Community management has become the latest “hot” job. Every company, if it doesn’t have one already, thinks it needs one, and anyone who has spent time on social networks thinks it’s the perfect job for them.
There are benefits and ramifications for hiring a community manager, and being a community manager. If you’re a business looking to hire one, first think through the position, how it fits into your strategic plan. If you’re a job hunter, consider your options. There is opportunity beyond becoming an “employee” again.
For Companies Looking to Hire Community Managers
The advent of social networks makes it seem like “community management” is new. It’s not. You know those gaming forums you frequented in college? Or any forum or discussion board you frequent today. Those are communities. Social media has just added a new, far more visible layer. The community is now anyone with an Internet connection, capable of making flattering or unflattering comments about your company, its products and perhaps its people. And anyone with an Internet connection is also a potential customer, client or user.
So while “community management” is the bandwagon everyone is jumping on now, it will serve your company well to step back for a moment and think of how such a position fits into the overall corporate strategy.
Do you really need a dedicated individual to act as a glorified traffic cop, responding to and directing inquiries to Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Maintenance, etc.? Or do you foresee a need, or is there a current need for a dedicated “community manager” to answer and appropriately escalate Customer Service issues? Or have you done the leg work and determined that you really need a dedicated person to promote and field sales inquiries across various online channels?
Once you’ve answered those, it will be easier to chart a career path for the position within your organization. Will it remain an entry level position? Will it grow into its own department or become part of another, such as Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, etc? Remember: you’re running a business. Each position has a role to fill in your strategic plan, and community management is no different.
Now that you’ve mapped the career path and the place the position fits within your strategic plan, give some thought to the title. Is “community manager” the title that appropriately conveys the position, and the role the person will play within the company? You tack on “manager” to any title and applicants have an expectation of salary, responsibilities and perks that come with being a “manager” of anything. So if you’re expecting the person who fills this role to have years of industry and managerial experience, have direct reports, call the shots and run the show, then “manager” is acceptable. If you’re just looking for an individual with some industry experience, but no management experience, come up with a different title.
Granted, there are reasons to call someone a “manager” of something for the sake of appearances. If the person is going to have face time or a good deal of direct customer interaction, a “manager” title adds a level of credibility. And for some industries, everyone is a “manager” of some kind so it is immaterial and feeds into the belief that titles are useless anyway. Make that clear, though, to the applicant.
The role, its place in your corporate strategic plan and an appropriate title create your job description. The more clear the role and its place in your corporate strategic plan are, the more likely you will have an appropriate and effective job description that will bring in the type of applicants for which you are looking. An appropriate title will weed out those with expectations that don’t fit the role.
For People Looking to Get into Community Management
It’s easy to think of “community management” as the perfect job. What could be better than getting paid to tweet, Facebook and blog all day? If that’s your motivation, start your own blog and find ways to monetize it instead. You’ll more than likely make more money, and be able hire someone else to manage your “community.”
While “community management” isn’t new, how it is deployed or used is new. There is no set standard, despite the cookie-cutter job descriptions. Some companies have thought the position through while others are just jumping on the bandwagon and hoping to work out the details later. Given the state of the economy, looking for a “community management” position is another mind field yet to be mapped out.
So, if you want to get into this thing called “community management,” the first thing to do is decide on an industry. Do a Google search, or start with the letter A and tick off all the industries that come to mind or choose the industry in which you are currently working.
Once you’ve narrowed down the industry, start researching companies. It’s a good bet big corporations have established community management positions, and are looking for another cog in the wheel. Might be a good way to get your feet wet, but if you don’t want to remain a “community manager” forever, find out about growth opportunities and an actual management training program or track. You know if you’re the type who can do the same job everyday for the next ten years, or if you want to be able to transition upwards as your skills develop.
If you’re more the startup type, then look for startups in the industry you’ve chosen. It can be hard to tell if startups are looking to hire full time “community managers,” part timers or contract it out. It will depend on the startup and the industry.
If it’s full time, be prepared for the “jack-of-all-trades” option. They may not know what they want out of a community manager yet, may know they are missing something or really just need someone to take over responsibilities being handled by others already stretched too thin. Or they may have noticed an increase in potential customer inquires from social media or other non-traditional media outlets. Hiring someone might be the quick solution to handle the influx of new leads instead of researching and deciding on a new monitoring tool or working through an integration.
If it’s part time, responsibilities will be limited and it may be nothing more than a glorified traffic cop. The more cynical will shun that as not being community management at all while the more optimistic will see it as opportunity for deepening knowledge and skills in order to transition to a full time position. It should be noted that being a traffic cop can get one quickly acquainted with an industry, so if you narrowed it down to two but couldn’t decide, a part time position might be helpful.
Contracting opens up all sorts of issues about authenticity and whatnot. Granted it’s not all unfounded, but remember: PR and ad agencies are contracted by large corporations, and smaller ones, to represent the large, or small, corporation. Those people are not employees of large corporations but employees of the PR or ad agency.
And this is where the potential lies because the push for startups, the push for entrepreneurs, is going to create a need for inexpensive yet efficient community management. Remember, everyone with an Internet connection can say something, good or bad, about a company, big medium or small. Everyone with an Internet connection is a potential client or customer.
Having someone keeping tabs and playing traffic cop can potentially save startups and entrepreneurs money while giving them the ability to respond quicker to users, funnel potential customers through the sales pipeline and further the brand.
And the money saved can then be re-invested, potentially creating a larger company that needs to hire more people, perhaps even a full time community manager or senior community manager.
So if you aren’t finding the kind of “community management” job you want, there’s opportunity to create your own. Being the person playing traffic cop can open up other opportunities, be it building a niche-specific monitoring service or creating a lifestyle that works for you.