Three Shifts I’d like to See CommunityManagers Make in 2013
The profession of community management has undergone several facelifts in its relatively short-livedcareer. In the early days of online communities — when bulletin board systems, LISTSERVs, Usenetnewsgroups, and later, web-based discussion forums ruled the web — brands, at least as participants,were nowhere to be found. “Community managers”, then, were more passion-driven hobbyists thanprofessionally hired brand ambassadors.But as the accessibility and ubiquity of mass social-networking platforms like Facebook grew to such epicproportions that brands
become, to use a now-tired phrase, “people, too,” the job of managing acommunity became, well, a job — a bona fide career.Enter today’s community manager: an individual responsible for acting as the eyes, ears, voice, andsometimes face of a brand in its virtual environments. It is often a thankless job, but it’s an important one — which is why you’re reading this article today, on
#CMAD. And for community managers to keep meeting the demands of our rapidly changing media landscape —and to continue evolving and maturing as practitioners in 2013 — I see a few key shifts as essential:
Community manager as specialist
In the community management world, the idea of community-manager-as-strategist is somewhat of acontroversial point.While I agree that a community manager shouldn’t be a “jack of all trades,” in 2013,he or she
need to have an increasingly deeper, and more general, grasp of brand and digital strategyto do his very specific job well. After all, our media landscape isn’t getting any less complex, and he’sright in the middle of it. What does that mean? Getting the role that hashtags play in converting a 60-second TV spot into online community growth and engagement. Understanding the nuances andintricacies of brand purpose, and how they translate into creating content that meets consumer interest.Tracking the growing importance of real-time communication, mobile, and social CRM. In the end, hisday-to-day
may center on actually engaging the brand’s communities, but his
must exist at a higher, more holistic level—one that acknowledges the growing complexity andinterconnectedness of the very communities he’s engaging.
Community Manager as Integrated Team Member
Of everyone on the marketing team, community managers have perhaps the most frequent, on-the-ground interaction with a brand’s community. There is no better anecdotal source of insight into whatcommunity members are saying, what kinds of content they’re responding to, and how they’re feelingabout a new product, service, or initiative. Note that I said
: collecting and analyzing social datawill continue to grow in importance for brands, and developing breathtaking creative will never cease tobe a foundation of a brand’s identity and voice in the world. But community managers are often siloedunnecessarily, and the feedback, stories, and ideas that they hear from brand advocates and detractorsalike can—and should—play an important role in informing brand and digital strategy in 2013.