27 May 2010 ~ 3 Comments

Do you need to hire an Online Community or Social Media Manager?

Should you hire a community or social media managerEveryone’s talking about the role of Community Manager and Social Media Manager, with a lot of definitions being bandied around. You can see my own definitions of responsibilities and job descriptions here. For simplicity, this article is written with the view both roles are reasonably interchangeable; you can read my views on why I think there’s a difference between Online Community Managers and Social Media Managers.

Given the amount of noise surrounding Community Management and reaching out to people via Social Media, it’s easy to get carried away and appoint someone to tick the box because everyone else is doing it. You’d be wiser to start by asking yourself some questions as to why you think you need a Community or Social Media Manager, and what you want to achieve by appointing one. I have provided a little quiz below for you to gain some clarity as to whether you really need a Community or Social Media Manager. (If you are reading this via another site or my RSS feed and cannot see the quiz, click through to view the original post on my blog)

You should now know whether you need to recruit someone to manage your Online Community and Social Media efforts. There remain a few considerations which you’d be wise to think about before launching yourself into a recruitment drive.

Is there a risk of redundancy and communication failure?

If your product is a settled proposition and doesn’t change often, a Community Manager will be mainly managing conversations around it. However, if your product is in constant flux (maybe because it is very new or you are building a service around your audience’s needs) you might find adding someone in between yourself and your customers will slow down communication.

You can still employ a Community professional, but ask them to manage your staff instead, ensuring your employees communicate regularly with your customers. The Community Manager will be more focused on maintaining the relationship between your departments and your customers, rather than filtering information themselves. They can grow into the latter role as your customer base grows and the feedback becomes such it needs filtering.

Which department will they sit in?

You have to be very clear about what you are getting when hiring a Community Manager or Social Media Manager. They  feed into several departments at once, having a hand in multiple disciplines. However they will not replace your product specialists; they need to know your product inside out and will collect and present feedback from customers required to improve your product, but only your Product staff should be expected to manage it.

In the same vein, they are not marketeers or public relations professionals; they can complement your communications however, changing the wording and tone to suit the various audiences they manage on blogs, forums and social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook. What they do provide is the expertise to connect your company with your target audience.

Money a bit tight?

If headcount is an issue, consider recruiting a Community Manager over putting your financial risk in advertising or marketing your product in the initial stages, as customer loyalty and engagement leads to evangelism on their part, which should make up for this lack. You could also consider whether to hire an intern or a part-timer to manage your community building efforts. I wrote a blog post to attempt to answer the question of whether a Community Manager should be full-time or not.

There are pros and cons of the four main approaches, which I outline in the post “Can a Community Manager be part-time?“. Ultimately, you need to balance the benefit of having someone in a position to build a community of loyal customers (with all the benefits that brings) against financing other initiatives you feel are necessary to run your particular organisation.

Are you in a position to support them in their efforts?

Finally, the most important question of all – a Community Manager’s role is not a 9 to 5 one. Online communities exist all day and night, every day of the week. This means organising and attending events out of working hours, waking up in the middle of the night to deal with an urgent reputation or moderation issue and doing whatever it takes to provide the company with the feedback required to ensure success.

From your point of view, this means it is an absolute necessity to make them feel supported in their endeavours. By recruiting a Community or Social Media Manager, you will also be telling your customers you are open to hearing and acting on their feedback; make sure you realise that if you don’t do act on it, they will grow frustrated and disillusioned.

Are you thinking of recruiting a Community or Social Media Manager? Or if you have already, how is it panning out for you?

[image by ssoosay]

| More