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The explosion of social has been tremendous. Facebook is closing in on one billion active users, while Twitter approaches 200m, not to mention fast-emerging platforms like Google+, Instagram and Pinterest.

Social networking is the most popular online activity making up 19% of all online time, or nearly one of every five minutes, up from only 6% in 2007.

However to many people, social media is quite simply another communications channel, and as with anything new and different it takes time to understand.

This is very true for many senior executives across organisations, the very people providing the resources and manpower for social. Savvy social individuals realise this ‘communications channel’ is so much more than just that.

It has completely changed the way people and businesses communicate by breaking down global barriers and providing an incredibly effective and seamless real-time platform. It’s not a one-off campaign or “push” marketing channel, it’s a two-way conversation platform that gives consumers the power and ability to be heard, and listened to and engaged with by organisations.

Consumers are increasingly making social networks their primary digital portal, and the people managing this are your brand’s front line.

Research by Altimeter has found that the average enterprise level company has a corporate social media team of 11 people. We’re seeing new roles emerge as social media continues to develop, such as the community manager.

While maybe not recognised by the title, community managers date back to the early internet days when individuals monitored BBS (bulletin board systems) and forums, as well as online community managers in the gaming world. But, without a doubt, it was the rise of Facebook and Twitter that really created what we know today as the community manager.

Although still in its infancy, the role of community managers becomes more important and enhanced every year. 

Industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang first brought the world’s attention to community managers in the autumn of 2007 publishing “The Four Tenets of the Community Manager”. In 2010, he called for an international “Community Manager Appreciation Day” to occur on the 4th Monday of January.

Since then it’s occurred every year and continues to grow. Today, almost every major brand has at least one person, or increasingly more people managing their social communities.

There is no doubt that armed with the right technologies and resources, brands today can achieve instant scale across Facebook and other social networks and almost simultaneously hyper-target content for individual, niche audiences for relevancy.

They can mine a treasure trove of data and learn more about their consumer than ever before. They can listen, learn and engage in real-time. They can create incredibly vibrant and thriving communities that help brand awareness, brand loyalty, customer relations, and drive overall goals. Social can help your consumers become brand advocates.

But these things don’t happen without a dedicated community manager or team of community managers monitoring, listening, engaging and creating a valuable community 24/7.

So, what makes a good community manager? In our opinion it's:

  • Confidence. Being bold, having a thick skin and trying new tactics.
  • Passion. Community managers should know the brand and community inside out so they can openly communicate their own brand’s passion and values.
  • Integrity. Social makes brands transparent – community managers should be too, and should not hide from challenging issues or questions.
  • Focus. Good community managers know when, where and how to best engage. Identify influencers and make them friends.
  • Creativity. Create engaging content, entertain your community and be unique.

It’s clear that enterprises recognise the power and value of social. Social will begin to be integrated across enterprise, helping to reach, engage and learn about the consumer at every touch point.

This will create a much more informed, effective and efficient process for both brands and consumers. As this happens, the community manager’s role will rise in importance, helping facilitate, learn and respond from the volume of metrics and creating a seamless experience for consumers and brands.

Richard Beattie

Published 12 November, 2012 by Richard Beattie

Richard Beattie is VP EMEA at Vitrue and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

3 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Laura Bazile

Hi Richard,
Hi EC,

Thanks for this. I really appreciate it as I am currently considering a 1 year-course to get certification to become a Community Manager. This comes as a very good memo when applying for CM roles, eg going further and tell your potential employee what you can bring to the company, based on backgrounds, research and ... reality.
My point is that I went through the links hosted here to get more accurate information and I ran into Q&A Qype CM interview and discovered bunch of negative comments! (quite old, but still there). To be honest, it is not the 1st time that I am reading bad comments about this company.
All in one, what will you suggest in such a situation, both on your side as an editor and on the "here blamed" company?
Many thanks,

Laura

over 3 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

"Integrity. Social makes brands transparent – community managers should be too, and should not hide from challenging issues or questions."

You have to trust your brand to your community manager. They are the voice of your company to the online social world and you need to know that they are saying the right things in the right way. It's an immense amount of power to give someone.

over 3 years ago

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40deuce

Being a community manager myself for over two years now, I think that you really have the role nailed in this piece. Since I've started I've watched more and more companies start to hire for this role and even more people get interested in finding a role like this.
In our world of constant and real-time conversations the role of the community manager os becoming more and more important. They act as your companies life-line to everyone outside your company. They know what's going on on in your audience and consumers mind. They know what they're talking about and what they want. So, while many may just think that a community manager is someone who can handle their social media properties, this person can actually help with almost every aspect of a business by providing a commentary on how all parts of a business are affecting those outside of the company.
In the future, you're just going to more and more of these community manager types, and I for one think it's a great thing.

Cheers,
Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

over 3 years ago

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Angela Connor

I agree with a lot here, but not this: "The rise of Facebook and Twitter created what we know today as the community manager?" Are you serious? Do you know how long community managers were working their butts off in branded, niche, non-mainstream communities before many of the big companies even considered joining Facebook or Twitter at all?

I know you do.

While I'm glad that you indicate and acknowledge that community managers have been out there for a long time - dating back to bulletin boards, I don't think that the so-called Facebook and Twitter "community managers" (if you can call them that) encompass all that it takes to be a real community manager beyond those platforms. The requirements don't match up. When you really think about it, how many brands have actual "communities" on Facebook?

What I've seen with the rise of Facebook and Twitter is the dilution of the term "community manager" and an influx of unqualified people who think they know what it takes to engage because they can ask a question on Twitter or post a status update on Facebook that garners a lot of comments and likes.

Like I said, there is so much in this post to love and that has me nodding my head, but that premise is a bit off.

Angela Connor
@communitygirl
Author: "18 Rules of Community Engagement"

over 3 years ago

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Erica Ayotte

Not only have I been a community manager, I've hired a few in my day as well. I agree with all the traits you described above, but I think it's important to add some hard skills to that list.

For example: writing ability, faculty for understanding and interpreting analytics, and presentation skills (because in all likelihood, they're going to have to explain all this stuff to folks who aren't so social savvy).

I've found that candidates who are marketing generalists with deep social experience tend to make the best community managers. Why? Because a community manager sits right at the intersection of many areas of the business and often the most prominent of these areas is marketing. Having a broad marketing background (as opposed to social-only experience) allows for better organizational understanding and judgement. Also I think those with a broad background will be better equipped to identify and implement social business processes.

over 3 years ago

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