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