Community Managers – Room for them in Ireland?

So what is a “Community Manager”? From what I see and what I read, my definition of a community manager is someone that looks after the community that can develop around the company blog, wiki, social networking profile or discussion forum and also go out further than that onto the net and (if the company permits) engage with people on their personal spaces. Gone is the time when you must wait for the email or phonecall to engage with a customer. A community managers is the point person for the company for the company’s public facing endeavours on the wild wild web. In a hotel analogy the PR people are like the front desk while the community manager is, in a way, like the concierge, able to route around officialdom and get the customer what they want. A concierge that again can also go walkabout.

With the rise of companies getting into blogs, wikis, Facebook profiles and discussion forums and actually understanding the Cluetrain idea of “markets are conversations”, there are now companies who “get it” and want to try it but don’t know how. Some will still try. Some do well, others not so much. So some hire in an “outsider” as a community manager. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that if it is made clear to the public that this is their role and their standing in the company and they’re real.

Reverend Billy in Vallejo,CA
Photo owned by Brave New Films (cc)

A good community manager is both a member of the community (and remember communities are everywhere not justa round the company assets) as well as someone that’s inside the company with some influence. It can be a tough job and some people are not suited to be able to clarify matters on behalf of the company to the customers without starting a war and also defend the (sometimes very strong) views of the community to the company. A very good community manager is probably someone that should be aiming to make their own job obsolete by trying to turn some existing employees into community managers too. It’s all well and good to be writing blog posts and getting data from the company and making them enjoyable blog posts but the company is totally screwed if you are headhunted or run over by a bus. Therefore a community manager should ideally be trying to find some potential staff members who can take over and then prodding and pushing them to dip a toe and then a foot and eventually immerse themselves in the community interaction work.

Photo owned by Joe Shlabotnik (cc)

Jeremiah Owyang put it like this:

Part of the Community Managers role is to:

1. Listen: Use listening tools like Technorati, Talkdigger, read blogs, forums, wikis, to find out what customers are saying
2. Respond: Depending on what’s being said, respond quickly when appropriate
3. Inform: Tell the right stakeholders in the company what’s happening, this can range from Engineering, Product Management, Product Marketing, PR, Marketing, Bloggers, or forums moderators.
4. Shut up and sit back: One of the most important jobs of the CM is to connect the right internal people with customers and let them work it out, stay out of the way if you don’t understand the problems.
5. Listen more: Keep on listening, responding, informing, and connecting the right folks. A community manager is an odd looking being, big ears and eyes, and a small mouth.

So is there a need for them in Ireland and is there room? I think if more companies go for blogs and social networking, then yes, definitely. The only person right now that I know of is Sabrina Dent who does work for Lucky Oliver. Are there any more? I would think that the Interaction forum on has a community manager. I’m sure we do have more and in time we might even have a lot more if the recession hits and offline spend goes down.

Some people object to the term manager as it suggests controlling the community. Lighten up. Course they could be also called Social Media Managers but I despise the term social media.

Are community managers here for the long-term or just until web 2.0 is hung, drawn and quartered? Are they a worthy resource for a company? Are you one?

Meanwhile, a cynical take on some of the words I used in this post.

20 Responses to “Community Managers – Room for them in Ireland?”

  1. mj says:

    In the olden days, we called them Evangelists.

  2. Damien says:

    But are these people evangelists? My view of an evangelist is someone that spends a lot of time giving presenations to other companies, going to trade shows and conferences, selling a product of the company.

  3. Piaras Kelly says:

    I think it’s the inverse in some cases. Some companies have community managers that should also use the net as a means of reaching out.

  4. mj says:

    I think the people who do presentations and sell products are Salespersons.

    Evangelists, in my experience in the Mac world, are people who are just evangelising the product. They make appearances as opposed to giving presentations, they manage the community, give out their contact details if anyone has questions.

    It’s a kind of hands-off selling which, at the end of the day, is what a community manager is doing. So I’ll use your terminology 🙂

    Now is Ireland ready for it? I doubt it. Most businesses have no idea what the web will do for them. They expect it to quadruple their sales monthly, they expect to spend less than their weekly milkman bill for that kind of return.

    They’re not going to ‘get’ community managers.

  5. Sinéad C says:

    There are VERY few individuals “within the company with some influence” (i.e managment) in this country would have a clue about “social media”.
    AND, I totally agree with what MJ said about their expectations being totally unrealistic with regard to anything online.

  6. Neal McQuaid says:

    Getting a lot of companies to even ‘get’ the web and it’s benefits is a step they need to make first. Too many companies (incl. my current one!) could do with learning this. As MJ says: “Most businesses have no idea what the web will do for them.”
    i’d be willing to bet there’s a lot of people who fit into this category already internally (i.e. use the web extensively, but not for work use as it’s not supported/promoted – I think I include myself in this one 🙂 ) and would like to take this role officially, but I can’t see it happening (yet).

  7. Damien says:

    @Neal: So how would you get them to transition into getting the web? And then giving you that job?

  8. mj says:

    Shush Damien, I want that job! (but I’m too much of a bigmouth)

  9. Trinity says:

    Well the ole concept of a Community Manager was that it was essential to be able to herd cats ! (actually you know that youtube vid you posted there a while back – cowboys herding cats…. well there ya go!) 🙂
    You’re a community manager! I’m a community manager. Technically anyone per se that has Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, LinkedIn etc is a community manager – Etribes 🙂
    The female of the species make the best ones though! Seriously! It’s important to break the rules and influence people without them realising it but making sure to build that bond of trust at the same time 🙂

  10. Neal McQuaid says:

    @Damien: Shite, I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that 😉
    Good question though, anyone else want to chip in? I’ll give it some thought (to answer properly other than off the top of my head), and get back to you in a few mins once I’ve finished some paid-for-work….

  11. conor says:

    Its interesting to me to read this post and more so the comments. As I read it I wondered how it could be and should be applied to the non profit sector. I’d be interested in hearing peoples thoughts on that?

  12. Paul says:

    hi, I can see this happening. Do anybody know companies doing it in Ireland? I suspect most companies are not structured in this way yet.

  13. Neal McQuaid says:

    Right so – back to this. A bit late but it’ll make a change to the usual blog issues (discussion lasts a day or so and then forgotten about). Also, this will ramble so feel free to ignore – I’m using this to clarify my own thoughts 🙂

    One issue people have – it’s actually referenced on RWW today here – there’s just too many types out there. Gtalk, Skype, MSN, AIM: and that’s just IM versions! Then you’ve got this new fangled Twitter and it’s multitude of variations – Thwirl, Thwhateveryoulike, Thphew, etc. 🙂 Most people just don’t have the time to keep up with these. I was out of the IT world for about 5 months last year and it was so evident when I returned how easily it is to lose track these days. Then there’s the mashups (see Twitter as an example above…).

    But this is off-topic – the question was how to show corporates the benefits of the web? I take the slow burn option (which is contradictary to the speed of the web these days).
    What’s worked for me to get people thinking about the news they can get from the web? weekly or bi-weekly updates of the latest news I’ve bookmarked through (I subscribe to a multitude of Google News alerts in relation to the company, RSS feeds, etc. and just filter these down). See here for current example. From experience before of this, people will ask for access to the delicious account to add their own bookmarks after a while.

    Other ideas to get people collaborating and using the web? Take all those processes that loads of tech companies have for logging into, modifying servers; document it all and post it on a wiki or something similar that’s easy to edit. What worked for a bunch of ex-telecom-eireann-union-types before was two-frame website. all the html links on the right just pointed to text files which anyone can edit once they know where the folder is – map that folder to your groups drive.
    For more public relations type issues, that’s a tough one. Get involved yourself? Subtly start asking questions and getting answers from respected sources like LinkedIn, etc. Even non-techies know this site these days so will get the potential benefit of it after a few examples.

    Basically, you have to filter all the variations on the web and show them what’s useful to them. And go slow, most people don’t chase the tech news everyday like all of us/me 😉

    Getting businesses to really open up though and be more open/public is going to be an issue for us all though – it’s completely different to the old-school mindset of keeping to themselves. One of the big telcos (including their innovation people) couldn’t see the benefit of having the status symbol beside users using Jaiku’s client!

    Feel free to knock this, improve on this, or share advice – I’m always open to suggestion!

  14. Alexia Golez says:

    Neal, you are really making a pitch for that Community Manager job with your rambly comment. While it’s good, but your advice seems pretty self-explanatory too.. I think you are preaching to the converted. It’s not tools, silly, it’s mindset. The real job is getting web presence into the DNA of an organisation. So that the organisation becomes web savvy and takes this into account when brainstorming new ideas or deciding on where to leverage customer support or build relations with partner companies.

    The real question here is how to encourage organisations that are outside the tech marketing fold, who would very likely benefit from having a Community Manager, make that leap.

    For many orgs, there is still a disconnect with the way they engage with their customers online. Web is often seen as an add-on to their offline presence. This short-term vision often leaves those orgs blind to opportunities to raise brand awareness online. Missing links and connections they could make.

    And talking about web presence, I love the way Threadless engage with their customers online. Customers can submit photos, design shirts, rate shirts, join a street team.. etc. Threadless have a Facebook app too. The Threadless community is young, active one. Ready, willing and ravenous for the next cliquey shirt.

    More companies need to be switched onto the potential of community management, so it becomes a reflex in their thinking and not a whole bunch of tools that does something. Community in community management means people.

  15. Neal McQuaid says:

    Alexia: don’t worry, I’m more than aware that I’m emailing the converted here – but was hoping for responses like yours: interesting ones.

    Great point though, it’s getting the people using the tools, it’s not about the (various) technologies…

  16. Alexia Golez says:

    @Neal: So we’ve agreed on the focus. I’m interested in hearing your ideas on how to push this to established orgs.. I have a few myself, but what are yours?

  17. Neal McQuaid says:

    @Alexia You’ll have to share some ideas also 🙂
    The more I think about it, the more I realise people are open to suggestion for newer systems, I think they all appreciate the idea of better comms (especially it’ll help sales!).
    Is it some method filtering through the multitude of options that is required? People are busy so don’t have the time to read up on what blogs, wikis, twitter can do for them. How to you filter the options though? all ideas are welcome here….

  18. […] empathetic and inspiring person. She is an ideal representative for the site and a committed Community Manager whose expertise and appeal lies in her personal, professional approach to members and her openess […]

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  20. Pink says:

    As the Community Manager for a large ecommerce site in the UK and Ireland I was very interested to read this article when googling my role.. I definitely think this is something that there is room for in Ireland but that it will be a niche market depending on what attitude/importance companies place on their Communities.

    I’ve never met anyone in Ireland doing my job and only recently saw an advertisement on for a Community manager… shame there aren’t more of us or more roles for us here .. i don’t see anyone in Ireland starting to offer roles like this except those actually making their site a forum (such as

    Wish I’d applied for that job lol