What is a community manager?

Community managers can do a huge range of activities, but for the stage you’re describing, they will mostly be focused on building your community from scratch. This involves thinking critically about the value your community provides — both for your organization AND for the audience you are hoping will join your community. After those questions have been answered, a community manager can go about recruiting early members, and involving them with helping to build the new community. Expert advice from a community manager we recently published on Social Studies is key here: Reach out to each of these people in a way that cannot possibly scale.

She breaks down starting a community from scratch into five exercises that I highly recommend doing before you hire a community manager and again once you have hired a community manager.

1. Identify Your Community’s Value Proposition for Your Company

These are the things you imagine to be happening in the future when you know that your community is working.
“Why do you want to build a community? Is your goal to address key business metrics like churn and customer lifetime value? Is it to harness the power of community to help you grow by increasing the number of customers who evangelize your product for customer referrals? Are you trying to develop a community-driven content strategy and increase your brand trust? There are numerous ways your community can add value to your company, so start by identifying and focusing on three key areas.”

2. Identify Your Community’s Value Proposition for Its Members

This is the reason why members will join your community.
“Why would anyone want to join your community? What motivates them to participate in your community? Write down how that participation would take shape.
How does your community solve a problem for them that they may already be trying to solve in other ways? Write down those other ways. Write down how your community does it in ways that are better or worse. What are those other ways?
When a member describes the value of your community to a friend, what do they say? When you answer these questions, you have your community’s value-proposition.”

3. Start Small, Start Special

This is how you get started with actual members.
“Write down all the people you know who would find your community immensely valuable. Create a spreadsheet and organize the list with the people who would value it the most at the top. Reach out to each of these people in a way that cannot possibly scale.
Invite them out to 1-1 coffees or send them a handwritten note. Run your ideas past them, get feedback, and ask them to think of three people each who would also find the community valuable. If you start with 10, you will soon have 30. If start with 50, you will soon have 150 members.”

4. Empower Your Community to Help You Grow

This is how you go from 20 or 50 to hundreds or thousands.

5. Create a Community Health Dashboard

Quantify Your Community’s Growth and Success

If you want to do these exercises, you can get the full post on the Social Studies Blog: Community Building from Scratch: A How-to Guide | TINT

(Answer reposted from my blog: http://www.christinacacioppo.com…)

Community managers are empathetic storytellers who are the product’s external voice, users’ internal advocate, and find motivation in helping others.
Community management is a role that hadn’t existed before the rise of one-to-many networks online. It’s neither support nor marketing, although it has aspects of each. It’s often difficult for companies to find experienced community managers. When they do, “experience” often means equal to or less than five years.

Nonetheless, community management is an increasingly important role inside companies that seek to build and maintain networks.
So what is a community manager precisely?

1. The external voice of the product or company
A community manager is likely to be the primary person who speaks directly to the community. He might chose to use his own identity like SoundCloud’s David Noël, or he might chose to speak through the company, like @Foursquare (http://twitter.com/foursquare), which was originally managed by co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai before Chrysanthe Tenentes joined the team in its early days.

@Foursquare is managed jointly by a team today. That’s difficult to tell, because @Foursquare has a distinct and consistent voice. That’s because Chrysanthe cultivated that voice and then institutionalized it. She’s even written a style guide that is taken seriously.

2. An advocate for users inside the company
It is likely that the community manager spends more time watching, interacting with, and learning from users than anyone else in the company. There can be a small amount of glamour and some amount of drudgery in this work — and that is what makes it important. Effective community managers take what they’ve learned from users, remove the expletives and CAPITAL LETTERS!!!! when necessary, to the product (more likely) or engineering teams. Being an effective translator requires empathy and storytelling.

Each company has its own standards for what constitutes “enough feedback.” Some companies are very data-driven: Google has its support teams tag issues and delivers stats-heavy reports to its product managers, while the entire Tumblr team is expected to monitor the network within their dashboards. Some Tumblr-ers spend more time than others, and some are better at pulling threads of emerging issues, but it’s a company-wide initiative.

The most effective community management teams have been part of their companies since the early days. Having a seat at the table makes it easier to build buy-in across the company, and it gives community managers the authority to engage users, rather than to broadcast to them.

Are you sure “community manager” isn’t a fancy term for customer support?
Yes. Support is not community management. Customer or user support is instead one part of community management. As David says, for most companies, customer service is a cost center. Those with a community management team tend to think of it as an investment center.

Think about it this way: in an age of global networks that can reach literally hundreds of millions of people faster than anything we’ve seen before, “customer support” does not work. To paraphrase Sheryl Sandberg, don’t do things at scale that don’t scale.

Support is important, but the best community managers do not answer questions more than once. (Ideally they answer unique questions zero times each.) They instead focus on connecting users to one another, often with specialized tools. (e.g. the Quora topic, meta Stack Overflow, or Google Help Forums.) Community managers are often well-situated to think about “productizing” support. After all, they’re the ones who will be mucking around in those topics or forums later on.

Community managers are ultimately responsible for molding the ways in which people interact on a network. Seems pretty important for anything designed for people.

This is the answer to what a community manager does from a blog post I recently wrote, you can get the full text of the blog here: 3 C’s of Community Management

Community Creation
This was pretty much the original job of the Community Manager. This was someone who was knowledgeable about the social landscape and who spent time participating in it as well. This would be someone who can tweet relevant content, answer questions on specialized forums or Q&A sites like Quora, and figure out how to engage folks around them. He/she probably did his/her fair share of ‘playing’ around on Facebook or Twitter, but always with a purpose of engaging users, understanding the marketplace and getting people to love the brand.

Customer Care
The newcomer to the Community Management party, customer care generally involves placating peeved users and turning them into brand champions. Community Management actually involves a healthy mix of answering e-mails from unhappy customers (or better yet, overjoyed ones!), replying to tweets or Facebook posts about the company (preferably within a matter of minutes), watching over user forums (if the site has them), and making sure everyone is happy, healthy, playing nice, etc. Think recess monitor. It also requires being available 24/7 because you never know when that one unhappy customer will blast a review to his network of 500+ Twitter followers, or when an event breaks that makes a great tweet (aka newsjacking, fun term, huh?). Seriously, this kind of thing is a big deal. Of course, to everyone else Community Managers make this look effortless.

Content Curation
These days many CMs are finding the job is more than they originally bargained for, because instead of just playing the role of everyone’s best friend and, punching bag, they must also play journalist and industry expert. You find many a Community Manager writing blog post upon blog post about how to succeed in ‘X’ industry (whatever their company does). CM’s become quite good at seeming like they know what they’re doing (note how much you’re currently engrossed by this thoroughly informative posting), and truth be told, after a while, they probably areindustry experts. Content creation takes up a lot of time, and also involves finding co-workers/industry experts who will write posts for them (so if your Community Manager asks, please take pity and help!), relevant articles to post, and topics to write about that will excite their readers. Only after its written do CM’s spend the extra hours formatting the post, maximizing its SEO and promoting it on social media outlets. Truth be told, this is the rough one.

All and all, Community Management is an incredibly diverse role, and its constantly changing, but that’s what makes it so much fun! A CM’s skill set probably includes HTML, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, analytics and poetry among many others. They are probably the one you want to bring home to impress the parents because lets face it, they’re good at reading the situation and making friends. CM’s get to exercise people, writing, analytic, and networking skills, (etc.) and if they’re good at their job they probably love every moment of it.

So yes, Community Managers can get away with going on Facebook at work, and yes, you probably have no idea what they’re doing, but mostly it’s because they’re doing a million things at once, and rocking it out! Next time really love a brand, check out their Community Manager, cause they’re probably a big part of the reason why.

This is also the answer I provided on the question: What does a community manager do?

How about this great diagram, from a blog post by Dion Hinchcliffe? (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hinchc…) It goes a long way towards demonstrating the huge variety of roles required of a community manager, which may of course, vary greatly from community to community.

eModeration, for whom I work, have produced a white a paper on Managing Communities of Purpose (http://www.emoderation.com/about…), and that may demonstarte some of the roles of a Community Manager within this type of community.  Hope that helps!

Being a community manager means a variety of things.

Firefighting customer service enquires, creating compelling content and interacting with a growing community.

They are the front of the organisation and are often seen as the voice of a brand.

I recently published a blog that involved several community managers and asked them several questions that may be of interest to you.

– Have You Got What it Takes to be a Compelling Community Manager? – Brandwatch


I call them web architects of the future web.
Like a computer engineer is not actually managing engines, similarly community manager today is just not about managing people.
Since the web has morphed into social web, community managers are shaping and building the web.
A community manager today is part marketer, part researcher, part content, part public relations executive, part analyst and part product developer.
What started as a hobby has turned into a valuable career option. I wrote a three part blog series capturing their journey.
Part 1: Journey Of Community Managers; From Hobbyists To Web Architects Part 1:
Part 2: Journey Of A Community Manager, From Hobbyists To Web Architects – Part 2
Part 3: Journey Of A Community Manager, From Hobbyists To Web Architects – Part 3

I agree Claudia. Over the years, “Community Management” has morphed into
 marketing, brand management, and social media.  We can call a duck
anything we want but at the end of the day, it’s still a duck. 

Tia’s post is great and really shows the day-to-day tasks of an Online
Community Manager.  We really should differentiate between “Community”
offline and online. Offline Community management has been around for
thousands of years.  Online Community developed in the early 90s, though
 there is a valid argument that it goes back to the 70s. 

Community Managers *usually* serve as the liaison between the company or
 organisation and the users or members. They oversee the day to day
operations of the user experience, interaction, behavior, and
understanding of the community at large. They are responsible for
fostering the community and the welfare of the members.  They serve as
the voice of the community and help keep the balance with business goals
 and human interest/needs. They manage teams of volunteers or
professional moderators who build relationship and keep order.  And they
 understand that at the end of the day, for-profit communities are a
business.

Successful online communities are overwhelmingly organic in growth.  And
 communities come and go depending upon the needs of the members.

In my opinion, online community should not report to Marketing. Rather
it should be its own entity within any organisation. More and more
companies are understanding this and we are seeing quite an improved
understanding of what community is on the net. It’s a relief after so
many years (I’ve been at it 18 years now). It gets tedious defining
community online. Yet here we are, still doing it 🙂

lol

Rebecca Newton, Chief Community & Safety Officer, Mind Candy Inc.

To go up a level from all the daily operations a Community Manager may engage in (which I think the prior posts do quite well), I’d say the job is about driving user-business optimization.  While business objectives and community desires often are at odds (especially in ad-driven communities), the CM acts as the balancing point – the advocate and ombudsman for both parties to each other, to make sure the user experience and the business are operating optimally.  And the CM shall have been the mediator that aligned the two sets of interests.  Whether it’s communicating ad issues to Operations, neutralizing site abuse without putting the squeeze on user creativity, or helping Product prioritize their product pipeline, in the end, it’s about achieving and communicating a sense of balance and collaboration between the two stakeholders.

I also agree that CM should not be part of marketing, since it is primarily an Operations function with some marketing attributes. The toughest part of CM from a senior management perspective may be in determining a KPI to that team, since acquisition and retention are so heavily influenced by marketing, product and engineering/ ops.  However, when CM is run badly, everyone will know.

Let me see if I can spell this out in as simple a way as possible. A community manager is like the guy that organizes a protest. Your job is to see both sides, provide both sides with what they need, be approachable, and, if you can have fun in the process, do that. It’s this weird spot between traditional PR, SEO and blogging. You create a persona for a company or group that you represent. You get the group’s news out to all the right people. Most importantly, though, you do a hell of a lot of listening. If you hear about a problem, address it. If someone shares your stuff, thank them.

Ultimately, you’re an internet-savvy concierge when you’re a community manager.

It depends a lot on the community! The most important things (IMHO), in no particular order:

-be patient, not everyone knows as much as the community as you might.

-listen! Really hear what people are saying to determine if you need to make changes to how things work.

-share important feedback with others in your organization. You are the voice of the community when it comes to making choices about the company/product/what have you.

-support your heavy users. These people will have your back and alert you to any problems that arise.

-the three f’s: fair, friendly and fun.

-you aren’t all things to all people, so don’t try to be.

Good luck out there!

Here’s what I believe to be a good description of the community manager role:

  • The community manager’s tasks can include but aren’t limited to creating all community content (such as photos, words, videos and/or other shareable media), Facebook posts, blog posts, articles, podcasts, Twitter posts, LinkedIn posts, Quora posts, link building, responding to community and/or escalating issues, working as brand advocates, creating social media marketing led campaigns and engaging with customers. With relevance to social media marketing, these tasks are done with the goal of maximizing a brand or company’s marketing impact and reach.

A community manager is someone who is responsible for communicating directly with the user base of a product or service.  He/she is responsible for encouraging use of the product and retention of existing users by broadcasting content, promoting the product online/in-person and processing feedback, both positive and negative, and relaying it to the product team.  It’s a loose role that varies greatly by company, but generally keeps the herd together–like this little guy:

 
.

A community manager is a title given to someone who manages a group of people dedicated or committed to a certain product, service or idea. The community may have similar interests, contribute to the same cause or pay for the same product or service.

Community managers typically use social media networks to communicate with their communities. Social media allows community members to meet and collaborate with each other, as well as with the CM. They can share content, ideas or help each other with product/service questions.

Community managers may be tasked with posting all of the social media content, as well as managing and communicating with the community. Handling these two major responsibilities can be a daunting task for large communities.

Both content and communication with members are incredibly important, as social media has become the main form of communication for many individuals. This reliance on social will only grow and deepen. Companies must make the role a priority!

Is what you describe not a ‘brand manager’? I see community management rather as something else than what the photo shows, a dog obeying an owner and collecting quadrupedal, ruminant mammals.
This is a top down brand management that is doomed to fail. That is what online social network is about. It is about grassroots and progressive less control from the part of the brand owner.
Wired had a clever article on social shopping this week. The bottom line is that brand owners are not able to control the brand, they need to join the conversation.

Besides this, my view is that community management is not marketing. It can be, but it is broader than this definition. How would you describe community management in communities of interest? On communities where the main idea is to exchange knowledge?

David,

In my experience — ten years at Experts Exchange — it’s more like herding cats than sheep.

I’m not an employee of the company, nor are the others who are site administrators. At the same time, we’ve become a “cabinet” for management; in addition to the tasks of selecting, training and managing the various groups of members who handle the operational tasks of the site (the only aspect of membership with which the office deals is when money is involved — otherwise, all aspects of how processes occur on the site is our problem), we’re also responsible to the company for providing the insight of various groups of members (authors, Experts, power users, casual users, and even the people who hate EE with a passion). Our responsibilities extend beyond our borders as well; among my jobs is posting responses in questions like this.

My take is that a community cannot be managed any more than a stadium full of rabid Chicago Bears fans can be managed. That is to say, just as the Bears’ organization can provide a parking lot and seats and restrooms and concession stands, they cannot guarantee how well the team will perform, or whether the weather will cooperate, or really much of anything else.

Similarly, if EE wants to have a community — as opposed to the online version of a Del Webb subdivision — then it has to let it manage itself. In some ways, we’re very fortunate, because our history includes a bankruptcy, poorly written code, and several spans of “management by marketing”, all of which resulted in long stretches in which the only “community management” that was done was by a few people who cared. As such, the culture of the company is one that treats us with a kind of benign neglect unless we break out the pitchforks and tar (okay, that’s an exaggeration).

What is true, though, is that we have more of what I consider to be a real community than most of the sites I’ve come across (which, obviously, is not most of them). Our systems were not dictated by some programmer or developer or marketer whose goals and motives have nothing to do with the best interests of the membership; rather, they were developed first by the membership, and then integrated into the systems by the company. There have been exceptions; virtually all have failed, or at best, have been more or less irrelevant.

More to the point, the company recognizes that its income is entirely dependent on having a vibrant and viable community, so to that end, it is like any other business that provides a service. It has to understand and be responsive to its customers’ needs; it cannot dictate to its customers what services it will and won’t survive without running the risk they will go elsewhere. It has to deliver the services it promises.

ep

A community manager is like a football coach in my opinion:

1. Selecting the right people so that the community can happen

2. Enabling people to give their best about their interests and passions when they are in the community

3. Keeping strategic long term goals in mind even if clashes happen between community members.