Community Management: It’s a discipline, not a title

Community management is more than a hat worn temporarily by a social media or PR person. It’s not a position that’s shed when a person moves to the next level in his/her career. Community management isn’t just a title – it’s a discipline.

I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop with a room full of community managers at South by Southwest. The below shares the outcome of the community management workshop, as well as takeaways from the session, that are beneficial whether you’re a community manager or simply involved with your brand’s social media properties in some way.

The social media nerd in me can’t deny that spending a few hours with a group of people who share your same passions, responsibilities and challenges is nothing short of rewarding. What I appreciated most about this workshop though, was that we didn’t spend time venting with one another about the challenges we face as community managers.  Instead, we focused on the biggest (yet most promising) challenge of all: Where will community management go next?

From our diverse backgrounds and skill sets as community managers, we determined that the community management discipline needs to evolve to be included as an integral part of a company’s communication’s strategy.  In laymen’s terms? We need to be a part of the important-people-decision-making-process stuff.

In order to get to that place, we came up with a list of ideals and tools community managers need to evolve the discipline. The result? A Community Manager Manifesto. Though the document is still in draft form, it will be finalized in the near future.

The Manifesto is a great guide and source of aspiration for community managers, but there is also relevance beyond the face value. One of the ideals listed in the Manifesto is:

“We represent and report on the voice of the customer, which must be respected and recognized as actionable data to drive business and/or product change.”

For brands that are currently operating without a community manager, this statement captures the depth of insight that adding a community manager can bring.  Surveys, sales and advertisements can provide useful information about your customer, but bringing on a community manager provides a more intimate level of engagement than is possible through traditional means.  For brands that do have one or several community managers, this statement reinforces that there is more to the discipline than responding to tweets. Community managers can provide real data, straight from the mouths of the consumer, to improve your product or service.

I recommend reading through the Community Manager Manifesto, but below are some of the ideals that stood out most to me:

  • We will become the educators to our organizations about insights/opportunities provided by the community and our value to empower employees to contribute to scalable social enterprise
  • We must identify and work with key stakeholders to define community purpose and development of shared best practices and over-arching guidelines.
  • We should be empowered with access to the information and data that we need to drive product development and change.

The bottom line is that the perception of community management is shifting in the right direction, but it still has a ways to go. Brands that recognize the complexities, and value, of the discipline, will succeed in understanding their customers in a way that was nearly impossible 10 years ago. For those not ready to dive head first into the realm of community management, consider how some of the principles of the discipline, and those outlined in the Manifesto, can aid in your overall communications strategy.

Picture credit: Kerolic / Social media Today



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