Defining Community: Q&A with Text 100′s New Global Community Manager

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Community managers, the world needs you. Those people that keep our social networks and shared-interest communities humming are a scarce commodity. It matters not whether they’re called Web evangelists, online support, client advocates or customer ninjas, these folks are an under-appreciated and increasingly critical part of business strategy. Hire the right person and you can create a Frank Eliason-esque turnaround of brand perception. Hire the wrong person and you’re looking down the barrel of a Nestle or Marc Jacobs intern calamity.

I feel part of the problem is that we’ve underestimated this role. Recent research from the Community Roundtable talks of community management’s evolution into “a discipline of general management.” The research also reinforced that “…community approaches to marketing, support, innovation, and collaboration have gone mainstream.”

I’m happy to report that Text 100 has taken this to heart. We realized that our approach of managing our owned social media properties across our global network wasn’t giving our various communities what they needed – nor was it meeting the company’s needs. After a global search, I’m happy to report we found the perfect manager already working in our Rochester office, Amber Rinehard.  I sat down (well, emailed) with Amber recently to get her take on her new role.

HYPERtext: What’s your sense of the current state of community management?

Amber Rinehard: The community manager role has seen a lot more attention recently as more and more brands start to realize the importance of their online communities. People are more social than ever and how they use these digital channels can really change how a brand is perceived. A community manager’s job is to make sure these public forums appropriately support the brand’s audiences. While there have always been people – normally in post-sales, external comms or customer support – who’ve managed parts of this role, the boom of social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the game.

HT: What three things make a good community manager?

AR: A good community manager is knowledgeable about the industry and knows the ins and outs of the brand. The ability to humanize the brand is vital – after all, nobody wants to build a relationship with a logo. I think a good community manager also should have a positive attitude and open mind. You need to be open to change as the community can only function if it reflects its members. You can’t control the message and you can’t always predict how something will turn out – so you really need to be able to go with the flow. Lastly a good community manager has the ability to strike a balance – you need to be both the ambassador for the brand, but an advocate for your audience. It’s like being the circus ringmaster – keep the audience entertained, while behind the scenes managing your talented experts. At Text 100 we have a network of passionate and interesting people and I want to build owned and external communities where they can play a big role.

HT: Why should brands like Text 100 build communities?

AR: Our business is all about relationships. Our ‘product’ is our people. That said, we need to continue to build connections between our staff and audiences such as our current clients, prospective new clients, potential and current employees and the wider PR industry. I think we’ve made a great start with channels like HYPERtext and @text100. But we need to continue to build these channels as well as growing our role in discussions in places such as LinkedIn groups or industry blogs. Just as we tell our clients that their experts need to play an appropriate role in online communities, I’ll be helping Text 100’s consultants continue to join and lead the right conversations.

HT: How does your background as Textie help you in your new role?

AR: I’ve been with Text for almost two years and since day one I’ve built relationships with my Text colleagues from all over the world. I will be able to leverage these relationships to move the needle for our company and know when to ask the right questions. At the same time, I’ve established a strong external reputation as an advocate for Text 100. People outside of the company and in the industry know that I work for Text and how passionate I am about my job. So I’ve essentially been an evangelist for the company for both internal and external audiences and this new role is a natural extension of that. In particular I want to help external audiences understand our culture and what really makes Text 100 tick.

HT: Where do you see this role taking you (and you taking it)?

AR: While there are global priorities, there’s a lot of flexibility in defining this role for Text since it’s brand new. I have the ability to shape my job and make it my own, and I’m really looking forward to that. Right now my first priority is building on the work we’ve already done on our owned media properties, in particular HYPERtext, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. From there I’ll help structure our role in conversations outside of our brand properties by helping our experts build their presence in industry conversations. Ultimately, I want all of our communities to see Text 100 as I see it – a great place to work filled with smart, opinionated people who really know communications.

HT: Thanks Amber – and good luck. Where can people find you online?

AR: Thank you! If you’d like to connect with me, check out my blog, follow me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn, or leave a comment on my HYPERtext posts.