I often get asked what I do for a living, and I usually tell people that I wear multiple hats depending on what role is needed at any point in time. I have worked both as an internal community manager for a Fortune 500 company and for my own personal company as an external community manager to promote external services and products.
Community management, whether internal or external – can be elusive to colleagues, friends, and other spectators who don’t fully comprehend what this role demands.
By definition, community managers are responsible for building, monitoring, and growing their company’s social networks. Those social networks can be social intranets for employees, public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, or branded customer-facing communities built by and for the company. Community managers are on the front lines of communication for these social networks – monitoring activity, responding to member inquiries, engaging in conversations, seeding content, and driving the company’s social business objectives.
There are two key types of community managers:
- Internal Community Managers are responsible for internal social networks (also known as social intranets). These networks live within the four walls of an organization. Internal community managers focus on collaboration, efficiency, and connecting to the right people – they help the community thrive by making connections between people and information that lead to greater productivity, transparency, and innovation. They help break down silos by encouraging people to work out loud and constantly finding ways to improve internal processes. They drive adoption of social collaboration platforms through effective training and communication. The day-to-day work of an internal community manager involves group creation and interaction within the community, moderation, governance, developing metrics and KPI’s, and managing daily operational tasks that keep the internal community running smoothly.
- External Community Managers are primarily responsible for their company’s external social media presence and accounts (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), but they may also manage a brand’s proprietary customer community. Additionally, they monitor the social web for conversations happening online that involve their brand, and join those conversations or get the right company spokeswoman involved when appropriate. Their main focus is building rich, authentic relationships online that drive customer retention and acquisition goals – this can involve promoting special offers and new products, engaging the community in conversations, sharing valuable content, posting real-time updates during special events, and responding to customer service inquiries. When customers reach out to the company via social networks, external community managers quickly engage subject matter experts to provide appropriate, accurate, and timely responses. They also work as messengers, bringing back sentiments (good or bad) to the corporate environment that provide feedback to internal teams (i.e. customer care, innovation/design teams, sales, marketing, etc.) that the company can leverage to make improvements.
Community managers are critical to the success of any social business initiative because they are ultimately responsible for the adoption and growth of internal and external communities. Their jobs are complex and require a unique skill set that is harder to come by than many people might think.
For internal communities, community managers are the “insiders” who are constantly aware of groups that are collaborating, content that is trending, and conversations that can be acted upon or connected with other cross-functional groups. They connect the dots for members who want to collaborate with other members who share similar topics of interest, and they can tremendously help in on-boarding new members and encouraging them to think and work differently (i.e. using discussions vs. email) in a collaborative environment.
For external communities, community managers are the “eyes and ears” of a company’s social presence who can detect the nuances (i.e. good or bad consumer sentiments) in real time. They are the voice of the brand who can communicate a brand’s message while relating to their social followers. External community managers must be agile and responsive to react quickly to consumer sentiments that can make or break a product launch, sell, or marketing campaign.
Successful internal and external community managers are masters of communication. They listen (both to the explicit and implicit messages from their communities); they summarize and reflect back those messages to help their communities grow, and they rapidly and accurately bring others into the conversation to enrich, enliven, inform and move the conversation and community forward.
Just as being social business involves more than having a Facebook or Twitter account, community management requires much more than hanging out on social media all day. The real value of community managers will increase over time as companies recognize the pivotal role these individuals will play both inside a company and within the external communities vital to the continued growth and health of the organization.