Debate: Do All Community Managers Need Social Media?

Photo cred: Rishi Bandopadhay

Seems that a lot of people are under the impression that all community managers have to use social media.

Social media is one tool.  It’s one of the many tools available to marketers, community managers, PR professionals etc.  It is not a requirement for all roles that a community manager could possibly take on.

On twitter, I had a long debate with Alana Joy on this topic.  This discussion led to this post on the ever insightful social media explorer.  This is my response to the twitter debate and that blog post.

We’ve cast this term “community management” over an entire range of roles and responsibilities.  Honestly, most of this debate could probably be settled with better defined roles within the “community manager spectrum”.

There’s so much more to it just than social media outreach and engagement.  Today’s community manager might be responsible for anything ranging from customer service to marketing to event management and the list goes on.

Can social media help all of these potential roles? I don’t know…maybe it can.  Is it required in order to be successful in each of these roles? Nope…

Debate the semantics of social media all you want but for the purpose of this discussion, we’re talking about the twitter and facebook type sites…not email, forums etc…

To give you an example, I spoke with my friend Justin, who has several years of community manager experience and is currently the community manager for Change.org. Here’s Justin’s take:

“I focus primarily on internal communities. Turning “owned communities” (an ugly term for “on my site”) into rabid evangelists who love the people who are there as much as where “there” is, will defend it, contribute to it, and go out on a limb for it. Managing, engaging and leveraging “owned” communities vs. external communities are two distinct skill sets. Both are needed, just like you have “PR” and “Advertising” as two separate but related industries. Internal communities and external communities are two different beasts, meet different business needs and have different tool sets.

One of the communities I managed was a casual gaming site.  My goal was to take the community that we had (~400 people when I was hired) and turn it into an asset. The community produced content, moderated our forums, ran tournaments, produced plugins and dealt with cheating, abuse and customer support issues. My job was to manage the community we had and to leverage the shit out of it. It was someone else’s job to do user acquisition, but once they were on the site, they were mine.

Am I a social media expert? Far from it, and I’m ok with that. I don’t use it in my day to day job because it’s not my primary value driver at this point. Is it incredibly valuable to many many organizations – most definitely. Will I ever need it? Maybe. Will I definitely need it? Probably not.”

Justin’s full response can be found here.

Justin doesn’t use social media in his community management role because it doesn’t make sense for his objectives.

When looking for the community manager that I’d like to achieve these kinds of goals I’d look for someone who:

  • Understands the userbase and the content related to the userbase.
  • Can create a platform where members of the userbase can interact and connect effectively.
  • Can effectively engage with users.
  • Understands the advantage to the company of turning a userbase into a community.
  • Can organize events and projects to strengthen the community.

…none of which require the use of social media.

It’s easy to think that social media is ubiquitous to those of us who spend hours and hours on these platforms every day.  In reality though, even with their enormous stats, not everyone is using social media and those who do aren’t using it as religiously as one might assume.

It’s definitely popular and it’s definitely a growing trend, but to call it a ubiquitous form of communication is ridiculous.

So before you blindly slap on “social media expert” on your next community manager job description, take a serious look at what you’re really trying to build.

Have at it.

Should Your Community Manager be a Leader?

Photo cred: Steve Jurvetson

Does a Community Manager need to be a leader?

I asked this question and god a lot of different views after a really insightful conversation with Teresa Basich on twitter.  I think that leadership CAN play a role in community management in a number of ways, but it is not a pre-requisite.

When talking about something as broad and undefined as “Community Management”, you’re going to get a lot of varied angles.

The Community Manager can be a leader in the space.

When I think about this, I think about people like DJ Waldow, the Community Manager for Blue Sky Factory.  People view DJ as a leader in the email marketing space and so his participation in the “email marketing community” will drive potential customers to their service.

I think about people like Andrew Hyde who until recently was the Community Director for TechStars.  Andrew has become a leader in the startup space, starting projects like Startup Weekend (which is so awesome), and so by participating in the start-up space, he drives more recognition and credibility to TechStars.

This obviously isn’t all they do, but I see it as a big part.

If your Community Manager is a recognized leader in the space, their influence can really help your brand.  Imagine if Seth Godin emailed you, personally asking you to write about his project on your blog.  Chances are, you’ll give that email some real consideration.

The Community Manager can be a leader for the brand’s community.

When I think about this role, I think about Ryan Paugh, the Director of Community for Brazen Careerist.  Ryan is extremely active within the Brazen community.  He drives conversations, acknowledges loyal users and is constantly interacting.  He is the leader of the Brazen community in my eyes.

I think about Erin Bury, the Community Manager for Sprouter.  Erin hosts events for entrepreneurs, interacts and drives the community within Sprouter.  She too is a leader for her brand’s community.

This gives the community a central person to turn to with their feedback, and questions.  It gives a face to the brand.

The Community Manager should be a leader within the company.

See Andreana Drencheva’s post that reminded me of this one.

This is an important one. I think that whoever is driving your company’s community efforts should be a leader within your company.

They should be someone who has the authority to make decisions and influence other decision makers.

They should be someone who can take the needs of the community and implement them quickly.

They should be a leader in the company because when they interact, it makes the customer and community feel more entitled.  It lets the community know that you care about them.  If your intern is talking to me on twitter, I feel a lot less connected to your brand than if I’m talking to the CEO.

With that said…

I don’t think that the community manager absolutely has to be a leader.  Or at least, there are different ways to look at it.  I think one great method is the “Lead from behind” method (Thanks Alexa).  It’s about understanding what drives a community and providing the resources for it do grow.  It’s about identifying the natural leaders in your community and letting them lead.

A Community Manager might have more “behind the scenes” responsibilities, depending on their goals.  If they’re more strategy focused, they may just need to be savvy in putting the pieces in place.  They may have more of a marketing focus, working more on campaigns.

What’s your take?  Does a Community Manager need to be a leader?

Don’t Hire a Community Manager for Their Network

Photo cred: Paul Walsh

I’m not going to get into the debate about the definition of a “community manager”. For the sake of this post, lets consider it someone who’s job is to product content for an audience, interact with that audience, and take care of the internal community.

There’s a trend in who’s being hired as community managers. They’re usually young, they “omg love love love” social media, they’re already active in the company’s target market and they have already established a large network.

I’m going to talk about the last part.

Now I understand why having an established network can seem appealing to a company. Let me address some of the assumptions that I see pretty often.

“If they can build a strong network around their personal brand, they can do the same for our brand.”

  • No. Well, maybe… Building a personal network is very different from building a company’s brand. The core difference is the motivation.  You don’t have a boss demanding that you show results when you’re building a personal brand. You’re not doing it for anyone but yourself.
  • “By hiring this person, we automatically get their network to become part of our community”

  • No. Well, maybe… Sure, since the person you’re hiring is passionate about your company, they’ll want to share it with their network. They can’t just automatically convert their friends into fans of your brand though. Their network might be an “in” for your brand, but it will have little long term value for you if the person doesn’t give their network (and the rest of the brand’s audience) something to share and support (aka they don’t do their job well).
  • “But their network supports them so much now. They think the world of them!”

  • That could certainly be a good sign. It could also be a sign that this person is reliant on their network to get things done. “Community management” isn’t calling in favors to your friends. It takes a lot more business knowledge.
  • “They speak at a ton of events! Now they can go talk about our company at those events”

  • No, well sort of. They can’t just go up and talk about your brand the whole time. It will however, bring great credibility to your brand as they’ll be representing you, as an “expert” voice in the field. I’m sure they’ll slip a couple plugs in there too. Just don’t think that you can replace their usual content with information about your brand.
  • There are just a few of the common misconceptions about the value in hiring a community manager with a big network. Remember, you’re hiring for a position that requires as much business know-how as it does “social” know-how.

    Having a large network is a good sign that the person knows how to connect with people, and that they’re committed to their career.  If you hire a community manager strictly for their popularity however, you’re making a heavy investment for a very short-term gain.

    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

    A Problem With Twitter Chats?

    Photo cred: Lise

    Who owns a community on twitter? No one can moderate it so does anyone really control it?

    After participating in #blogchat last weekend, I read a post from Mack Collier. The comments held a lively debate. I suggest you read a bit of the comments, but the basic argument was this:

    Mack commented on the issue of people coming and tweeting out links to their posts using the #blogchat hashtag without really participating in the chat.
    Ryan, one of the people Mack quoted in the post, contended that a hashtag isn’t “owned” by anyone. He was using the tag to reach people he thought would find those posts useful. There is no “wrong” way to use a hashtag.

    As a fellow chat founder, I understand how Mack felt. He loves his community, and hates to see it mistreated. Still, I realized that our chats are run on a hashtag in a completely open forum. You can’t prevent someone from using a hashtag however they want. No one owns a hashtag.

    If someone wanted to start a blogchat today, and say that it’s a hashtag used to share blog posts about blogging, there’s really nothing, the original blogchat community, could do about it. Same for #u30pro…same for any other chat.

    Personally, I love that people share good posts in the #u30pro feed throughout the week, as long as it’s not spammy. But really, there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Gathering around a common interest is great on twitter. But for large, organized communities, is twitter the best option?

    Home Away from Home: Building Community OFF Your Blog

    This is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants (an epic journey of over 75 guest posts). Want to learn more about Matt & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

    Photo cred: Poe Tatum

    I talk a lot about building community, and then I talk about it some more. David, as the community manager of Scribnia, has probably talked your ear off about community as well. But, you know, there’s always room for just one more “building community” post – and this time, I won’t focus on what you should be doing on your blog – but instead, giving you a few ideas to cultivate community elsewhere.

    Get active on other networks

    Now we all know the big three (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) – those are no brainers. But what about Brazen Careerist, Twenty Something Bloggers, and (wink wink) Scribnia? You’ve probably heard of them, but are you really using them? These networks are out there for a reason – and they’re a great resource to tap into if you’re looking to discover new bloggers and network with new people. Everyone doesn’t hang out in the same place – so if you’re only hanging around Twitter and Facebook, you’re missing out on a huge untapped resource of amazing people. Invest some of your time building relationships around the web and leave some breadcrumbs that will lead folks back to your neck of the woods.

    RSS Subscribers

    Have you ever thought about this one? We’re all constantly urging people to subscribe to our blogs through e-mail and RSS reader. Why? Because it helps us build “loyal” community of readers. This is obviously an imperative goal (that you should be measuring regularly) throughout the development of your blog. But RSS subscribers can be both a blessing and a curse. They may always read your posts, yet they might not ever visit your actual site – thus missing out on that big ol’ community thing you have going on.

    What’s the point? You need to invite and entice your RSS subscribers to click through. How? ASKING QUESTIONS is a good place to start. Make an effort to objectively ask questions in your post that instigates a response from your readers. In other words, force them to come to your “hood” in order to see people’s responses (and hopefully leave one of their own). The only way to get people to click through their Google Reader is if you give them good reason to.

    Email

    With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, and a plethora of other social networks, e-mail seems to be a dying trend. But it shouldn’t be, at least not for a rock star community builder such as yourself. Every time someone leaves a comment on your blog, you are blessed with an email address – or as I like to call it, a “gateway to a relationship”. Use it (wisely – not spammy) to your advantage. A blog can be a great place to start a discussion, but email can be a beautiful way to keep it going. Your friendships and connections don’t have to stop in the comment section – and taking the time to follow up via email (when it makes sense to do so) shows that you are really committed to building a relationship with that person.

    IRL

    Ah yes, three letters that we are starting to fade away: IRL or “in real life” – there’s still that distinction between our online lives and the ones we live when we’re not in front of a computer screen – but it’s fading fast – the two are quickly becoming one in the same. So when we talk about building community, it would be stupid not to mention the great connections and friendships that can be found over a cup of coffee or an ice cold Black and Tan.

    The beauty of blogging and Social Media is it provides a gateway to opportunity – whether it be personal or professional, making friends or finding clients – it may all start with a blog or a tweet, but it doesn’t ever have to end there. Focus on building community and relationships everywhere – and your blog will become a much more fulfilling place for you and your readers to hang out.

    I’m Not Here to Be Your Friend

    The other day I read a great post by Carlos Miceli titled “The Media Attention Whores“. The post brought up the issue of media professionals that put more value in talking about what they’re doing, than actually doing it.

    The post was spot on and the phenomenal (and heated) discussion in the comments provided even more insight.  It got me thinking about a common misconception that has been brewing.

    I think perhaps we’re forgetting why we’re all here..so let me tell you why I’m here, why I blog, why I tweet, and why I engage in this community.

    I am a business person first.

    My activities and interactions in this “social media community” have the primary goal to succeed as a professional. If my time spent here doesn’t help me to perform my job better, and to benefit my career, then I am wasting my time.

    Does that mean I can’t make friends during the process? Of course not.  I have made amazing friendships along the way. I consider people like Lauren Fernandez, Arik Hanson, Keith Burtis, Gloria Bell and Stuart Foster to be some of my closest and most trusted friends.  I didn’t engage with them to become friends though.  I engaged with them to benefit my career, and the friendship resulted from the process.

    Don’t forget why others are here.  YES, most people are participating in this community for the sake of “conversation and networking”.  But conversation and networking aren’t a result, they’re tactics.  The purpose of building these relationships is to drive more traffic, build more opportunities etc…we’re building relationships for business purposes.

    Maybe I’m the one being naive.  Maybe I’m selfish, and I should stop being so “self-promotional”.  If I don’t promote my work to the network that I’ve built, however, then why am I here?

    Remember…a community manager is still a manager.