same job posting–but looking for someone with a ton of experience and paying six figures. Then I work at an association, where salaries are based on what equivalent jobs pay at other associations–well, when there’s no “equivalent job” at another association,you’re out of luck.

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