Friday Feb 22, 2013

Community Managers: What, Who, Where, Why

trophyWe recently presented VistaPrint’s Jeff Esposito with the Oracle Community Manager of the Year award. The trophy is tall and shiny so we think he liked it. We read Jeff’s CM wish list, but we thought it might also be a good time to further remove any mystery around the CM position. What is their true role? Who makes a good CM? Where do we find them? Why are they so critical?

What?

CMs are the bridge, the conduit, the front lines, the therapists, the entertainers, the advocates, customer service, the curators, the moderators, the publishers, the ambassadors, the face, the spokesperson, the brand personality, (I could go on).

In short, this person IS your brand. Given the enormity of that, the way the CM position has traditionally been staffed and resourced has been stunningly ill advised. Businesses are realizing it’s not a role that can be squeezed in as “part” of someone’s duties.

If your brand is a show, your CM is the host. Don’t be shocked if sometime in the very near future, the CM goes from one of the lowest paid to one of the most coveted, highly recruited positions at a brand. Their innate talents of entertaining, informing and relationship building are largely intuitive and organic (I know, two words not in most corporate dictionaries).


Who?

So how do we recognize the best ones?

  • They believe in your brand and products. They see the value proposition and genuinely want to tell the world.
  • They’re autonomous. It’s 24/7, always on. Attempts to impose a punch clock environment show a lack of understanding of the job and won’t end well.
  • They’re agile. Social technologies and behaviors change fast and often.
  • They’re creative and consistent. You can’t start a social channel then vanish.
  • They know how to communicate short, clear, and visually.
  • They know their audience.
  • They’re smart enough not to use social for desperate, aggressive pitching.
  • They’re patient and have thick skins.
  • They recoil at corporate marketing-speak. They communicate as human beings.
  • They’re good listeners.
  • They cultivate go-to people internally so they can get fans the answers they need.

radarWhere?

So with an order that tall, where do you find these amazing people? Here are some suggestions…some expected, some out-of-the-box.

  • For big brands, draft CMs at smaller brands. Dazzle them with your grasp of the importance of the position.
  • PR People - used to representing brands, used to coming up with attention-getting ideas.
  • Radio Personalities - go on the air for hours at a time daily, creating original, compelling content that attracts, builds and holds an audience. Sound familiar?
  • Your Biggest Fan - They deeply self-identify with your brand. Could there be a stronger fan-advocate?
  • Writers/Journalists – great at knowing their audience. Very little content was created without a writer first sitting down at a blank page and making it un-blank.
  • Political Managers - a CM is trying to win their brand top of mind awareness, “votes,” and serve their constituents.

Why?

Why is it more important than ever to secure the right CM? Brands now understand social is not about fan-collecting. It’s about productive engagement, which is driven by content and relationships. If you have successful connections and relationships on social, they were built by a CM not a faceless corporation.

Get the right person or people. Let them practice their art and win for you. Encourage them to be forthcoming about what fans are saying, good or bad. Resource them with tools that help maximize their time and capabilities. Then enjoy the rewards of being a brand that took the Community Manager role as seriously as it should be.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng


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