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.
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.
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 whatâ€™s being said, respond quickly when appropriate
3. Inform: Tell the right stakeholders in the company whatâ€™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 donâ€™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 komplett.ie Interaction forum on Boards.ie 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.