Originally posted on Harvard Business Review.
Okay, maybe that’s going too far. I don’t really recommend firing your marketing manager. I do however believe that most companies will eventually need to hire or contract with a community manager, if they haven’t already. A recent BusinessWeek article called “Twitter Twitter Little Star,” describes social media as a booming industry which has caught the attention of corporations everywhere, and suggests the role of a “social media director” and what that person should do. I’d like to dig a bit deeper into why this core function is necessary to create what’s becoming known as social engagement. I’ll call the role the community manager.
A community manager actively monitors, participates in and engages others within online communities. These communities can be on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, intranets, wherever groups of people come together to converse and interact with each other. A traditional marketing manager is likely to have little experience with this function. Historically, community management developed outside marketing, in areas such as community organizing (politics) or in niche verticals such as the video game or software industry, which are no strangers to digital outposts such as message boards.
A community manager acts as an ambassador for your organization, whether that person is an employee or contracted to manage your social web presence. A good community manager gives a human form to the faceless corporation. On Facebook Whole Foods, for example, community managers have created a forum that impels customers to respond to its posts. They also often informally engage their customers in the process.
A community manager must be a good or great communicator. He or she of course needs to be social, and understand the social mores of the communities served, and have a strongly developed sense of ethics. He or she should know, for example, when deleting a member’s comment is wrong or justified and be prepared to explain why. Enthusiasm is also required. Finally, a good community manager will be well connected, forming relationships with the right people in your communities, the individuals and groups you want on your side.
No doubt companies are flocking toward non traditional job descriptions like community manager. If I were building my my all-star business team, I’d think about how community management works and why I might need a few good ones on my roster.