8 Ingredients That Make a Community Manager

January 24, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

Welcome back. Today is an important day. It’s Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD), an effort started by Jeremiah Owyang last year that asks us to take a minute to thank the people who fight on the front lines of our brands every day.  They’re people worth celebrating because, while being a community manager may seem like the best job in the world, it also comes with a tougher side that can often feel thankless and troll-filled.  Through it all, community managers must show up to the job with an enthusiastic smile, regardless of how many people they want to punch in the face.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been hard not to notice all the community manager job descriptions passing through my Twitter stream. The demand for these positions continues to rise as corporations realize the importance of having someone on their team responsible for outreach. They’re looking for someone to help them wrangle the fans, keep conversations flowing, and to act as the peacemaker when tough situations arise. Of course, that’s not all they do. Community managers can be spotted in various company roles:

  • They’re brand ambassadors: They wear the corporation on their sleeve and it’s their job to evangelize it, put a ring face on it, and find a way to balance their corporate responsibility with being an advocate for the customer.
  • They’re brand monitors: For better or worse, community managers are often the ones responsible for a company’s early online reputation management efforts. The actively monitor Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, review sites, blogs, forums, message boards, etc, looking for mentions, good and bad, so the brand can respond accordingly.  Community managers are a company’s eyes and ears.
  • They’re brand communicators: Community managers spend their day communicating your brand to other people. It’s their job to get the message out in a way that gets the crowd amped and excited. And they have to do it without sounding salesy or slimey, which is a surprisingly difficult task.

That’s a bit of what a community manager does, but how do you find that person? Here are eight traits I recommend you look for, plus some real-like examples of people who encapsulate all of them.

1. A Good Connector: When you’re on the hunt for a community manager, you want to find the person who had the phrase “social butterfly” scrawled across their grade school progress reports or, perhaps, their Twitalyzer profile. Look for the natural connectors, the ones for whom conversation isn’t work, but who they are. In a social economy, these people will be uniquely skilled at attracting people to your brand.

2. Strong Communication/Social Skills: So, yeah. There are two types of people – those that know how to talk to others and those that rock back and forth when you make them try. Hire someone with good communication skills who will be able to get across your brand message in fewer than 140 characters. Someone who knows how to play well with others, respect differing opinion, and who won’t fall apart if someone challenges them. Do not put someone who is socially inept in charge of your brand. It will not end well. I promise you this.

3. Passion About the Brand: While there are lots of different day-to-day activities that go into being a great community manager, their core responsibility is promoting the brand. That’s hard to do if the person isn’t passionate about it. If it’s not something they naturally want to tell their friends about or if they don’t feel comfortable hawking what you’re selling. If it’s your garbage man who is passionate about what you do – make HIM your community manager. Then bring in a therapist to see what the heck is wrong with the rest of your staff.

4. Relatable: Another reason your garbage man when trump the rest of your stuff, is that your community manager needs to be relatable. Someone that people will want to interact with and that they’ll feel comfortable enough to talk to, but who also holds the power to put them in their place if they get out of line. Just because they’re personable, doesn’t mean they’re a push over.

5. Void of Ego: The role of a community manager is to highlight the brand, not the person. Someone who is a good fit for your company will be able to participate in the conversation without making it all about them. While self-referential talk is okay to some degree, it’s a slippery slope to becoming iJustine.

6. Has A Round-the-Clock Mentality: When you’re the face of the company, it’s not a 9-5 job. Your community manager needs to be around after-hours, on weekends, and whenever needed to deal with a community that never sleeps and a business that never closes. It also means you need to pay like them a certain bit of combat/holiday pay.

7. Desire to help: Your customers, contacts, colleagues and friends will be hitting up this person every time they need something – whether it’s a quick answer, a status report or an all-out favor. If your community manager isn’t the type of person who enjoys going out of their way for others, then this may not be the best position to put them in. There’s nothing worse than a resentful community manager.

8. Business Savvy: They need to understand how their job fits into everything else. You’re not just creating a position to “play nice” in social media, this is a marketing position. Your community manager should understand how their job plays into lead generation, brand awareness, customer service, operations, etc. Without that knowledge, there’s way too much temptation to start tweeting about their cat or snap at someone when they’re having a bad day.

Those are the traits I think are most important to developing a good community manager. If you want to see someone who epitomizes them and has done a fantastic job reaffirming a brand – look at Jenifer Sable Lopez (aka Jennita) and how she handles the community at SEOmoz. She’s doing a killer job. Other people to watch and learn from? Amber Naslund and Jason Falls. While I wouldn’t label them as regular “community managers”, per se, they’re great examples for how to connect, engage and be smart about it.

It’s Community Manager Appreciation Day – who do you think is doing it right? Highlight your All Stars below.

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