Community Managers: Social Media’s Blockers and Tacklers

The sizzle within social media is the tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, WordPress, Ning, etc. But sizzle only gets you so far without substance.

Substance leverages the tools, creates strategic plans and tactically implements social media programs that are well integrated into a company’s communications, marketing and sales efforts.

For a company’s social media efforts to work well, someone has to lead the charge. The person best suited to do this job is the community manager – someone who has solid experience and multiple skills to handle a variety of tasks – everything from business development, customer service, marketing, public/media relations and sales.

Community managers are also evangelists and active within the community to provide a company with a steady presence. And they’re managers, overseeing other people who tactically implement social media programs.

While more companies are hiring community managers, their value has yet to be fully appreciated. This is likely because social media is still in its nascent stages so many companies are still working on creating management structure that incorporate their social media efforts.

It explains why many companies have launched social media programs without having a community manager in place, or they have someone who is social media-savvy but not terribly experienced.

The reality is community managers are the “blockers and tacklers” within the social media game.

While not glamorous – unless you’re someone such as Comcast’s Frank Eliason – community managers do a lot of heavy lifting behind the scenes. When a company’s social media programs are successful, it’s not often that you see the community manager celebrated as the hero of the day.

At the end of the day, community managers can make or a break a company’s social media efforts – even those that feature an excellent strategic plan. Without someone at the helm who can effectively oversee day-to-day operations, social media can be a losing and frustrating proposition.

For more thoughts on the importance of community managers, check out this blog post on The Intangibles.

  • I’m the community manager for several communities and what you’re saying here only scratches the surface of how true it all is.

    One of the communities I manage it was extremely easy to build, and we’re constantly exploring new ways to keep them engaged and grow in a very natural way. As we speak, I’m designing the flow of an iPhone and Facebook application. Not that I have any skills as a game designer, but as someone who dabbles in User interface and as a gamer, I’m tested by designing the flow and functionality of the app, then find a developer who can actually build what I sketch out.

    It is required for a good community manager to have enough experience in various fields to be able to speak the language and communicate needs to keep their community happy. For example, I do Ux/Ui, Information architecture, Ppc, reputation management, copywriting, and blogging just to name a few things and that keeps me pretty sharp when it comes to making sure the communities I serve happy. And nothing makes me more upset to hear someone call themselves an “expert” especially when they don’t have the sort of skills to explain why.

  • I agree with what you – and Tommy – have said. We aren’t often credited for a work well done (though I have to say that my current boss is great at giving praise, and I’m not just saying that in case he sees this). Most people don’t know what work it involves, either, and I find that many companies don’t know what the pay should be.

    Most don’t understand that the job is 24/7. I am located at GMT+2, but a large chunk of our audience is in the US, so I need to be available way after hours, or I can lose momentum.

    You can’t afford to be absent from the forums or blogosphere on the weekends, and need to be on the lookout constantly for your brand mentions.

    That said, I love what I do. I love talking to people and helping them, seeing what they need, and making it happen.

    While I get paid to “talk,” I also do QA, Biz Dev, PR, product management, and a host of other duties. It’s important to have a background in whatever your community is about, too -0 we are video, and I have heavy experience in online video and television production, so I am able to help our community with many technical questions as well.

    You definitely need to have a diverse and well=rounded skillset to be able to do the job well.

  • espn

    It’s called Community Manager now.
    It used to be called Web Producer.
    Same difference.

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  • This is an interesting perspective on Community Managers. I’ve been one since before there was such a title (we were Forum Mgrs/Producers or Web Producers as espn said up there). Some were (and still are) called SysOps or SysAdmins (in dalnet and IRC etc.). As the web grew more social and accessible to the masses, the parameters of the job changed. I was kicking and screaming when buzzwords like “social networking” and “social media” and “user generated content” were introduced. I even revolted when “blogs” came out (which was nothing more than a message board w. a different user interface from my perspective). But then I bitched and moaned when I had to beta test Windows and use something called “a mouse” instead of keyboard commands in DOS, too. So…I’m surely not the litmus test.

    There is a history of Community Management being the red-headed step child of the net, even though we like to believe we’re the backbone and foundation of net success (the “royal we” that is). I’ve experienced in some companies over the years. And I’ve been a major advocate of changing the perception of Community professionals from “semi-educated netheads with a passion for hanging out online” to being recognised as the professionals in the industry that we are. From paying a proper wage for the work performed to speaking on behalf of community professionals at various venues around the globe, I will continue to be an advocate for the profession.

    It’s important to keep in mind that the net is changing and what’s “new” to some is ancient and established to others. Community management has come a LONG way since the early 90s. While some companies may still undervalue the profession, and other companies rename the work we do “social media specialist” or “marketing and social media professional” – and while some folks still don’t “get it” and likely never will, I’ve seen a huge difference in the general respect, understanding and acceptance of Community Management and its importance. We have grown from a handful of people who know and understand this subject to literally thousands in less than 10 years.

    I took some grief (thankfully not a lot) from some people in the industry who made comments about my taking on the title of “Chief Community Officer” at Mind Candy. After 16+ years professionally and 20+ al together, you bet yer ass I accepted the title. Not just for me, however. Recognising skillsets, experience, hands on knowledge and accomplishments via a “title” eventually brings our profession into the light and allows us more weight in the online world.

    I don’t think it’s so dark out there but I guess it’s all relative to what you know 🙂

    You want to find the world’s finest in one spot? join ( We’ve had a listserv for 10 years but many of us have been at it much longer than that.

    Rebecca Newton
    Chief Community & Safety Officer
    Safety Advisor to member
    keeper of the list,

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