Monday, August 23, 2010

10 Tips For Aspiring Community Managers

As the world of dominant brands becomes more fragmented, established companies and startups are hiring community managers to cultivate an engaged community in a digital world where customers’ experiences with the product is amplified through social media, whether good or bad. And it’s not just the experience that users value; the relationships and connections they are able to make with companies and fellow consumers are just as important.
As a result, engaging users online and off has become evermore important for both companies big and small. That’s because social media has revolutionized the idea of word-of-mouth marketing, providing not only an opportunity for companies to expand their brands but also creating the risk of a customer service nightmare.
Community managers, who come in all shapes and sizes depending on the company and its mission, are often the online face of their companies, and more increasingly, offline as well. They’re the social strategist, community builder, storyteller, marketer, product manager, designer and evangelist rolled all into one. But most importantly, they’re responsible in projects and initiatives that strengthen the community of consumers, users and customers of the company.
Though there’s no silver bullet to being a successful community manager, for those aspiring to become one, we’ve gathered some tips from community builders on what it takes to land a job and be effective at cultivating community.

1. Be an Expert and Evangelist of Your Product or Company

Effective community managers are not only experts of the company or product they represent, but also are passionate about it. Chrysanthe Tenentes, Head of Community at Foursquare (Foursquare
), said good community managers are ones that are genuine advocates and evangelists for their products and their users.
“The best community managers are superusers of their products and can understand the passion of the user base, whether someone is complaining or offering feedback,” Tenentes said.
This means doing your homework on the company and product. It’s important to research the relevant aspects of the company with a “fine tooth comb mentality,” said Seamus Condron, Community Manager at ReadWriteWeb. This will not only prepare you as you go into an interview for a community spot at a company. Aspiring community managers should do a thorough “social media audit” of the company they’re interviewing with, said Daniel Honigman, Social Media Manager at Sears/KMart Home Electronics. This also means knowing the competitive landscape.

2. Love The Product and Company, But Be the Users’ Advocate

Understanding the product will help you become better at engaging and understanding the customers and users as well. Mario Sundar, Senior Social Media Manager at LinkedIn (LinkedIn
), said you should love the product or company you represent, but you should also have an understanding of users’ pain points. He said a community manager should be empathetic, that will help them be better at responding to complaints (and, at times, rants).
This is particularly true of customer service teams, and companies like Zappos, he said, have set the bar high in building customer support by empathizing with consumers. “A community manager’s role is no different,” he said.

3. Work on Your Communication Skills

One of the characteristics a community manager should have is that of an engager. A good community manager can engage people in an effective dialogue, said Andres Glusman, Vice President of Strategy & Community at They understand that their role is to help people and enable their community to connect with each other, he said. To do this, they have to be effective communicators and articulate themselves well.
To prepare yourself for a career as a community manager, having a background in either marketing or journalism helps, Tenentes said. Having a communications background and experience in writing will help you be an effective communicator.

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