What Makes for a Good Community Manager?

It has been said that behind every great man is a great woman. And behind every great social media community is a great community manager, who play an integral role in establishing, nurturing and engaging communities who gather around a business, an organization or a cause.

In many respects, community managers are social media’s unsung heroes because much of their work happens behind the scenes. With a few exceptions, community managers don’t enjoy high profiles or become “stars”. The few times community managers are thrust into the spotlight is when something goes wrong.

But the fact of the matter is communities don’t thrive without a community manager effectively and efficiently running the operation on a day in, day out basis. It’s grunt work but completely necessary.

So what makes for a great community manager? What characteristics do they need to be successful? Here’s a few ideas:

1. Enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge of social media services. It goes without saying that community managers need to know their stuff. They have to not only talk the talk but walk the walk in terms of knowing how to adroitly use each service, best practices, and the pros and cons of different services.

2. Energy: Social media is a 24/7, non-stop activity. It’s a marathon, not a sprint so community managers need the drive and energy to work long hours weekdays, weekends and holidays to make sure no opportunity is missed. The need to be “on” all the time is probably one of the most challenging part of being a community manager, and likely one of the reasons the shelf life for community managers can be fairly short.

3. An upbeat, outgoing personality, at least digitally. Although “engage” is a wildly overused term, successful community managers are upbeat, happy to be involved in the community, and always looking for new opportunities to connect. It’s is difficult to be a wall flower within the community management world. Ideally, community managers are also skilled in real-world socializing given that putting a face to a name can make a huge difference.

4. A knowledge of the different aspects of the business. It’s not enough to be social media savvy; community managers also need to understand a company’s communications, marketing and sales strategies, and how they align with its social media efforts. In the course of a day, a community manager can be marketing, selling, offering customer service, doing business development and recruiting so being uni-dimensional can be a bad attribute.

For more tips on how community manager’s can succeed, as well as five mistakes to avoid, check out this free Sysomos whitepaper.

9 Comments on “What Makes for a Good Community Manager?”

  1. I want to agree with a lot of what you say but look at google+.
    No community manager to be seen.
    Same with twitter and the like.
    A lack of community manager can also allow the community to evolve in its own direction.

  2. I have to disagree with the earlier comment. It seems to look at the networks as self-sustaining networks. They are to a certain degree, but community managers provide jumping off points for the people engaged on those networks. In my mind, community managers create sub-communities within those networks. Those communities will evolve as the larger one does, but those communities still are the results of the managers themselves.

    1. In some regards, community managers are social “hosts” who help to set the stage for lots of conversations to happen – sort of like hosting a party in which one of the goals is making sure your guests get to know each other. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  3. I think that the “upbeat personality” aspect is one that is often overlooked. A community manager interacts with LOTS of people per day. Some people are happy, some are unhappy and some are downright rude. It’s important to maintain a respectful and positive tone for the sake of the community and also for the sake of the community manager.

    We are very similar to psychologists (we hear everyone’s problems!) and we need to be sure not to internalize other people’s emotions so that we can do our job effectively everyday. Great post!

    1. Tera,

      I completely agree that having a personality + is a key attribute given the amount of interaction. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  4. Absolutely agree … I think there is one thing you left off the list — they need to be able to write well. Too many community managers that I have seen cannot string a 10 word sentence together without grammar mistakes and typos galore.

  5. Great comments Mark:

    Nice to chat with John again, even if it is just virtually.

    Timely post. I’ve seen several job listings for social media positions where one of the requirements is “Spending all day on Facebook.”

    I agree with all four points. The first three can be hired relatively inexpensively. The fourth, however, requires more experience, more business savvy and therefore a higher salary.

    I’ve found a lot of people struggling with that issue. Do you hire an inexpensive junior person who has a great personality, great attitude, and is looking for an opportunity to show what they can do? Or do you pay more and get someone with experience? I actually wrote a blog post with my detailed thoughts – http://bit.ly/nrn8Bv – but I’d be interested to see what others think. How important is the fourth attribute and how much should you be willing to pay for it?

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