This is a guest post by Itamar Kestenbaum. Follow him on Twitter.
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.
Mark Thompson of Search Engine Journal has a great article entitled How To Find Industry Influencers. Check it out!
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?
Itamar is the Community Manager for Moishe’s Moving Systems. He also consults companies on Internet Marketing. You can follow him at @tweetamar or on his blog at itamarkestenbaum.com.
Photos by Shutterstock.
Itamar – Great post. You include many things here that often get lost in the general discussion like inspiring and coordinating colleagues, working on SEO and conversion work flows, and email marketing. The emphasis on building relationships with market stakeholders is also crucial.
One thing that is starting to evolve is the difference between social media/community management used for marketing purposes vs. community management used for support vs. community management used for employee communities vs. community management used for research/innovation. In the context of outbound marketing, community management tends to be oriented around content creation & distribution and conversion tracking. In other contexts, some community managers don’t do much content creation at all (and rarely Tweet/use Facebook/etc). Regardless, you hit on some great and often missed elements of the community management job.
Thank you for the post and for the shout out to our recent report.
Rachel – Thanks so much! It means a lot coming from you. I think this really needed to be stated and that many people have a skewed concept of what Community Management is. Also, I think it’s a good followup to Tamar’s last article which was about “Internet Marketing Snake Oil.” I think that it’s the depth and breadth of the involvement that I listed above that differentiates many snake oil salesmen from real community managers.
Especially during the Haiti effort, I realized that I was doing a huge deal of logistics work, and coordinating as part of my Community Management that had nothing to do with tweeting, facebooking, or anything else like that. The blogging just accompanies the huge amount of work beneath the surface. That’s what really drove me to write this clarification.
Thanks so much for the feedback!
Well done, Tamar.
It’s important to understand that a community manager must extend their reach into both the real world (colleague, clients, etc) and established marketing channels (like email).
Well, I didn’t write this, but thanks 🙂 And I’m in 100% agreement — these “technologies” and services are fleeting, so it’s a community manager’s job to make sure that the company’s impact goes far beyond the online space.
Absolutely! Although the full name of the position is very often “Online Community Manager.” I think that misleads people into thinking that the job means they can hide behind their computer screen. In reality, they’re the only true link between the customer and the company. The only people who can really do anything for the customer. So they need to be there in any way possible. Including IM, Email, or in-person.
An excellent post with some good points for people who don’t quite ‘get’ the role yet. I’m basically a Community Manager (and love it) but precisely because of the wider ramifications of my particular role (and I agree there are many types of community) my job title is Digital Marketing Officer. It’s a tricky balance between describing the job accurately and convincing people both inside and outside the organisation that there’s a lot more to it than Twitter and Facebook.
(Although, of course, I found this post through Twitter. ;))
Interesting… I think that someone who carries the responsibilities listed in this post can be either a Community Manager or a Digital Marketing Officer. But I agree that sometimes it’s tricky to explain that it entails more than just Facebooking and Twittering all over the place. Which is kind of why it’s important to be able to articulate the above stuff!
Thank you for this post, Itamar. You have succinctly written up in a single blog entry what others could not do in entire books. As a community manager for a micro ISV, I can definitely say that I resonate with your list. The hybridization of roles, facilitator, statistics analyst, digital marketing manager, moderator, is a challenge. Networking, selling, brand cohesion are all ingredients in the daily chores. From grass roots organizing to twittering to Facebook, everyday is an opportunity to create conversations that make a difference to our own humanity.
For the first time even the C players are realizing how important Community Management is in the mitigation of risk. See http://www.dynamicalsoftware.com/future/community/management for more on that topic.
Thank you so much, Avery! I think Community Management is still in it’s formative years, but the role itself will increase in importance tremendously as people recognize what it entails. Great article you linked to, btw!
As a marketer myself, I believed the online environment (including the increasing social network like Facebook and Twitter) is giving businesses a market without boundaries, provided they can adhere to discipline and learn how to bring it further to spur originality. This has been discussed and debated in our blog (http://emarketforensics.blogspot.com), and we believed the potential is high.
Well written article post but there was one part that made me go Oy Vay.
As an email marketing professional I find that the term email campaigns sounds much more professional then email blasts.
While many people use the term email blasts it sounds cold. It’s my believe that it sounds like someone saying “Here’s a list, blast away at it” when in reality there is so much more to email marketing such as putting it together, thinking of the content, subject lines, making sure that it passes SPAM tests, follows Can-SPAM rules, segmenting a list, email analytics, authenticating emails via domains keys and SPF records. These are some of the things that need to be done to send a good email campaign and are very similar to the amount of time it takes to set up a good PPC campaign and takes as much if not more time then SEO.
This is my take on email campaigns. What does everyone else here think ?
Good point about “email blasts” – since I’m not primarily an email marketer, I guess I wasn’t sensitive enough to the lingo. I was using the term in general. Of course, I know a lot more goes in to email marketing than “blasting away at random lists.” I guess in that way, we can both understand having our professions misunderstood or oversimplified. As community Managers, I think we can learn a huge deal from email marketers – even if it’s just tact and style and the technical side of things, too!
“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?”
If $200 is spent to make $225. This is a 12.5% ROI…
Yes – it is a 12.5% ROI. You’re making 112.5% of what you invested. Thanks for pointing that out, Matt!
I’m always amazed at the Internet’s ability to serve me up just what I need in the moment! I work with locally owned rural tourism businesses, and blog to that industry at ruraltourismmarketing.com.
These are folks who are doing everything themselves and coming to Internet marketing with some resistance and overwhelm. Yesterday, a client looked at the online to do list that we had created over the past 2 months and said, ” This is a part time job in a company that has ONE employee most of the year! ( a seasonal adventure business) She’s right, and between Tamar’s book, The Community Rules… and your post I’ll be able to help her and my other readers define that role in a way that will make sense. There’s important work to be done for even a very small company, and there’s ROI reasons for adding this vital position. Again, thanks.
I’m so happy I could dish you what you needed! No better feeling.
You know, very often with smaller companies, if the owner is savvy enough and has enough time, they can (or their partner can) manage to do it themselves. However, it’s usually a good idea to at least hire an Internet Marketing pro to jumpstart your campaign and train you on what’s going on with your brand so you can take it over when it’s all set up.
One of the things I think will evolve is we community managers need to start looking at structuring an infrastructure for those communications. (architecture of participation, in O’reilly’s terms) A companies communication with a community can´t be reliant on one, energetic, connected individual. I’m still struggling with how much communication should be sent out in a persons name. A community manager builds an network and influences. If he leaves a lot of that is lost. I understand it the trend can quite come to accept it yet.
My 2 cents.
Pablo, you have a very valid point about how a community should not come to associate itself more with a community manager than with the CM’s employer. This is especially a problem in the games industry where developers have quasi-celebrity status just by working for a company with fans, not just customers, and can develop quite large followings without much effort.
I have a team of several community managers who work for me and we try to balance this several ways: News can be posted on our forums by individual community team members, but is posted from “Turbine Community” if it’s a blog post on our bespoke social networks (my.ddo.com and my.lotro.com). News is also always released on Turbine’s Twitter feed first before being re-tweeted by any of us on our (also quasi-) personal feeds. All team members are cross-trained on each others’ products so any of them can pick up where one left off if anyone leaves (thankfully our turnover has been low 🙂 ). While we do send emails from our own email accounts to our fansites (as they are part of our communities), most wide-scale marketing EDMs are sent from the company. Our public relations team also handles most communication with larger websites and print outlets, while we handle fan-run websites, which can still be sizable. We are also cross-trained on each other’s products and communities to ensure that any one of us could pick up and run with someone else’s community were they to be hit by a bus. The goal being that there is little external impact to the population, and all of the pain of the transition kept on the internal side. 🙂
Above all, we keep to the philosophy that we are there to serve our company and our customers, not to further our own celebrity; this is something that it seems many community managers, particularly new ones, lose sight of.
Meghan: Thanks for your reply. I work in southamerica and the need for a community manager is even less understood here.
I currently work for different customers on a parttime basis and am starting to build a bigger team. I charge customers on a suscription based monthly fee (based on a standard time allocation)
One question, how do you distribute $(income) vs responsabilities amongst your team members? That is really a challenge for us to be able to grow….Thanks, Pablo
Pablo, that’s a tough one – my team and I are all salaried employees. Salaries are commensurate with experience, level of responsibility (each of our 3 games has a lead CM with cross-trained folks who support them), and performance. I’m not sure how you distribute that in a consultancy!
OK Thanks for your response. 😉
Great article! I wish more people understood that web/social media work than funneling more fans/followers to a company’s social media accounts.
Yeah – a lot of people get stuck in that misconception and don’t think about what it really means to manage the community of people who care about / don’t care for at all / or are just customers of your brand.
Copying my comments from the post at 2020social.com:
Community management has been an established field in the game industry (that’s PC/video games, not gambling!) for many years now. The list above is just a very small part of what a gaming CM does on a daily basis.
I ran a panel at the Penny Arcade Expo just over a week ago called “Community Managers: More Than Forum Monkeys” in which we gave an (admittedly brief, as we only had 40 minutes) overview of CM in the game industry. You can find the (consumer-targeted) writeup by Massively.com here:
It might also surprise folks to know that gaming community managers have our own community at http://www.communitymanagersgroup.com.
I guess I am getting a little irked at the “emerging role” business being touted not just in the title of [the 2020social.com] post, but many other outlets. 🙂 The role emerged long ago when all of you folks new to community management weren’t paying attention. Now it’s evolving – but community management has been around since the first days of dialup BBSs (I mentored under a sysop in the early 90’s, and many of the practices learned then still apply now), and became a standard position at game companies by around 10 years ago (my own first full-time position as a gaming CM began in 1997).
I don’t mean to be critical; but I do wish that “the rest of the internet” realized they’re following a well-trodden path, not breaking new ground. Gaming CMs probably have much to teach new community managers about engagement and, even more importantly, customer retention (particularly to subscription-based games). I am surprised that the two communities, of gaming and non-gaming CMs, haven’t intersected more yet. This is probably one of the areas that the Community Managers Group should begin to focus on! 🙂
That’s really interesting. I had no idea that Community Managers for the gaming industry had their own community! Since gaming has always been interactive – even before over-the-web gaming existed, gamers interacted a lot – I’m not surprised that community management was an essential component in gaming companies. And in that respect, you’re right, Community Management has been around for quite some times.
But in the general sense, companies usually delegated customer interaction to customer service representatives (offshore or inhouse) with canned responses, and customers had no connection to corporate, or any way to get anything heard by people with decision-making power. I think that in that respect, a lot has changed in the past few years – and Community Managers didn’t exist in these companies until now.
I think that it would be great if Community Managers could have a community of their own as well to share ideas and tips (the way the gaming industry CM’s do!)
I think it would be even better if we all came together to share knowledge – I realize that my reply made it sound as if only the gaming CMs had anything to give. 🙂 We share many of the same struggles, especially in the areas of metrics and tracking, proving ROI, and generally justifying our existence. While I have a feeling gaming (and other software development) CMs are well ahead of the curve when it comes to running owned communities, social media has expanded our toolset and we’re all still integrating it into what we already do as standard practice.
In gaming, community managers are tasked with everything you listed above, but also many, many other tasks which are pretty standard across the board, particularly in MMOs. Just to list a few (not including social media tasks, since this is about what we all do OTHER than tweet all day!):
-Moderation and management of owned forums
-Creating and managing policy for both our external and/or owned communities and the employees who interact with them
-Interfacing with the development teams to bring feedback and advocate on behalf of the consumer
-Reporting traffic metrics and other community-specific stats
-Prepping and publishing release notes
-Supporting multiple and ongoing development cycles (alpha, closed beta, open beta, launch, content updates, DLC, expansions, etc.)
-Editorial content (developer diaries, tutorials, etc)
-In-game live event support
-Real-life event organization and support, e.g. trade shows, player gatherings, etc.
-Contests and other community activities (screenshot contests are one example)
-Marketing and communications support
-Requesting tools and features for both our owned communities (forums, social networks, wikis) and games (chat UI and improvements, social features like friends lists, guild functions)
-Regularly featuring players (here’s an example: http://my.lotro.com/turbinecommunity/2010/03/19/featured-player-valaraen/) and UGC like videos, blogs, etc.
-Disaster management (servers go down, critical bug found, etc.)
And on, and on… 🙂 Despite the fact that many of these are specific to software development in general, not just gaming, there are many tasks that we all share as community managers no matter who we’re working for, like featuring positive contributors to the community!
I finally got a chance to read this, and I have to say “thank you”. So many people are so focused on Twitter and Facebook, so it’s good to see someone mentioning other ways to engage the community. I’ll keep this on hand. Thanks again!