I’ve been working as a community manager for over 5 years now, and managing my own team for the last year. During that time I’ve seen a lot of changes, both in general community and social media management, and the general idea of what a community manager is. Throughout those changes, however, a few things have always remained constant.
#1 – Information.
I really can’t stress this enough. If you look at the organization of most companies (after the initial start-up phase) you’ll likely see departments such as: customer support, sales, R&D, account management, marketing. More advanced companies may even have a product team, compliance/legal departments, design team. CS reps know how to offer support for a product. Sales know how to sell it. Marketing know how to market it. R&D know how to build it. Now enters the community manager – what does he/she need to know? The answer is everything.
Now, of course I don’t mean a CM needs to be expert in all, but to be an effective CM you really need to be pretty up to date on everything. How can you connect with an end user if you don’t know the basics to offer them support? How can you discuss a product/service on social media or forums if you don’t know how it works, or what the current bugs/issues are? You certainly can’t post updates on social media or write a post on the company blog if you aren’t up to date on the marketing plan.
OK, so we’re agreed – a CM needs to be familiar with what’s going on internally at company. Well, it doesn’t stop there… what about the rest of the industry? In order to highlight the strengths of your company/brand, you need to know the weaknesses (or at least major competition) To do that, you need to be familiar with the competition; you need to know what else is out there. To manage a community of people, users of your product or service, you need to be informed. Successful communities come from real connections, and real connections come from informed content. Knowledge is power.
#2 – Keep Calm and Carry On
Upset member of your community? Bug in your product/service? Recent update that seems to have done more harm than good? Welcome to the daily life of a Community Manager. We all offer support in our jobs, in one way or another. Whether it be to end users, business clients, other departments within our company, or even our boss – every job is somewhat support oriented. Whereas an account manager may be dealing with tens or hundreds of clients, or a customer support representative handling hundreds of inquiries a day, a CM may be managing a community of millions.
So how do you handle that? The correct answer is patiently. Getting flustered and making rash decisions is never the way to go. Think twice before replying to the angry member on Facebook, take a second before tweeting, try to find a solution or workaround for the recent bug before giving up. A quote I heard the other day was “What happens in social, stays in social.” Opposite to the common saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” the author meant to say that social never disappears. Each and every word we release into the world wide web is forever. As a CM we manage brand reputation – that task comes with extreme responsibility and all major decisions should be well thought out and made from a position of calm, not stress.
#3 – Be Honest
If you’ve built a strong community, your members want to be a part of it. The best way to build that, or keep it, is by being honest. Even in times of controversy, the average person simply wants the truth. Even if it sounds worse than a well written “half-truth”, it generally works out better in the long run. I can’t even count how many times I see small issues get blown up by a CM trying to cover them up. Respect your community, respect the members, and they will respond in kind. It may sound old fashioned, but hey.. it works.
If you’re a Community Manager or Social Media Manager, let me know what you think. Have you experienced the same? Think differently?