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Changing Career Paths: Becoming A Community Manager

January 15, 2012 — by Larry Jennings27

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Blog

Changing Career Paths: Becoming A Community Manager

January 15, 2012 — by Larry Jennings27

Now, the first thing you need to know about me is that I’m not a Community Manager. As a matter of fact, as close as I get is working in the software industry. Learning more about the Community Manager position over the last few years has opened my mind to exploring this as a career. I’ve been involved in several online and offline communities and I’ve even had the privilege of leading some of them. However, in researching the social media space and its impacts on business, I came across the selfless people that are often tasked in dealing with the users of a particular fan base on a regular basis.

 

In the old days before social media, you might be a moderator on a website forum or in a chat room. As technology evolves, the act of letting the community build itself is over. What was once a web forum has evolved into not just a forum, but also the Facebook account and Twitter account, amongst other tasks, such as reporting numbers. It’s the constant change – the technology in use and the rewards of helping people – which makes the Community Manager position so appealing.

 

A Lot of Hats

In another post here at My Community Manager, there’s an article by Ryan Olsen about “wearing a lot of hats,” highlighting the various job responsibilities for Community Managers. These various tasks however, mean there’s constant exposure and room to grow across multiple career fields. HR, PR, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Technology are all represented across the job listings for Community Managers. While I understand the ideal goal of the Community Manager is to grow the user base/exposure base of a company or organization, the position is so new. As a result, no one has a great, all encompassing definition for the role. It’s an ever-changing position that rarely – if ever – gets boring.

 

New Technology

If you’re a technology fan, Community Management typically offers you the chance to work with the newest and most innovative tools across various platforms. Depending on your community, you may need to know how to use social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but you may need to learn tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to organize your community posts. If you’re looking for experts in your community that you aren’t interacting with, you may need to utilize tools such as Kred and Klout to find them. If you’re in a smaller company, you might also be the corporate blogger with skills in WordPress, Joomla, HTML, CSS, with a side of Photoshop and Javascript. Don’t forget to gather the data for the Facebook account or check Google Analytics to see if the tactics implemented are actually working.

 

While that may seem like a lot, and perhaps it’s a bit overblown, by the time you are just getting to learn your tools, a change will be made, or a better tool will be made available. Yes, the technology changes that fast.

 

Not all of the work for a Community Manager is online. If there’s a place for your community to gather offline, you want to be a part of it! It may be a Meetup, a conference or a local users group. It would be great if we could get some of the actual Community Managers to provide key examples of their offline work in the comments below!

 

Real Fruit

While the technology factor of a Community Manager may give the job its “Cool” factor, the best part, and greatest potential for a Community Manager lies in building relationships with community members. These relationships are often built in a myriad of ways, implementing tactics such as: a trivia contest, a nice reply on a bad day, a well – timed joke or a request for information on an issue of some nature. The possibilities for engaging a member are endless, and the Community Manager often breeds endless creativity. Engaging the members isn’t enough. Gary Vaynerchuck was really onto something when he said, “Listen to your users, absolutely, , but giving a $h!t about your users is way better.” That’s the heart and soul of a Community Manager – they’re about the overall community, and each person within the community. Relationships are started, trust is  gained, and it is through these relationships  that a Community Manager serves their greatest purpose.

 

Not All Peaches and Cream

While the role of a Community Manager seems to have its appealing sides, I would be remiss not to point out that these same people are on the front lines in dealing with the public. The front lines can be great 99% of the time, but in an online world saturated with spammers, scammers and trolls, being the face of a particular community can be a nightmare. Community Managers need to have the patience of a saint, the wisdom to know when and when not to comment, and the intelligence to know when to let the community members do the talking for them. These challenges are often the best times for a Community Manager to build upon relationships. Nothing is better than helping someone during a time of adversity.

 

Good customer service is so important, especially when the Community Manager is also the person to relay the message back to an organization and tell them “The Community says that we screwed up,” Many companies don’t like to hear that, but in this day and age, not listening to your community can be fatal. The most loyal community members are those who consistently engage with and love your company or organization, they’ll be the first to help you when you need it – and they’ll be the first to tear you a new one when you screw it up. The members of a community are passionate, they’re loyal and they should not be ignored

 

And that’s what makes being a Community Manager such an appealing job.

Larry Jennings

Larry Jennings Jr. has degrees in Economics and Information Technology and recently completed his Masters in Applied Computer Science. He is currently interested in learning how to leverage Social Media in the enterprise engaging both internal and external communities. He is also an avid gamer and all around pop culture geek.