Every time I tell someone I’m a Community Manager, I get a varied response. But the response doesn’t vary enough. The response is usually something along the lines of “Wow! So you tweet and facebook for a living! Kewlz!” or “So do you blog on the interwebs all day, or sumthin?” Another favorite is “What’s that?” That last one might be the most honest of the three, since asking a Community Manager whether they tweet for a living is like asking a construction worker if they cat-call for a living, or a doctor if he asks people to say “ah!” for a living.
Really, many people trying to describe Online Community Managers, end up sounding like this:
Others may know what Community Manager is, but don’t know exactly how much it entails. While the Community Roundtable do a great job of defining the role of the Community Manager, many people still wonder about this newly developed role. So I challenged myself to create a list of 10 responsibilities of the Community Manager that extend beyond the realm of Facebook and Twitter (and yes, even blogging). In no particular order, here they are:
Make Friends In the Industry
Community Managing is super easy when you’re working for a well-known tech company in the middle of Silicon Valley. But what if you’re Community Managing for a company that makes matchbooks? No matter what industry you’re in – get to know the people in your industry. Who are the heavy hitters? Who are the influencers? Who can you get to know that will be useful to your employer or client’s place in the industry?
If you’re representing a matchbook company, you might want to know the other matchbook manufacturer’s Marketing pros, the top CEOs of the large matchbook companies, and the press.
Get to know the press before you need something from them. Don’t wait until you need a story published, or until you want to be used as a source. Instead, get to know them, and become the person they happen to be reminded of when they want a quote on something.
Knowing the right people is always good – but when you’re a Community Manager and want to establish your company as a thought leader in the industry, it’s a must to get on a first-name basis with people in the industry if you expect to position yourself in it.
Look at Boring Stats — and Make Them Interesting
This has a little to do with the Social Media platforms, but mostly with analytics. You know, those line-charts and stats and pie-charts and percentages and… Well, you get it. While these things might make you yawn your jaw off, they’re actually what makes your job worth your company’s time and money.
A Community Manager who does use social platforms needs to be able to track its effectiveness in… um… getting people through the door. I remember sitting in an ROI webinar with New Marketing Labs’ Justin Levy, and he more or less skimmed through 5 or 6 different measuring tools like Grader, and of course, Google Analytics. He also gave a simple example of how to measure Social Media ROI:
What you really want to know when measuring Social Media ROI is how much money each incoming warm lead is worth. These are leads that click a link, go to the site, and fill out a form or call. So if you’re spending $200 a day on your Social Media campaign, and let’s say your product is $100 worth per item, let’s say you’re bringing 100 people to the website, and your Google Analytics shows a 15% conversion rate to a warm lead, and a 15% conversion rate of warm leads to paying clients purchasing one item.
So we have the 100 visitors, and out of those we have 15 people filling out a form or calling, 15% of them will convert. So 2.25 people out of every 100 person visit per day will convert into a $100 sale per person. So you’re putting $200 into that day, and you’re bringing in ~$225. So your return on investment (not including any other factors) is 112.5%. Make sense?
Have at Least A Little Knowledge of SEO
Don’t know much about History, don’t know much of Biology, don’t know much about SEO – but I do know that it’s extremely important, and that spiders scour the web indexing websites. I also know that when you blog and post, most blog platforms have a pinging system that automatically tells the search engines to check again for the new update. Also, use phrases you think people will be searching for when they want to come across your article – those are used as keywords. Apparently, according to Interspire.com – hyphenated websites like www.free-website-templates.com would rank higher than comapanyname.com if both their sites had identical content. Also, <h1> tags apparently rank higher with the keywords in them. So put keywords in your titles. And of course – the axiom – links, links, links. Always have links pointing in to your site, and more recently, it’s become important to link out as well (for Bing ranking).
I’m not an SEO expert, and I don’t claim to be. But I do know that keywords are important, I know that tags in posts are important, and I know the basics of how new posts join the rest of the interwebs. If SEO isn’t your expertise – let the experts do their job. But you have to at least get the gist.
Develop Relationships with Clients
Someone once dubbed the job of the Community Manager as being the loneliest job in the company. That’s because you’re literally in limbo between the best interests of your company and the best interests of your clients. You need to make sure the customer isn’t just happy and views your company in a good light – but is also able to talk to your company at any time, and can get almost everything they want without a hitch. On the other hand, sometimes there’s a limit. Sometimes you need to juggle the interests of both and still keep the customer satisfied. That’s where the expertise of a community manager comes in. If you’ve developed a good relationship with your client already, you should have no problem drawing lines where necessary.
I mentioned that I wasn’t going to touch Facebook and Twitter, so I’ll recommend that if a happy customer writes a review via email or Yelp – give them a call and thank them. If a customer calls in to thank you personally, follow up with an appreciative email. Make their experience with you as sweet as possible. Social Media isn’t only Social Networks. Sometimes it’s plain-old personal communication.
Chris Brogan once said that “the difference between an Audience and a Community is which way the chairs are pointing.” What he meant by that is that it’s just as much your job to help sustain them as it is theirs to sustain you. An audience just sits and listens. A community participates.
Get Co-Workers Involved Online
You absolutely have to get other people in the company involved in your Social Media efforts. It’s an imperative part of your job to not only control and monitor your company’s reputation, but to create it to begin with. And there’s no one better to create reputation with than the employees themselves. Your sales people are on Facebook half the day, and your receptionist tweets way too much during work. Put them to good use!
Here’s a great example: Many Yelp reviews are taken down within a few days of being posted. Ever wonder why? Apparently Yelp has an algorithm that automatically removes isolated or near-isolated postings. This means that if you had a bad experience at Joey’s Pizza, you’ve created an account and written a bad review and never touched the account again, within a few days your post will be gone. Yelp believes that not all users are created equal. Meaning, the more active you are, and the more active friends you have, the more clout your post has in the pool of other posts for that venue.
So what does this have to do with getting co-workers involved online, you ask?
Lots! So let’s say you work at Joey’s Pizza. You may not be able to spot the active Yelp users as they walk into your shop, and you sure as heck can’t write fake reviews for yourself all day long! So what can you do? You can get your co-workers and friends to be active on Yelp. Have them write reviews about their local restaurants, their movie theaters and parks. Have them review everything except your pizza shop. Then, when they get any satisfied customer through the door, they can invite them to Yelp to write a review. The fact that you and your co-workers are active on Yelp will immediately positively affect their clout, and their reviews will stick. That’s how you use your co-worker’s use of the web to further the company’s marketing strategy!
Organize Logistics of Social Media Generated Operations
Unfortunately lately we’ve been seeing a growing need for help in countries due to natural disasters, and lot of companies have been stepping up and taking socially responsible actions. Many companies joined forces to help Haiti victims, and this is a prime example of a situation in which you as a Community Manager may need to deal with the logistics of something that’s transpired via you Social interactions. So over the past month or so, many a Community Manager have had to figure out what logistics and intricacies are involved in shipping supplies to Haiti – something they’d never dreamed of dealing with before. This includes everything from acquiring permits, to negotiating with shippers, to figuring costs out with any non-for-profit you may be working with.
Also, a Community Manager might need to deal with the day-to-day sales process for a customer they’ve brought in. To make sure a customer brought in through social channels is treated correctly, it’s recommended that you see them through as much of the process as possible – even if it means being the middle man between them and the sales team through the entire process.
Whatever you do – see things to their ends. Don’t assume that other departments will “take it from here.” If things get out of your hands – at least always check back to make sure things had gotten done.
Connect Good Will for Brand
Earlier in this post, I mentioned the Haiti relief efforts. Good will is a great way for you to get the kind of positive light surrounding you that you look so hard to create by just being sincere all the time. On a day-to-day basis, sincerity and good customer service are great ways of slowly but surely generating a good reputation. But actually doing good things for the community, or helping a crisis like Haiti’s can be the perfect way to generate a much louder halo around your image. Larger companies may mobilize a large fundraiser, but smaller companies can host smaller community drives as well. Whatever good you do – make sure people know you’re doing it so your company gets bonus points for being super nice-like! This reputation will not be forgotten next time they’re looking to use the service you provide. So as Community Manager always look for an opportunity to leverage the company’s current clout to help the community.
Work With Web Developers to Update Your Site for Web 2.0
I’ve seen some huge companies with disgusting websites, and smaller companies with much better up-to-standards website. The difference is updating your website to Web 2.0. Once the web 2.0 style and standard came around (and its eventual crushing of IE6,) it’s become painfully obvious that a lot of companies don’t meet the standard. But I’m not going to coach you on how to design a web 2.0 website. To learn more about that – go to http://www.go2web20.net/ – it’s the best site for tips on tools to use, apps, and general info on anything web 2.0, and it’s edited by the one and only Orli Yakuel.
Anyway, your job as a Community Manager in this respect is not large, but it is important. The job is to guide the web developers and programmers so that your new web 2.0 site reflects the image and personality that you portray online, and more broadly, the brand’s image.
For example, nobody wants to be the Social Media figurehead for a company who’s website looks like this: http://www.emmis.com/. By the way, Emmis Communications is a HUGE company, and their website absolutely stinks. Go figure. Maybe they don’t care.
Strategize With Webmaster to Create Better Conversion
Just like any other advertising effort, your job needs to be measured. So try and come up with strategies with your webmaster that will lead to an easier measurement. The same way you create different landing pages for different ads, create specific phone numbers relating to specific campaigns. Do the same thing for your social networks, and your other interactions. I’ve seen some websites have a landing page that’s not accessible through any other venue except a twitter link. It makes your client feel special. It makes them feel unique, and valued. And it helps you track where they came from better – just like with ads. It’s not inventing the wheel – it’s measuring the success of marketing.
Also – where are the calls to action on your site? This is also something the Community Manager and webmaster collaborate on often. You need to make sure that the calls to action on the site correspond not only to the natural tendencies of a web user (for example, eyes always gravitate to the top right,) but to the message you’re broadcasting across other platforms as well.
Keep your campaigns consistent.
Create and Execute Email Blasts
As part of your relationship with the community you’ve created, it’s sometimes your job to be the guy who sends out emails to everyone. I’ve come across several email blasts that made me unsubscribe immediately, and remove any affiliation with the entity. That’s usually because they are advertisements and ruthless self promotion on an almost-daily basis. What I suggest for this segment is to first know the process of executing an email blast. You will need to write the blast, explain the concept to your Graphic Designer, and then have the coder code the email correctly for HTML format. Once that’s done – you need to blast it out correctly. My favorite tool for e-blasts is MailChimp. Another fantastic Email blasting service is Blue Sky Factory – and they have a good blog with tips on how to come up with the perfect email.
Anyway – I think you get the gist. I think Amber Naslund illustrated it best with her two year-after-year blog posts entitled Being A Director of Community when she said that “These people are spokespeople, Trust Agents, communicators, networkers, brand ambassadors, and representatives of their community all wrapped into one.” While the role of the Community Manager is still evolving and becoming increasingly imperative as we go along, there’s definitely something to be said for this amazingly innovative stage of its evolution. Community Manager positions are becoming more commonplace, and as the position establishes itself, it also defines itself.
Then again, I’m a Community Manager myself, so I’m terribly biased! What do you think? Is Community Management important? Are there companies that can do without a Community Manager? How do you think the position will evolve over the next few years?
Photos by Shutterstock.