20 Jun The Community Dictionary | Episode 6 – Community Manager
Welcome to the Community Dictionary. This series of articles will feature the English version of the Italian spoken podcast hosted by Marta Mainieri, and produced by Produzioni Dal Basso.
“Community manager” is a term that really needs to be put in a dictionary; there is a lot of confusion around it. Doing a web search brings up so many inaccuracies that you wouldn’t know where to start to put them in order. This term adds to the confusion that already exists around the term “community,” which we saw in our first episode of our dictionary. To bring some order, like any self-respecting glossary, let’s try to go through some of the major inaccuracies that are written about the community manager role, highlighting some of the other roles with which it is often confused.
A Community Manager is not a Social media manager
“This search is not for a social media manager.” That’s how a job posting began some time ago, seeking a community manager. To avoid receiving out-of-focus resumes, the company had decided to make the boundaries of its search clear. The social media manager, in fact, is the figure with which community managers are most confused. People often mistakenly attribute tasks such as informing the company about what is relevant on social networks, moderating social networks, finding new and potential followers, and so on, to community managers.
Nothing could be more wrong. The main responsibility of a community manager is to grow the relationship with the community, not to manage social networks. He or she will certainly have to nurture the relationship with the community through all channels of contact, but these may include social media as well as platforms, physical meetings, telephone, chat, etcetera. Even if the community primarily operates on digital channels, their job will not only be to moderate but to build the relationship inside and outside them. If the term “follower” appears in a job posting ad, rest assured that the hiring company has no idea what a community manager truly is, as a community manager would never refer to their members as “followers.”
A Community Manager is not a Brand Manager
Moreover, the job of a community manager is not to aggregate new members, which pertains to marketing, but to develop relationships with existing ones. To put it simply, you may say that a social media manager takes care of external relations while the community manager takes care of internal community relations. Both figures serve to grow the community but should have distinct duties, although it is advisable that they work side by side in coordination.
The community manager is also not a brand manager. Be wary of those ads stating that the community manager is the voice of the brand; the community manager has a strong liaison role between the organization and the community. It is true that they repost choices, style, and strategy promoted by the organization to the community, but it is equally true that they return to the organization the moods, ideas, and needs of the community. Even when the community is product-driven, the community manager is not the one who promotes the product, as in the case of the brand manager, but the one who curates discussions around it, gathers ideas, organizes support, identifies super users, and so on.
A Community Manager is not a Software Engineer
Likewise, a community manager is not a software engineer. Some job postings demand HTML, Java, and other developers’ tools among the knowledge required for a community manager role. None of this is the job of the community manager. Yes, they must know their way around the platforms where their community is located very well from a technical point of view. Yes, they must know the secrets to make the members’ experience more effective and usable, but no, they should never put to code, because of two main reasons:
- Community managers will unlikely have the technical skills required, unless managing an IT community.
- Their time, if they want to grow the community, must be devoted entirely to its care.
The same is also true for those who search for a community manager, only to assign them typical activities of a receptionist or an operations manager. It often happens in coworking or coliving facilities that a community manager is called on to greet people at the entrance, enforce rules, assign stations, and so on. A community manager too focused on operations and management risks losing sight of what their main activities are: getting to know members, facilitating meetings, organizing content and activities.
The cause for these misunderstandings
All these misunderstandings about the role arise from the fact that very often organizations promote communities without having an awareness of what a community really is and how it should be managed. Increasingly, they feel the need to set up relationships with their customers, members, and employees in a different way, to make them more motivated, more interested, and with more opportunities to express themselves. This need is very clear, but not knowing how to solve it, they will often invoke the word “community” as some sort of magic potion, with the community manager as the magician with his wand. Needless to say, he is not.
The community manager, among other things, is not even a magician. He cannot be the person who solves an organization’s problems, nor can he be the innovator who revolutionizes processes, as certain announcements seem to call for. He may be able to do it if supported by a clear-minded management team that entrusts him with the right tasks and also has an adequate budget. In most cases, the community manager remains a junior position, who implements strategies and manages the day-to-day. A person who must be equipped with hard and soft skills, especially the latter because he or she must have the ability to listen, stimulate, mediate, and motivate.
In short, this is who the community manager is: a person who possesses a true passion for interpersonal relationships and innate confidence in collaboration. Not a magician… although I wouldn’t be lying if I said they must have some unusual traits.
See you in our next episode.
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