Community Manager – Who is she?

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The Community Manager — A necessary stepping stone for social media?

Community Manager

Community Manager: Herding Cats?

Having attended and spoken at a number of conferences* on the subject of the Community Manager, I thought I would resume what I believe are the key takeaways.  It is clearly a “trending” topic in France where there are still many companies that have not gotten fully on board with social media marketing.

Ultimately, I firmly believe that the Community Manager is a non-role; it is a position that need not exist in an organization.  At best, it is a role that helps a company to initialize its digital media strategy. To rephrase a statement made by Steven Rubel at The Next Web 2011 conference, it is better to have everyone in the organization be 1% community manager, rather than to have one person be 100% Community Manager.  And yet, it may be a useful starting point.

The key attributes of a great Community Manager

For the specific role of a Community Manager, here are the key attributes that I believe are necessary to be a great CM.  This is not a manifesto, because the role does change according to the company culture and industry segment.  However, I believe these are the five most important components.

Be Part of It!

A wink to my Redken friends

  • Be Part of It. It may indeed be because I worked for Redken — whose core tagline for its hairdresser community is “Be Part of It” — but a great community manager is a part of the community.  A CM must genuinely feel a part of the group.
  • Passion.  While I believe passion is probably needed for everyone, it has a particular meaning for the CM because of the all-involved nature of managing a community.  It’s a full-time commitment.  It’s hard to fake curiosity and interest over the long haul — and managing a community must be considered a long-term activity (at least, if you want to keep long-term clients).
  • Perspective.  To be a legitimate contributor, a CM must also be prepared to express an opinion.  If a CM is to be a part of it, he/she must also be able to provide some point of view — in phase with a selected editorial line. (Credit: Maxime Guedj)
  • Communicator.  The ability to communicate is central.  I consider a literary background a plus (not a sine qua non).  And, in that communities may have an off- and online blended existence, the communication may be written or oral.
  • Coach.  As companies move along the digital / social media adoption curve, the CM moves from being an evangelist and a defender of the cause to become more of a digital coach.  Among other things, a good coach is someone who knows how to observe, listen and encourage.  A CM coach — much like a sports coach — needs to know how to organize, motivate, regulate and recruit. (Credit: Lionel Fumado!)

If I used “she” in the title for a Community Manager, it is in part to be a little provocative.  A recent poll in France suggested that 2/3 community managers are male.  Nonetheless, I implied that a CM ought to be female to reinforce the fact that a community manager, in its core, is a social being, less in need of paying reverence to its ego, more inclined to want to listen, learn and share, which are characteristics which I tend to qualify as being more feminine.

The challenges with “installing” a Community Manager into an organization are multiple: the definition of the role, the objectives, the empowerment, the resources needed, the appropriate remuneration…  One of the upcoming challenges — still to be addressed — will be the career path.  Where and how do Community Managers hone their skills?  How will CM’s be replaced when he/she leaves?  And, no less important, to what extent will the CM position be considered a stepping stone to move up in the organization?

What are your thoughts?  What other skills do you believe are essential to the Community Manager role?  Is it a role that will/should last?

Including Hotel Napoleon Innovation (hashtag #napocm) entitled “The Community Manager, Who is He?” and a conference at Entreprise & Personnel/E-HRF with 30+ HR managers and experts.

4 Comments, RSS

  1. "Ultimately, I firmly believe that the Community Manager is a non-role; it is a position that need not exist in an organization."

    An interesting perspective, but not one I subscribe to. When no one in the organization leads, everyone wanders and business fails. Not having a community manager for your social media activities would be like not have a Sales Director over your Sales staff to tell them how to engage, behave, respond, sell, etc…

    Without a community manager, who is going to set your policies so the organization communicates consistently via social media? Who is going to activate your crisis management plan when something bad happens? Who is going to be held accountable for meeting your social media business goals?

    The role of community manager is a critical role in any organization that wants to engage in social media. Without that role, your organization risks wandering….

    Just my $.02…

    –Sean

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