The Emerging Role: Community Manager
Filed under: Collaboration, Community, New Media | Tags: Collaboration, Community, Internet, Networking, New Media, Review, Social Media, social networking, technology, Web 2.0 |
I previously worked for a start-up called, Passenger, where I was as a Community Manager for brands like Nike, JcPenney, and ABC. While at Passenger I posted to the company blog about the role of a Community Manager. Though the post remains mostly relevant, it does read much like an advertisement (ironic since at the time I clearly remember trying to ensure that it didn’t feel like an ad, but instead embraced the voice of the company, just as any Community Manager would do.)
I’ve included my post below, and have amended it slightly to reflect my current views, noted in purple.
Please note, that this was written while working for Passenger, not Yahoo!, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the company at this time.
The Emerging Role: Community Manager
February 12, 2008 | Posted by Melissa Daniels
And of course, there’s always the question of “Who will be running this?” which brings me to, well, me”the Community Manager, or, CM.
This still remains a critical question. Who runs your community is a critical aspect of how your community is run. Whether you like it or not, your CM’s personality often trickles into your community’s communication, so be careful and clear when making your hire. This person is going to be the voice of your brand, your product, and will be your day to day face to your users.
So what does a CM do, and who exactly are they managing? At Passenger, each of the CMs are people who have a knack for tech, love to communicate, and each have been Passenger Certified in “bridging the gap” ” they know how to help you create a successful community and help you get over that digital hurdle to make it all work
So let’s start there.
How does this work?
Sure the idea of entering into the Social Media realm is a little daunting. Ok, it’s a lot daunting. With all of the new tools springing up on a daily basis it’s hard to get a grip on what is a fad, what will stick around, and what is worth exploring a bit further.
This is still totally true. There are lots of social media tools out there, each clamoring to be the “next big thing”– it’s not imperative that you have a presence on EVERY site. But, it is imperative that you’re aware of as many mentions of your brand on those sites as possible. Go where your audience is. If you have a lot of people talking about your product on Twitter, you should definitely have a Twitter account to begin engaging these users. However, if you did a search for your brand and see that no one has mentioned your brand on Twitter, you might want to just stake your claim on your brand’s ID on Twitter so you don’t get “brandjacked.”
If you’re here right now, you’ve probably decided on the latter and want to know a bit more. So, what does a Community Manager actually do, and where on earth do they get their community? Communities consist of a group of customers or potential customers ”anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand”each eager to share their opinion and influence a brand that they care about— this could be positive or negative. (They come to us via our client’s email lists, customer lists or contact information gathered through a variety of other customer interactions. From here, members are invited to join, engaged by the opportunity to have their voices heard and have an impact on the brand.) This portion is/was part of the Passenger recruitment and community strategy.
As a Community Manager, my main task is to make sure people are happy ”this includes my client as well as my community members.
Reality check: people aren’t always happy. There are loads of people in the world who are perfectly happy being miserable. Some of these people hang out in discussion forums. You’ll probably meet a few. Your biggest challenge and indicator of success is whether or not you can “cut through the crap”– there are loads of people who get long, rambling emails that rage on and on about how one minor change to a product ruins their life. Sure, the message is long and tedious, but if you can cut through the emotion and find the logic– you’re on your way to becoming a rockstar. That’s the role of the community manager. Cutting through the emotion to ensure that you’re delivering clear, focused results to your team that produce meaningful products, decisions, and communities.
Each day we’re actively in our communities, reading posts, replying to messages, and noticing trends.
Your members are dedicated users– it’s important to always remember that your users are there, spending their free moments engaging with YOUR brand or product. Potentially, it’s their loyalty and insight that helps keep your company afloat. Remember to always high-five your community.
Among the most important aspect of this role is doing just that ”noticing trends or patterns. That’s how we make this work. By listening to what customers have to say and streamlining this information into a series of more digestible community “sound bites” we’re able to bridge the gap between what the customer wants and is talking about, and, what the client wants and is also talking about. And remember, to always pay it forward: communicate the changes back to your community, and let them know their voice had an impact.
How long does this last?
Not to sound trite or cliché, but these communities will last as long as you want them to. All they need to survive is attention and a lot of honesty. Making yourself and your brand more real and human is the first step to finding online success, and the best way to ensure longevity. Oh, and transparency. Never, ever, ever lie to a community. Ever.
Cue the Community Manager.
We’re here to maintain that relationship for as long as brands want to talk to their customers. (Which should be always.) Personally, part of the reason why I think Customer Collaboration is so successful is because of the personal touch involved. Actually placing a face to a name does wonders in real life it shouldn’t come as a surprise that within the B2C world, the effect is one and the same. In each of the communities I work with, as well as many of my peers’ communities, members feel a stronger tie to a brand when they know who they’re talking to. Being able to connect one on one with someone close to their favorite brand increases the value tenfold.
It’s that added personal touch that makes these communities last, and makes brands want to maintain them. It’s also the ability to make a difference in something they’re willing to spend their extra time on. Remember, only 10% of users create 90% of the content online– but the rest of us consume it: be sure that the content they create is something you’d want consumed.
What will I get out of this?
Naturally, when dealing with a business, the “how much bang am I getting for my buck” question is bound to come up. Companies always want to know whether or not it’s worth it, because let’s face it, it takes a lot of effort to maintain any sort of good relationship”whether it’s with a customer or a friend or a family member”each take some amount of time, so understanding what the end is sometimes helps rationalize the means.
Measuring social media is becoming easier and easier as technology progresses. Amongst the most common ways of measuring community effectiveness is looking at engagement metrics, consumption, and sites like Radian6 (as I’ve mentioned before) do a great job of also tracking your online presence. You should also be sure to use sites like Google Analytics, to measure traffic and to find ways to optimize visits.
Even with a background in emerging media and new marketing initiatives, customer collaboration is truly something that you don’t get until you’re in the thick of it all and witness the success of Customer Collaboration in full-effect. You feel an extreme sense of pride and ownership for something you indirectly (or in some cases, directly,) fostered.
One of my clients recently held a series of events that inspired members to create and submit their own content. This content was then reviewed by the other community members, where they were asked to vote on their favorite submission. Once the votes were tallied, the winners had been decided and we ran into the eternal business question of, “So what?” and “Now what?” To make the community member’s feedback relevant, our client had one of their in-house designers review the submissions and critique them”all on video. Naturally, this video was uploaded to the community and shared with the winners (as well as the rest of the community). The feedback was astounding.
The client was thrilled by the submissions from members, and members were thrilled to be heard by the client. Here, the gain was mutual. The client was given a look at what customers would buy if they were given the option of creating the products all on their own, and the customer felt as though they truly were a valued entity. If the value of making informed marketing and product decisions isn’t enough for you, the intrinsic value of a “job well done” certainly will be.