Managing a Community: All in a Day’s Work


I used to think journalists were the supreme jacks of all trades. But then I did some research on community managers, and I think they might actually take the cake.

That’s because a community manager is part brand ambassador, communicator and public face, internal connector, content writer, social media guru, and educator. Not all parts are equal and some perform other duties more than others. And I know there’s more to cover – and that community management does not always adhere to regular business hours.

“You basically are the voice of the brand out in the community and the voice of the community back into the brand,” said Tim McDonald, community manager with Astek Consulting in Chicago and director of communications for Social Media Club Chicago. “Community managers wear a lot of different hats. You’re probably going to play a part in customer service, business development, marketing and pr, and communications.”

For Astek, McDonald keeps the community informed. 

This involves working with different clients – each with different needs. It includes everything from answering questions, helping to promote them, and letting people know what the company does. Sometimes, McDonald also is responsible for curating content, scheduling and publishing, engaging with folks who talk about Astek through social media channels, and reporting information such as click-through rates and topics that resonate with the community.

At Syracuse University, Kelly Lux started as the community manager in June 2010. She was the school’s first-ever social media hire.

Last summer, she began working with the iSchool – the university’s School of Information Studies. The job now is a lot bigger than community manager. 

Here’s a small snapshot: She manages the accounts and communities on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram. She creates content and interacts with followers and friends, monitors conversations around the brand and build relationships with influencers. She also manages a multi-author (26 students) blog for the school and works with another team of students to identify social media projects that will enhance our presence on campus, in the community and around the world.

On Twitter, Lux co-founded Community Manager Chat (#cmgrchat), which takes place Wednesdays at 2 p.m. 

Every week, community managers from around the country and across the globe discuss a particular topic. The chat usually contains 80 to 100 participants and is a great place to learn and network, she said. 

“Social media is a 24-7 job,” Lux said. “It is virtually impossible to keep up with everything that is new on your own.  I spend tons of time on Twitter and have lists that I watch closely to keep up with people who are sharing important news and information.”

It turns out that Twitter is the second most popular platform for community managers. 

A recent survey by Social Fresh found that Facebook led the platforms with 55 percent saying it delivered the most success. Twitter came in second with 24 percent, and LinkedIn trailed with a meager 2 percent. 

Social Fresh surveyed more than 300 professionals and found 63 percent of community managers spend 30-plus hours a week on their community. A sizable chunk (26 percent) spends upward of 41 hours to 50 hours on it. 

While there are certification programs out there, some say the essence to community management starts with good ol’ fashioned people skills. 

“It’s being a people person and connecting with people,” said Katie Felten, former community manager with Hashable. “You have to put a face on the company. Anyone can learn how to do a job, but being a good connector, having strong communications skills, and being relatable – those are much more important. Anyone can write a tweet, but you can’t teach passion for that brand.”

And in case you’re looking for educational opportunities in the community management field, 

The Community Roundtable has partnered with WOMMA and ComBlu on classes to help start developing an industry standard. 

Rachel Happe, with The Community Roundtable, said the training is developed and delivered by a variety of experts and practitioners so that multiple points of view are incorporated. 

The group has laid out three modules, directed at different levels of responsibility:

  •  Community Specialist
  • Community Manager
  • Community Strategist

The first class of the first module was delivered in January and February, and there were more than 200 participants. The Community Manager module will be delivered later this year.

Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

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