originally posted on the MaRSdd blog, January 28, 2013
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” — Rollo May
This Monday, January 28, is the fourth annual Community Manager Appreciation Day. I didn’t make this up. Really. It’s a thing.
Started by Jeremiah Owyang, #CMAD is intended to be a day on which organizations and brands recognize the impact that their community managers have on the success of their businesses, as well as the impact that they have on their community of stakeholders.
According to Owyang, there are four tenets of the community manager.
- are community advocates;
- are brand evangelists;
- have savvy communications skills and shape editorial; and
- gather community input for future products and services.
While some of those words make me cringe a little, semantics aside, having the right person in this role for your startup is going to be critical to your success.
Why? Because your community actually gets the word out about you, your company, your product and the potential impact of your solution. Your community is your greatest brand ambassador, your greatest advocate. And your community is engaged, informed and hopefully inspired through your community manager.
Word of warning though: this is no job for an intern or the high school kid who lives down the street.
The number one trait that inspires a community, whether online or in real life, is authenticity, so the best people to build a startup’s community are the founders themselves. They are the most knowledgeable, most passionate and most responsive. It’s usually people’s response to a founder that warrants the follow or the like, especially in the early days.
As the company grows, investsments rise and the constraints on the founders become more overwhelming, that’s the time to hire smartly and invest in talent that will help you make those important critical first impressions.
I’m often asked to work my “social media magic” when it comes to supporting events, programs, projects and campaigns within MaRS. The reality is that there’s very little “magic” to it. It’s a difficult role to encapsulate in one sentence, but basically, I help get the story out about MaRS, our clients and our ecosystem.
Community manager skillset
In practical terms, to succeed in this role requires many skills, including marketing and communications, brand management, strategic planning, sales, project management, customer management, professional and staff development, business planning, analysis and operations management. These are all practical skills that come from years of work experience.
There are also softer skills that are required to succeed in this role, including motivation, leadership, conflict resolution, authenticity, emotional intelligence, collaboration and, most importantly, a good sense of humour. These are also skills that one acquires through experience, not necessarily in terms of years, but by actually doing.
You can see that you need a pretty robust resumé not only to be able to succeed in this type of role, but also to properly support the dialogue between an organization and all of its disparate stakeholders, whether users, customers, investors or partners.
Whether you call it your tribe, chosen kin, audience, association, city, neighbourhood or company, being a part of a community is a fundamental part of the human condition. Surely this won’t come as a shock to many, but I am big on community. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been in the field of communications for the last 14 years. I thrive on engaging with a greater collective of people to exchange information and ideas.
This world of online communications continues to change and grow, seemingly almost exponentially, every year. Ten years ago my current role didn’t exist. While sysops roles existed in the ’90s, the role of “community manager” as it is understood today is only about five years old, and even in that timeframe the role itself has come a long way.
So take a moment today to consider how and why you engage online with the brands, companies and groups that you do, and if you’re not able to hug your community manager today, at least send ’em a virtual hug to celebrate all that they do. (Chocolates work too!)