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.