Talk of community management is all the rage these days and last week I sat in on the Focus Roundtable Webinar: Community Management 101: The Start-Up Edition. Four experienced community managers — Evan Hamilton (UserVoice), Thomas Knoll (Launch Rock), Alison Hillman (BranchOut), and Sarah-Jane Morris (Context.IO) — gathered to discuss participant driven questions.
Here are my key take-aways:
On the difference between a community manager and a social media manager
Community is larger than social media. Community is to strategy as social media is to tactics. That being said, Alison brought up the point that because these roles are so new there are no hard rules around definitions. The size and budget of your company, as well as its current needs, is likely to matter more than the title. Each of the community managers on the panel had varying degrees of responsibilities that overlapped community and social media manager roles as well as departments within their organization.
Evolution of the community manager role as an organization grows
Make sure the role of the community manager grows with the company. Evan cautioned against “getting stuck in a corner on Twitter” — separated from the rest of the company. He suggested that as the company grows, the role of community manager should become more strategic and evolve into a horizontal position that touches all departments. Thomas feels it is important to make sure everyone in the organization feels responsible for the community. He advises building community into the culture of the organization from day one.
Day in the life: How to stay organized and create content
Everyone has their own techniques for staying organized and managing their time, but all agreed upon the importance of being strategic with your work processes. Sarah-Jane warned of avoiding getting stuck in the “cycle of doom” which consists of cycling between twitter, facebook and email. Instead, plan blocks of time to work on specific projects and create content. The more you can get ahead of yourself the easier it is to identify new opportunities and act upon them.
Another strategy for getting things done is do engage the community when possible. Thomas revealed that he never does anything his community can do for him and Sarah “treats her new customers like gold” and finds they end up doing her evangelism for her.
Measurement is possible. If you can’t measure how much money your efforts made than you can measure in other ways — for example, the awareness you built. What you measure will depend on your organization. It is important to have a strong handle on your organization’s goals so you can find ways to measure how your community efforts are working towards those larger goals. One interesting viewpoint from Thomas was to measure the investment and wait to find out what happens. Valid, though a more aspirational approach.
One take-away was quite clear from the webinar, the community space and conversation continues to evolve and with more experienced community managers beginning to teach skills and offer best practices, this profession can only continue to mature.
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