If you work in social media, explaining your job can be a frustrating experience - especially to family members who probably assume that you just use Facebook all day. 

For Community Managers, in particular, there tends to be a lot of confusion over exactly what the role entails.

To clear things up, I thought I’d delve into the world of community management and find out why it’s becoming increasingly important for brands of all kinds.

Here’s a beginner’s guide.

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What does a community manager do?

The role of a community manager is to act as the bridge between a brand and the community it is aiming to create (i.e. a loyal audience or group of core consumers connected by a similar interest). 

They should be the brand’s ambassador, engaging with potential customers and building relationships with existing ones. They are also focused on gauging sentiment around the brand, using social listening tools in order to monitor feedback and engagement.   

What’s the difference between a social media manager and a community manager?

Isn’t that just the same as what a social media manager does, you might ask? Apparently not.

Though there tends to be overlap between the roles, both interacting with customers on the same platforms, there are marked differences.

While a social media manager focuses on the logistics of content creation and distribution – i.e. managing a content calendar, posting on social, and monitoring analytics – a community manager is focused on establishing community guidelines, as well as facilitating and moderating conversation between members. 

Another way of looking at it is to think about what each might aim to achieve from a post, let’s say on Facebook.

A social media manager might post to engage customers in conversation – they’ll measure this by the amount of direct replies or likes. On the other hand, a community manager will post with the aim of getting customers talking to each other – and this will also be measured through qualitative data, such as sentiment and the level or quality of engagement.

Skills and attributes

There are many ways to measure success within community management. You can read about four elements for building a valuable community here. However, let’s start with the kind of skills community managers are required to have, as well as why they are vital.

Communication 

It might sound like an obvious skill, but there’s a difference between being a good writer and someone who is a skilled communicator.

Community management is not just about crafting creative or engaging tweets – it’s also about listening to what members are saying and using this to shape future messages. The role is basically digital networking, so it is vital for a community manager to have excellent people skills, too. 

Empathy and judgement

Following on from this, a community manager must be able to empathise with the customer and know how to respond in a manner that reflects the brand's values and identity. Again, this is different to a social media manager or exec who might post as the brand, where as a community manager is always speaking on behalf of the brand - and as a human being.

We’ve all seen examples of social media fails, with employees posting knee-jerk or inappropriate reactions to customer complaints.

On the other hand, when a brand responds well, it can turn a negative experience into a positive one. Take Adidas, for example, which shut down homophobic comments on an Instagram pic using just two emojis. 

Organisation and data analysis

While community management is based on a lot of human and emotional attributes, it also requires organisational skill and the ability to manage a fast-paced workload. 

With multiple platforms to monitor, it is important to keep on top of how communities are responding in real-time, using analytics tools to measure things like reach, traffic and engagement. 

Benefits of community management

So, we know what is required for effective community management – but what are the benefits for brands? 

Growth

Community management is not simply about championing the brand, but also about listening to valuable feedback from customers. By gaining a deeper understanding about an audience and what they want, brands have more chance of attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.

With social platforms also being the place customers are most likely to express real emotions, it gives brands true insight into how their customers are responding.

Trust 

Relationship building is at the core of community management. Unlike the days before social media, where one-to-one contact between a customer and a brand was rare or required speaking on the telephone, it is now an instant and expected part of customer service.

Everything from fast response times to a friendly manner means customers will feel valued, and in turn, place trust in a brand.

Value

By creating a community – whether it’s a Facebook group or online discussion forum – brands can impact consumers on a more emotional and everyday level.

This allows companies to become more than just a faceless brand and serve a purpose based on something other than its original product. In turn, this can lead to greater loyalty and long-term success.

To improve your skills and knowledge in this area, check out Econsultancy's Online Community Management training course.

And if you're looking for a new role within community management or social media, head over to Econsultancy's jobs board.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 19 January, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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