Community managers are in great demand, though the job description changes from brand to brand and agency to agency. Ideally a great community manager is a flexible, curious, literate people person with a minor case of OCD.
Community managers are tasked with creating and maintaining a branded social experience that respects and engages customers and prospects. They must present the brand in a positive light plus encourage interaction, conversation, and sharing in ways that ultimately satisfy the members of the community and lead to growth in followers, engagement, and brand preference.
Finding skilled community managers is as hard to do as is doing the job well. Maybe it’s because of the complexity of the skills, sensibilities, and tasks required.
Consider the six essential skills that are central to the job.
Brand Sherpa. A community manager has to deeply understand a brand and its audience. He or she must intuitively get the brand voice, personality, tone, and manner as well as the positioning of the brand both in customers’ minds and in a competitive arena. By knowing how a particular brand would speak, react, respond, and converse in an array of situations, the manager can develop a content strategy and an editorial calendar.
Social Native. Managers have to inherently understand the always-on nature of social media, the nuances of each platform/channel, and the emerging social norms that govern how people present themselves in community. They need to have the same feelings about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and others that their audiences have. They have to feel it naturally and they have to be facile at real-time communication with a finger on the pulse of trending topics and the kinds of content with viral potential.
Customer Service Rep. Given the large number of brands interacting on social media, a manager must have a keen sense of urgency around customer service issues both in terms of solving individual problems and shaping the community’s perception of how the brand manages customer service. Part helpmate, part traffic cop, and part apologist, the community manager must understand the business and emotional impact of problem solving both for the individuals involved and for the impact on the larger community of fans or followers. He or she needs to help resolve issues and then merchandise the solution, since customers who have had problems resolved tend to tell many more people about the experience.
Hall Monitor. A community manager has to enforce norms of civility and good taste in social media. And while each platform has tools to filter racist, vulgar, and other forms of unacceptable expression, the manager has to be on the lookout for nastiness, sarcasm, and fair play. The objective is not censorship but respectful conversation, even-handed criticism, and openness to many different perspectives.
Social Director. The community manager has to connect the branded conversation to trending topics, larger cultural issues, and the interests of the community. Cadence, frequency, and forms of expression are the tools of the trade. Mixing direct one-to-one with one-to-many communication, a manager can direct or expand the conversation, prompt viral sharing, and encourage different forms of participation. Being present and involved also means understanding who is at the party, why they are there, and what they expect to see, hear, and feel and then delivering on these expectations.
Analyst. Successful community management is a function of playing close attention to what happens and leveraging those learnings to increase customer interest and satisfaction. Measuring the impact of topics, posts, or images to create better conversational rhythms or to insure that more followers see or engage with content are key parts of the role. Developing best practices and tactics to use the idiosyncrasies of each social network to the benefit of a brand and its followers is the objective.
Today’s community managers are the digital equivalent of famous hostesses like Pamela Harriman, Susan Mary Alsop, or Pearl Mesta and/or legendary TV talk show hosts like Phil Donohue, Sally Jessy Raphael, or even Oprah. If they have these six skills they can make all the difference.