Community Managing – What’s It All About?

September 3, 2012 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, Community Marketing, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, Introduction, Meetup.com, MongoDB, Networking, Personal, Social Media Marketing, Technology

Being a Community Manager isn’t what you might think…

You may have guessed that I’m somewhat of an internet addict, though my interest in all things www extends beyond your usual Facebook and Twitter fandom; instead I remain fascinated by the possibilities arising for individuals, organisations and businesses in seizing opportunities to network strategically, create targeted and sustainable campaigns and raise brand awareness.

One thing which I keep coming up against, however, is a confusion surrounding the concept of online community – and thus of community managing. In fact, even my own mother knows little of what this sector actually entails, which makes describing my internship to our friends and family rather a vague task.

So, Mum, hope this helps…

What is ‘Community Management’?

Online Community Management is a mixed bag of brand evangelism, PR, event organisation, content development, advocation, analysis and mediation all rolled into one. If you’ve set your sights on becoming a Community Manager because you fancy hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all day, think again; CMs aren’t paid to just blather on all day like some people might think. In fact, they have to create meaningful discussions around topics that are important to the overall community and this can often extend far outside of a ‘traditional’ company marketing boundaries.

A  day in the life of a typical CM has kindly been outlined by my colleague Francesca, Community Marketing Manager for MongoDB:

9am: Get into the office and take a look at my to-do list. Community managers do so many different things every day, that if you do too much context shifting, you’ll never get anything done.

9:15: Check my email. Scan the important things–like things that need to be included in a future newsletter or meeting cancelations.

9:45: Hop on a Skype call with a MongoDB community member to discuss roles and responsibilities for participating in our community programs

10:30: Look through a sponsorship prospectus for future conferences and Add details to Salesforce.com and the company wiki

11:30: Meeting with community team to discuss budgets for the next quarter.

1:30: Follow up with MongoDB User Group organizers in Los Angeles on their recent meetup

2:00: Phone call with colleagues to discuss upcoming newsletter content

2:30: Phone call with community member interested in speaking at a MongoDB user group.

3:00: Queue blog posts for the next day

3:30: Check email

4:30: Prepare emails for event announcements to send to user groups

5:00: Check twitter and prepare tweets for the next day.

6:00: Place shipping orders to send swag and marketing collateral to conferences and MongoDB user groups

6:30: Attend any evening meet ups or community get togethers

Basic Truths of Community Managing

In my short time here at 10gen, and taking into account my previous roles with the University of Bath and a London events company called Thinking Bob (where I worked within social media and marketing positions), I have learned these basic truths of community management:

  • One of the Community Managers’ primary roles is to represent the customer, not the just company. Though the job of a CM includes a highly evangelistic role, it has to work both ways. Whilst promoting events, products and upgrades to customers through traditional marketing tactics, a CM must also be sure to prioritise listening to their community base, monitoring and analysing what members are saying in both the corporate community as well as external and more personal websites. They must then use this information to provide active feedback, either via engaging customers by responding to their requests and needs or just conversations, both in private and in public. CMs should also provide more streamlined feedback to their company about the demands and suggestions of the community. In other words,  this is a position of trust. The CM must earn and maintain the trust of the community, and be shown to be working as an effective and dedicated go-between for both the company and the community members.
  • Community Management is continuous, not temporal. This is a dual truth; firstly, communities themselves are slow growing organisms which require ongoing dedication and cultivation. Don’t get too set in your ways, or you run the risk of losing the interest of current members and of failing to pique the interest of new ones. Secondly, reaching out quickly to someone tweeting about your brand is only half of the equation – the role of a community manager is to continue the relationship. When your community management person  disappears after the initial response, that’s a problem, and a potential new community member lost.
  • Sometimes you have to get out of the way. Often, although having been the one to make the first contact and cultivate the relationship, the role of a CM ends up being to connect the customer to the right person in your company – someone more able to deal with specific queries than you are. It’s important to realise when this is the case, otherwise conversations become drawn out and tedious for both parties. Know your limits!
  • Some people will think you’re unnecessary. Though a flourishing sector, online community management is a new position in the business world. Some people won’t understand exactly what you’re doing all day, and may even resent you for this. Make the time to explain to colleagues what your position entails, demonstrate previous successes with case studies and tell them what you hope to achieve within your role. Show them that one of the essential hires for companies that want to affect real change as a social media savvy organisation is a Community Manager.
  • This is not a 9 to 5 job. Do not believe them if they tell you it is. I find myself checking usergroups, replying to Tweets and working out event budgets over dinner. This suits me fine (I’m a self-confessed workaholic), but others might not find this work schedule suits their lifestyle.

So Why Do It?

In a world where there is a move towards valuing customer-company relationships built upon a deeper level than traditional marketing and transactional relationships, the role of Community Manager is to be the human face of a company. You get to meet those on the receiving end of your company product – veteran of its use, newbies to it and even some fanatics. A CM’s evening can vary from a one-on-one at office hours with a client to an evening of boozing down the pub with a user group.

As well as customers, you get to work with the entire spectrum of internal staff – from management, developers, PR to sales. This can provide a fascinating insight into the process by which the end product gets to your community base, and allow you to improve your ability to assist your community even further.

The CM is a positive, interpersonal and challenging role – avoiding drama and negativity is one of the core responsibilities of a CM. It can be a fine line to walk when you’re trying to be an advocate for both the community members and your employer, but a fun one. Every day throws something new at you, and so this is a position for people who like people and are happy to be kept on their toes.