The Social Media Club of San Francisco held their monthly meeting Tuesday, March 22nd at the CoTweet offices in SOMA. The title of the event, The Future Role of Community Management, Is It a Dying Role?, provoked stimulating conversation. The strong panel of Community Guru’s included Moderator Maria Ogneva, Head of Community at Yammer, John Virtes, Head of Community at Flipboard, Paul Gilliham, Director of Customer Marketing at Lithium and Scott Rutherford, Co-Founder at UserVoice.
The panel opened with the topic of What exactly IS a community manager? It was quickly determined that its hardly on the brink of dying but rather evolving into a critical role at any company whether its small, large, consumer facing or enterprise. As Gilliham stated, “Its not seen as a dead function, just a changing function.” The role is morphing from being focused on customer service to one that is now a key role as an evangelist of the company. Virtes pointed out, “It means something different at different companies. Support should be distinct but it still touches upon so many places in the company.” Rutherford emphasized its essence to a company, “Its become an incredibly important role. A key role, the breadth…the touch point…the positive voice of the company that can be found through blogs writing, marketing and other touch points.”
What makes a GREAT Community Manager? “The great community manager is kind of like your business’s Swiss Army Knife,” Gilliham so aptly put it. Someone who is able to have an agnostic role within the organization and know how to navigate all the different groups within the company, works well with people, is consistent with one’s policies and respectful of those in their community. Meg Clark, Community Manager at CoTweet pointed out, “Its someone who treats others like she would want to be treated.” To focus on the CoTweet brand and not to confuse her CoTweet community, she makes sure to use her handle of @meg_cotweet to refer to anything having to do with CoTweet while keeping her personal handle separate.
What happens when the voice of the company, your community manager who is possibly even seen as a Celebrity Rock Star leaves? You have to set expectations and boundaries with your community from the launch of your community. Most importantly, as Virtes points out, “You have to leave your ego at the door. This isn’t about you, its about the community and you should be able to hand over the role to anyone else in the company if you were to leave.”
A recent graduate from Texas University brought up another great topic. What makes a good community manager and what are the skills and background needed to BECOME a Community Manager? It was pretty much agreed by all on the panel that it takes someone who is not too junior, has a varied background, tremendous writing and communication skills and most importantly, someone who is passionate and perhaps even a“Super User” of the product or service of the company. As Ogneva stated, its someone “oozing with enthusiasm.” How does one actually LAND a job as a community manager? The panel was in agreement that it will almost naturally happen by being a part of your community of interest, networking in person, connecting through events, online blogs, communities and in the communities of social network sites such as LinkedIn, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The Social Media Club is definitely one way to become connected with like-minded, community people. Another way is to join the Facebook group, Social Media Jobs where there are numerous community manager jobs being posted by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A great way to learn more about this topic is through the The Community Roundtable who just released its 2011 State of Community Management. The Commmunity Roundtable is a virtual table where social media, community, and social business practitioners gather to meet, discuss challenges, celebrate successes, and hear from experts and they are also dedicated to furthering the discipline of community management. You can gain more fascinating nuggets discussed about Community by the awesome panel and Social Media’s engaging audience on Twitter at #SFSMC.